New survey first to assess LGBTQ community needs in Waterloo region

For the first time ever, a Waterloo group is conducting a comprehensive needs survey to assess the well-being of Waterloo Region's LGBTQ community.
The OutLook Study plans to survey 400 people in the Waterloo Region who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. (AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area)

For the first time ever, a Waterloo group is conducting a comprehensive needs survey to assess the well-being of Waterloo Region's LGBTQ community.

Colin Boucher, the Gay men's sexual health coordinator for AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener & Waterloo area (ACCKWA), told CBC News the OutLook Study plans to survey over 400 people who identify as part of the LGBTQ population.

The survey will ask participants about their experiences with harassment, discrimination, intimate partner violence, as well as their sense of belonging, among other things.

Several groups are working to coordinate the OutLook Study, including researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University, the Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services, The AIDS Committee of Cambridge (ACCKWA), Kitchener & Waterloo area, the Rainbow Community Council, and LGBTQ community members.

Brushing it off

Boucher said often times people don't report instances of harassment.

"You might brush it off if you had 'faggot' yelled at you on the street," he said.

"But if it happens to you time and time again, those sorts of experiences weigh on you and they create stress," he added.

He said this might make someone think about changing their behaviour, or how they look or dress.  

Boucher said some of the questions may trigger memories of violence, and added anyone who is triggered by the survey will have access to mental health support.

Although the survey may be difficult for some people to answer, he said it will help researchers understand the type of violence and harassment that is happening within the region.

Understanding harassment 

Once researchers understand what kind of harassment the LGBTQ population is facing, they can then determine if current LGBTQ services are meeting the needs of the community, and how services can be improved if they are not.

Boucher also said this study is relevant to anyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, regardless of whether or not their friends and family know this.

"The level of one's 'outness' is something that we ask about in detail in the survey," Boucher said.

"The reason we do that is because a Canadian study has found that support from family and friends reduces stress and contributes to positive mental health in young gay men, lesbians and bisexuals," he said.

The OutLook Study is already underway and will continue until November or until it reaches 400 participants.