Dustin Waters file photo


The Campaign for Southern Equality and Western North Carolina Community Health Services released the report of the 2019 Southern LGBTQ Health Survey on Nov. 6, providing a new perspective and shining light on health and healthcare experiences of LGBTQ people in the South.

The survey collected responses from 5,617 participants from 13 states, making it the largest-known survey of LGBTQ health issues in the South. The report’s easy-to-read-and-understand graphics clearly lay out the gaps in health care and accessibility for the LGBTQ community.

Researchers are hopeful that the results being made public will steer the conversation around the health of LGBTQ Southerners toward a comprehensive, systems-level examination.

“We conducted this survey to gain greater understanding and more nuanced insight into the specific experiences that LGBTQ Southerners have with their health and with accessing health care,” reads the report.


Some frank discussion seems to be in order, with more than half of respondents reporting fair or poor mental health, according to the report. Numbers for those who are bisexual, transgender, 18-24 years old, and with lower incomes were even worse.

While all identities on the LGBTQ spectrum reported relatively poor mental health, some indications were worse than others. Among bisexual and pansexual respondents,  62.1 percent and 73.5 percent, respectively, described their mental health as fair or poor — about 20 percentage points higher than gay, lesbian, and heterosexual participants.

More than 20 percent of transgender respondents said they do not feel their health care needs are being met, nearly twice the number of cisgender participants. More than one in ten transgender people reported that they rarely or never have positive experiences with physical health providers, almost triple the number of cisgender respondents in the study.

Mental health care was not the only focus of the study, however. Participants also reported rates of Southerners living with HIV more than 15-times higher than the national average. Among African Americans polled, 22 percent say that they are living with HIV, as are 13 percent of all gay male respondents.

More than half of all participants admitted that they rarely — about every 3-5 years — or never get tested for HIV.


Rural residents deal with health disparities too, rating their overall physical and mental health lower than those in urban areas and also report less access to quality care; less comfort seeking medical care in their communities; higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and self-harming behaviors; and lower rates of feeling that their health needs are being met.

An executive summary of the report, details eight key findings including physical health, living with HIV, mental health, suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety, delay seeking care, comfort, and rural areas.

The full, 174-page report breaks down multiple aspects of health and wellness in the LGBT community, comparing each by demographic and detailing research methods and findings.

Both are available at southernequality.org.

This isn’t the first time that researchers have revealed inequalities in statistics between members and nonmembers of the LGBTQ community here in Charleston and in the greater South.

Just last month, a report was published by the Alliance for Full Acceptance that detailed the challenges LGBTQ community members face in the workplace that don’t seem to be commonplace among others.