After some tumultuous travel, I finally arrived in Bloomington where the queers are bustling in the Indiana Memorial Union Hotel and Conference Center among many wedding parties. Irony? Duh.
This is a small conference with lots of space for conversation and learning from discussion and questions. I like that. I had a chance to listen to what Dr. McElroy from the University of Missouri-Columbia had to say about the research that is happening in queer communities across Missouri with affect to smoking rates. The needs assessment that Dr. McElroy presented mirrored many of the assessments of smoking in LGBTQI communities because it illuminated again that LGBTQI folks are smoking at disproportionately higher rates than straight communities. There was a cool new thought they presented about the status of a smokers…not everyone is just a heavy or light smoker anymore (and even when they were, what does that mean anyway?!?!). There is a whole new lingo about “social smoking” and “occasional smoking” and other such terms that make building smoking cessation programs a whole new ballgame!
The discussion that really struck me was about how people get categorized on surveys…and this has been on my mind for a while. In general LGBTQI surveys, there are the standard sexual orientation options (LGB Straight) and then there are the GENDER questions. On most surveys that I have seen for the LGBTQI community there is Male OR Female AND Transgedner OR Transexual. I know that from a statistical perspective it is important to have mutually exclusive categories so that you can plug your numbers into SAS and run some sexy chi-square tests. However, this presents a dissonance between the true identities of people in community. I know most people I know have yet to see a survey that actually reflects their gender identity…like FTM, MTF, genderqueer, trans woman, trans man, trans masculine, trans feminine, two-spirit, third gender, and many others. I realize that this is a difficult issue: there are clear restrictions in statistical data analysis, but queer identity is fluid and changing. How do we reconceptualize this rift between academia and community?