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How political rhetoric factors into violence against the LGBTQ community

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Let's bring in Elana Redfield. She's the federal policy director at UCLA's Williams Institute, where she studies the effect of policies like the ones we just heard about on the LGBTQI community. Elana, thanks for being here.

ELANA REDFIELD: Glad to be here. Thank you.

MARTIN: Can you give us an understanding of the scale of violence that the LGBTQ community faces right now?

REDFIELD: Sure. So while there's still so much we don't know about what happened in Colorado - we're still learning - we know that LGBT people are far more likely to experience violence than non-LGBT people. Our research shows up to four times as likely to experience violent attacks as non-LGBT people.

MARTIN: Four times more likely. Have you looked into the reason? I mean, what part does political or other public rhetoric play?

REDFIELD: I think that's a really important question. Anti-LGBT sentiment is so pervasive in our society, and we know that while there are these horrible incidents of extreme violence, there are also everyday types of violence that LGBT people do experience, and that includes discrimination in the workplace and in schools. And it also includes the kind of policy conversations we're hearing from lawmakers, including the anti-transgender bills that have been happening in state legislatures and bills like the Don't Say Gay law in Florida. So that contributes to an environment where there's a lot of negativity around LGBT people.

MARTIN: How easy or difficult is it to collect accurate data about violence against this population or the threat of violence?

REDFIELD: It's a really good question there, because we don't have great data on LGBT people. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not collected on a lot of surveys. There are a few that do collect this information. But, you know, we're able to use sources like the National Crime Victim Survey, where people self-report how they identify and if they've experienced violence. But there are other sources that do not contain this information, and if they did, we would know a lot more. I'll also add that between different states, the way we look at bias-motivated crimes is different. So each state has their own statute, their own laws, and that means that when we look at it from a national perspective, sometimes we see different levels of information from different places.

MARTIN: Can I ask you to drill down on that? Can you give me an example of how the definitions of a hate crime might vary from state to state?

REDFIELD: Well, I will say that, you know, there are around 37 states that protect against sexual orientation-based violence or hate crimes, and 28 protect around gender identity. So you see there's difference based on just the types of motivation that are included. And then some states don't have any protections there specifically to LGBT people. So that right there is one example of how they might vary.

MARTIN: Is there any evidence to suggest that hate crime laws actually deter crime and violence against LGBTQ people?

REDFIELD: That's also a really good question. And, you know, what we look at in our research is what the data show. And here we see, you know, that there still remain these disparities in both violence and in economics that in turn contributes to more likely to experience violence. And so we can look at that and see that those particular indicators are still high.

MARTIN: What are your prescriptions? I mean, noting all these holes in how data about LGBTQ populations are collected and measured, how do you make it better?

REDFIELD: Well, I think, you know, one big piece is that we need to sort of solve the patchwork of protections that LGBT people have across the country. So really robust nondiscrimination laws - you know, only around half of states have nondiscrimination laws. So in many contexts, LGBT people remain unprotected. And a great example of a federal law that might do that is the Equality Act, which has passed the House and may eventually pass the Senate, we hope. And then state-level nondiscrimination laws, but also in making sure that when we do collect data, we are collecting data on LGBT issues.

MARTIN: What are your reflections about the situation in Colorado right now, its aftermath and the laws on that in that state?

REDFIELD: I'll say, you know, it's just horrible to think about what happened in Colorado, what people are experiencing there. Colorado does have some of the stronger laws in the nation, and so, you know, in that case, you know, there's a good chance that they will be used to the most impact. And we hope that that is a model for other places.

MARTIN: Elana Redfield, federal policy director at UCLA's Williams Institute, thanks for your time.

REDFIELD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.