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UMKC asking queer community to assess life in KC metro with new survey

LGBTQ Survey professor
Posted at 6:00 AM, Jun 07, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What is life like in Kansas City for members of the queer community?

Learning that answer is the idea behind a survey produced by the Urban Education Research Center at UMKC.

They tell me that a survey like this is long overdue for Kansas City, and now they really want to hear what you think.

Dr. Karin Chang is one of the leaders of the survey, and understands that it's not always easy to talk about, much less advocate for yourself.

"I am a gay woman who lives a very quiet life,” Chang told me. “A decade ago, I may or may not have done this survey."

But she and her team are asking you to try.
"We haven't done a survey in over a decade, and times have changed over the past decade," Chang said. “This is really important to me."

"Not just Kansas City, but all bigger cities should be responsive to the needs of community members," Leah Youngren, another member of the research team, told me.

The team knows that a survey can't answer every question. But in crafting this questionnaire, they're trying to pay attention to important parts of anyone's life, like health care and safety. And they want to know about times needs haven't been met.

"In part it's about directing funding, but in part it's really elevating those stories about barriers and obstacles that folks in our community face," Chang said.

Funding is a big part of this conversation, on both sides.

UMKC received a $45,458 grant from the city of Kansas City to conduct "Building Bridges, Breaking Barriers: A Comprehensive Needs Assessment for Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ Population." The money is from American Rescue Plan Act funding.

But there are multiple non-profits waiting on results from the survey, to see where to spend their money.

"What does a community need from us, and how do we meet that need," Jennifer Wilson asked when she and I talked about the survey.

Wilson is the executive director of The Modern Family Alliance. They're focused on connecting queer parents with other families, and with resources they may need. Resources that could make life just a little bit easier.

"When you've felt a little uncomfortable all the time, you don't realize that that is not the norm for a lot of people," Wilson told me. “I am happily married, I have three beautiful children, I love my job. I still wonder on a very regular basis how somebody is going to treat me when I walk into a space that I don't know."

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She tells me that her team is already planning for 2025, and what adjustments they might have to make after this survey is complete.

The survey asks respondents to be as personal as they want to be, even if the details are hard.

Hopefully, Dr. Chang told me, those difficult pasts can lead to better futures.

"We want to tell those stories,” Chang said. “And they're going to be hard and painful, but that's also part of this survey process."

I also spoke with Justice Horn, the former chair of Kansas City's LGBTQ Commission, who was part of the steering committee that produced the survey.

In a statement, he said:

“The Voices of Pride Survey will ensure an accurate and up-to-date needs assessment of the community is always available for the longevity of our community.

Community organizations come and go, leaders come and go, and so does this valuable knowledge, so this will allow for information to be central to our community so everyone can access it when creating resources, services, and streams of funding for the local LGBTQ+ community.

I am a fan of this model because institutions of higher education should be a hub for information in our region.”

The survey is available in English and Spanish. Responses are being accepted until August.