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United Way conducts online census of South Florida’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender communities

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BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

United Way of Broward has launched an Internet census to glean detailed information about South Florida's large gay community.

Among the very personal questions asked:

• What sex were you born (and what is your current gender)?

• How many sex partners have you had this year? (And did you practice safe sex?)

• Have you ever suffered physical or mental abuse because of your sexual orientation or gender identity?

The $10,000 nonscientific survey -- funded by the Florida Department of Health -- contains 67 questions ranging from basic demographics to health and community issues, said Dave Wallace, United Way senior development manager and co-chair of the agency's Broward County LGBT Task Group.

The survey, called The Count, is geared to South Florida's ''lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning community,'' according to a United Way of Broward website.

''We want to get a clear picture of what we look like in the community [and] with that, to build awareness for the issues in the community,'' Wallace said. ``With the hard data we get from this, that will help get funding for programs. Without that data it's hard to justify getting funding dollars to South Florida.''

The U.S. Census asks few gay-oriented questions. In 2000, Americans were asked for the first time if they lived with domestic partners. Recently, the Obama administration instructed Census officials in 2010 to count same-sex couples married in states where it's legal.

The Broward survey, patterned after a similar census by United Way of Central Ohio, seeks to reach many more people than just those who are partnered.

It's not easy finding everyone, Wallace said.

'You don't know who they are. You can't call 300 registered voters and say, `Are you gay? We'd like to ask you a few questions about that,' '' he said. ``A lot of people in the LGBT community are hidden. They don't all go to the bars.''

The survey, which began June 21 and takes about 15 minutes to complete, will remain online through September at www.lgbtcensus.com. Wallace encouraged all gay people living from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach counties to take it.

Wallace says the survey is completely anonymous. ''The only specific information we're going to get out of a person is their Zip code,'' he said.

The survey is co-sponsored by several groups and agencies including the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Florida, Broward Health Department, SunServe and Broward House.

''It will give us information to better tailor our programs to help people in the community,'' said Terry DeCarlo of Broward House, the county's oldest and largest AIDS service organization.

DeCarlo said it's important for his agency to know exactly what gay residents' sexual practices are, whether they have safe sex and whether they've been tested recently for HIV.

''People have to answer honestly. That's a very important part,'' said DeCarlo, who also assures that no one taking the survey will be identified by their Internet addresses.

''The police are not going to come knocking at your door,'' DeCarlo said.

Gay Survey Questions

These are a few of the questions and topics on the United Way of Broward's gay survey:

  • Who are you attracted to sexually? (Only men, only women, mostly men, mostly women, men and women, nonsexual, self-defined, not sure)
  • What is your current employment status? How LGBT friendly do you consider your workplace?
  • What is your annual household income before taxes? Approximately how much money did you donate and/or how many hours did you volunteer to charity last year?
  • What is your religious background or affiliation? How active are you in your faith community?
  • Drug and alcohol use in the last 30 days
  • What is your HIV status and how many sex partners did you have last year?
  • Have you ever been a victim of physical violence based on your sexual orientation, gender, gender expression and/or gender identity?

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Oh yeah! A group that supports the well known anti gay orginization, Boy Scouts of America.
Makes me want to jump right in there, and give them more info to use against us.

A few years ago, the local United Ways in South Florida stopped funding the Boy Scouts because of the group's policy.

Good luck! It's a great endeavor and a fabulous start.

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