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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Rutgers Study Examines Perceptions of Safety among LGBTQ Individuals Following the Pulse Nightclub Attack

On June 12, 2016, Americans witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The deadly massacre killed forty-nine individuals and injured fifty three.

In the wake of unspeakable tragedy, Rutgers School of Public Health Dean, Dr. Perry N. Halkitis, along with collogues from New York University, set out to gauge perceptions of personal and peer safety among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals.

The Pulse Nightclub shooting is one of the most recent and tragic events that has became part of a history of hate crimes, laws, and surveillance efforts experienced by LGBTQ individuals. Previous studies on the Pulse Nightclub attack reported that LGBTQ individuals felt less safe in establishments and gathering places that cater to the LGBTQ community, but they failed to examine how perceptions of safety may vary by factors such as sexual orientation, gender identity, and race/ethnicity.

Unlike previous studies, Halkitis and his team sought to examine whether perceptions of fear varied by subgroups within the LGBTQ community. This is an important consideration as differences between and among LGBTQ population subgroups warrant tailored responses. Dr. Halkitis along with his student, Mr. Christopher B. Stults, and other colleagues at New York University used data from 1,118 surveys administered to LGBTQ individuals to assess differences in perceptions of personal and peer safety following the Pulse Nightclub attack.

While they found that LGBTQ-identifying individuals perceived higher concerns for their personal safety and the safety of their peers after the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, these perceptions varied by factors such as gender identity and sexual orientation. Importantly, their data indicates that LGBTQ people who identify in more marginalized sexual identities, such as, genderqueer, queer, non-identified/other, face disproportionate levels of fear after the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

“LGBTQ people perceived concerns related to their personal safety and the safety of their peers following the Pulse nightclub shooting,” said Dr. Halkitis. “Members of more marginalized LGBTQ subgroups (e.g., transgender, genderqueer) may be more vulnerable to dimensions of collective trauma than sub-groups with relatively more privilege (e.g., gay, cisgender men).”

The results of this study provide further support for the efforts of Dr. Halkitis’ team to debunk the notion that the LGBTQ population is monolithic. Public health efforts need to be tailored to address the diversity that exists within the LGBTQ population including along lines of gender and gender identity, race and ethnicity, social class, and sex at birth.

Mr. Christopher B. Stults, Dr. Sandra A. Kupprat, Ms. Kristen D. Krause are all members of the Center for Health, Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies, under the direction of Drs. Perry N. Halkitis and Farzana Kapadia.

Perceptions of Safety Among LGBTQ People Following the 2016 Pulse Nightclub Shooting” is a feature in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation Gender Diversity.