lgbtq massachusetts
10 Massachusetts cities received an average score of 88 on the Human Rights Campaign index, compared to the national average of 58. Photo: Getty Images

Massachusetts has been on the forefront of LGBT acceptance, legalizing same sex marriage 11 years before the country as a whole — but the LGBT community here still faces challenges, a new report shows.

Boston Indicator, a research center within the Boston Foundation, released a report with the Fenway Institute looking closely at the LGBT community in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts has the second largest percentage of residents who identify as LGBT, behind Vermont, according to a recent Gallup poll, but despite some progress, the LGBT community in the commonwealth  still faces disproportionate hardships like higher rates of depression, homelessness and food insecurity, according to the report.

First, what does the LGBT community here look like? It’s fairly young, with nearly 16 percent of all those ages 18 to 24 self-identifying as LGBT, the largest of any age range here. The next highest percent comes from those 25 to 24, just over 10 percent of whom self-identify as LGBT.


The LGBT community is pretty widespread across the state, as well. According to Massachusetts Department of Public Health data in this report, nine of the state’s 14 counties count at least 5 percent of their residents as LGBT.

What challenges do the Massachusetts LGBT community face?

Still, discrimination persists. For LGBT youth in Greater Boston, 88 percent said that they were a victim of discrimination in the past year, according to the report.

Those who identify as transgender specifically say that they’ve been targeted by discrimination, across Massachusetts and across the age spectrum. Most of this, 65 percent, is occuring in public places, per the report, like public transportation, retail establishments, restaurants and healthcare settings.

That discrimination takes a toll, according to the report: More than 61 percent of LGBT youth say they have felt “sad or hopeless daily for two-plus weeks,” compared to 24 percent of the non-LGBT youth population. Nearly half say they have considered attempting suicide, compared to 11 percent.

Adults in the LGBT community also reported rates of depression twice that of the non-LGBT population in Massachusetts, with more than 40 percent saying they’ve been diagnosed with depression, compared to 19.5 percent of non-LGBT adults.

“By bringing together this research, the Boston Indicators and Fenway Institute teams have given us a picture that both demonstrates the vibrancy and broad distribution of the LGBT population in Massachusetts, and the challenges and obstacles that LGBT youth and adults face every day,” said Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation (which funded the report), in a statement. “Despite our leadership as a Commonwealth in LGBT rights, the research plainly shows we aren’t nearly done.”

The report does end on a positive note, though, highlighting some of the Massachusetts groups that address the LGBT community, like a number of Alliances for Gay and Lesbian Youth, and the commonwealth’s advancements in LGBT policies.

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