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Policing the Rainbow: Sexual and Gender Minority Experiences and Perceptions of Law Enforcement

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $654,179)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people have a contentious history with the police, exemplified in one instance by the 1969 Stonewall uprising, that many historians mark as the beginning of the modern gay movement. Today, over fifty years after Stonewall, many cities have implemented community policing efforts and appointed LGBTQ-police liaisons to help improve this historically fraught relationship. Police often even march in Pride parades—something that has caused considerable consternation among some segments of the LGBTQ community recently. Ample evidence reveals that LGBTQ people are overcriminalized, continue to face harassment and abuse by police, and are incarcerated at three times the rate of the general population. These disparities are compounded by race, class, and gender presentation. Sociologists have shown that “legal cynicism” characterizes groups that have had negative relations with law enforcement, such as communities of color. These negative experiences lead some people to avoid reporting crimes, seeking help from the police, or otherwise interacting with state institutions. These same forces are likely at work in the LGBTQ community. Surprisingly, we know very little about these issues in relation to LGBTQ people.

We propose the first study to use a nationally representative probability sample of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ individuals to assess their experiences with, perceptions of, and attitudes toward law enforcement. We do so to better understand similarities and differences along these lines between the two populations. Additionally, we will conduct in-depth qualitative interviews with a subset of respondents to achieve greater insight into LGBTQ-police interactions, perceptions, and attitudes and to supplement the probability sample with perspectives from particularly hard to reach but important populations who may be underrepresented in the larger sample, such as people of color and transgender people. CA/NCF

Date Created: October 22, 2021