New statewide survey of LGBTQ community in Washington to launch next year

A state worker unfurls a rainbow flag in front of the Washington state Capitol. (Courtesy: Elaine Thompson / AP Photo)
A state worker unfurls a rainbow flag in front of the Washington state Capitol. (Courtesy: Elaine Thompson / AP Photo)



The state of Washington has a reputation of being friendly to the queer community. Now, Washington State University researchers want to find out more about issues of concern for LGBTQ+ people across the state.

Traci Gillig is an assistant professor at WSU who researches mental health in LGBTQ+ populations. She will be helping to lead a statewide survey launching next year.

“This is a great first way to get that broad overview and then to be able to identify areas of need that we can dive further into,” said Gillig. 

The Washington State LGBTQ Commission awarded the research team $500,000 to administer the survey. The goal of the project is to gather data from queer people in Washington to provide the governor, state agencies and legislators with policy recommendations based on findings of the survey, said Gillig. 

“To our knowledge, no existing survey captures the experiences of LGBTQ+ Washingtonians across the lifespan and across a range of issues,” said Gillig.

Two women with gray hair and rainbow shirts work to raise a banner against the backdrop of a blue ocean. Two men stand in the background and one is taking a picture of them with his phone.

Jane Abbott Lighty, left, and her wife Pete-e Petersen turn toward photographers and supporters as they take a turn raising a giant marriage equality flag atop the Space Needle Sunday, June 30, 2013, in Seattle. The two were the first same sex couple to be granted a wedding license in Washington State. (Courtesy: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Researchers are curious about topics like health, safety, medical access and economic issues for queer people in Washington.

“We’re looking to get a broad sense for who the LGBTQ community is in the state of Washington and to also understand the issues that LGBTQ people are experiencing in the state,” said Gillig.

Both youth and adults will be surveyed, said Gillig, who has worked with LGBTQ+ youth for nearly a decade.

Although Washington has strengthened protections for LGBTQ+ people over the years, Executive Director of the Washington State LGBTQ Commission, Manny Santiago, said the demographics of the community continue to shift. 

“National surveys may not be as intentional in reaching hard-to-reach communities or even understanding the geographic realities of our state,” said Santiago. “Understanding the community is the first step to exploring more about the specific needs our community has and how best to address them.”

The research team includes Veronica Smith from Sankofa Consulting and Crystallee Crain from Prevention at the Intersections.

“The three of us who are on the leadership team are all queer individuals who are excited to be involved in this work,” said Gillig. “We’re excited to reach out to our communities.”

The project will be launching next month and researchers will start collecting data about halfway through 2024. Results should be ready to present in 2025, said Gillig.