A new project of CSE, the Southern Equality Research and Policy Center (SERPC) conducts independent research and develops interventions to promote the legal and lived equality of LGBTQ Southerners.
Through our community-based research, we promote an increased understanding of LGBTQ life in the South that is fact-based and can inform policies and strategies to promote the health, equity, and well-being of LGBTQ people in the region.
Current Project: Coming of Age as an LGBTQ Southerner
Coming of Age as an LGBTQ Southerner: Family, Faith, Education & Health, details the findings of the 2021 Survey of Southern LGBTQ Experiences, a survey of 4,186 LGBTQ people who live in the South. This report, released in partnership with Campus Pride, covers new data about LGBTQ Southerners’ experiences with family, faith communities, school, and health.
Read the Report of the 2021 Survey of Southern LGBTQ Experiences and state- or issue-specific supplements at this link.
The Need for Data About LGBTQ Southerners
More than thirty percent of all LGBTQ people in the United States call the American South home. Yet, less than ten percent of the social research on this population highlights the experiences of those in the region. The limited data that does exist points to disparities over the course of life, affecting the experiences of LGBTQ Southerners in their families, workplaces, schools, and other wide ranging social institutions that form their communities.
The lack of data makes it challenging to craft rebuttals to, articulate the effects of, and secure protections against the attacks on LGBTQ people and communities in the South. The SERPC will provide the data to craft localized interventions that are tailored to the regional needs of LGBTQ people.
The Center’s Priorities
Community-Based Research is the practice of community and academic stakeholders cooperatively investigating social problems that affect the lived experiences and life chances of marginalized groups. The goals of CBR are centered on the compilation of data that will aid organizers, policymakers, and other stakeholders in addressing those social problems.
Policy Research & Recommendations
The SERPC will play a role in conducting research to understand the impact of discriminatory bills and laws on LGBTQ people’s lives. The SERPC will advance CSE’s policy work by being a hub for the development of model policies and policy recommendations.
CSE’s work is rooted in commitments to equity in race, class and gender. As a methodological approach to social science, community based research is built on a foundation of equitable partnerships between researchers, organizers, and other stakeholders.
Engagement and Collaboration
Through various pathways toward community engagement, the SERPC seeks to place rigorous data about LGBTQ Southerners in the hands of the LGBTQ community, educators and school administrators, health care and other service providers, policy makers and law enforcement officials, journalists and activists.
Austin H. Johnson, Ph.D.
Director • He/Him/His
Austin H Johnson holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from Kent State University. His research focuses on the health and wellness experiences of LGBTQ Southerners. In addition to his work with CSE, he is an assistant professor of Sociology at Kenyon College, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Transgender Studies, and serves on the board of directors for Gender Benders.
Program Manager • He/Him/His
Chase Harless (he/him/his) was born and raised in East Tennessee. As a researcher with a passion for policy and public health, he is interested in utilizing research to help shape public policy and procedures, especially for marginalized communities. He became involved with CSE in 2017 while completing a graduate school internship with the organization. Specializing in qualitative methods and survey methodology, Chase provides research and evaluation support for the organization, including leading the Southern LGBTQ Health Survey. Along with a history of community organizing, he has experience with engaging communities in field research through designing program evaluations with various advocacy groups across the South to help strengthen services and conducting needs assessments to address community issues.
Chase’s research interests include reducing disparities in LGBTQ healthcare, increasing understanding of the lived experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals living in the South, and improving access to mental health care and substance use treatment in rural areas, He received his master of social work from Western Carolina University in 2018. When not in the office, Chase enjoys playing board games and listening to records with his three cats.
The SERPC will also contract with other researchers on specific projects and host interns and fellows. Regular consulting team members include: Abigail Bowen, Ph.D. and Maggie Nanney, PhD.
Abigail Bowen, Ph.D.
Consultant • She/Her/Hers
Abigail Bowen holds a PhD in political science from Georgia State University. She specializes in American politics and research methodology. Her research focuses primarily on gender and minority representation. In addition to working with CSE, she is a research consultant for Gender Benders.
Maggie Nanney, Ph.D.
Consultant • They/Them/Theirs
Maggie Nanney holds a PhD in Sociology from Virginia Tech. Their research focuses on inclusion and diversity policies and practices in higher education, with a specialization in trans collegians at historically gendered colleges. In addition to their consulting work at CSE, Maggie is the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Research Associate in the Office for Equity and Diversity at East Carolina University and is the chair of Sociologists for Trans Justice.
Previous Campaign for Southern Equality Research
2019 Southern LGBTQ Health Survey
The 2019 Southern LGBTQ Health Survey includes responses from more than 5,600 Southern LGBTQ people, one of the largest samples ever of LGBTQ Southerners talking specifically about their health. The Survey report covers new data about LGBTQ Southerners’ physical and mental health; overall quality of care; experiences with depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harming behaviors; and experiences with HIV.
2018 Southern Trans Health Focus Group Project
“The Report of the 2018 Southern Trans Health Focus Group Project,” released in December 2018, documents the findings of a community-based research project through which diverse transgender Southerners across six states shared in-depth accounts of their experiences related to health issues and accessing health care.
Commitment to Independence, Objectivity, and Ethics in Research
The SERPC is committed to rigorous, independent research. We do not alter findings and conclusions to accommodate funders, partner organizations, government bodies, or other entities. As social scientists conducting original research, we are committed to ethical research practices. In all of our research, we adhere to the ethical principles of respect for persons, beneficence, and justice, outlined in the Belmont Report.
All lead researchers at the SERPC must demonstrate their commitment to respect for persons, beneficence, and justice through a written statement of ethical consideration. This statement should be submitted prior to data collection and will be reviewed by the Director or Deputy Director of the SERPC. Researchers working with the SERPC are also bound by the Institutional Review Board of any other current affiliated institutions and must provide documentation of IRB approval before engaging in data collection of any kind.