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Creating Community for LGBTQ People Via the Backyard Initiative

7.30b v38#9 YogaphotoBy Out In the Backyard, (a Backyard Initiative CHAT)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals are all ages, races, cultures, ethnicities, religions, social and economic classes. Sexual orientation and gender identity questions are not asked on most national or state surveys, making it difficult to estimate the number of LGBTQ individuals and their health needs. The Backyard Initiative (BYI) area of South Minneapolis is home to many LGBTQ folks representing this wide range of diversity.

The importance of the work on LGBTQ health begun by Out In the Back Yard (OIBY), a Community Health Action Team or CHAT of the Backyard Initiative, starts with understanding the history of oppression and discrimination that these communities have faced. For example: in part, because bars and clubs were often historically the only places where LGBT individuals could gather, alcohol abuse has been an ongoing problem. OIBY offers classes, educational activities, and community connections as an alternative.

OIBY Community Health Action Team organizers, through offering free exercise classes, workshops pertaining to LGBTQ issues, community discussions, a resource website, etc., hope to address some of the many health inequities still existing within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) communities. In a Rainbow Health Initiative study released last year, LGBTQ people reported feeling less support in their neighborhoods than non-LGBTQ people. They identified barriers as not having enough time for getting enough exercise and not having a safe and convenient place to exercise for transgender people. (“Voices of Health: A Survey of LGBTQ health in Minnesota” 2012).

LGBTQ folks in the Backyard also identified discrimination, prejudice in the community, bias in health care and poverty as important issues. OIBY, through its various free programs and classes, provides support to reduce the isolation so many people experience. “Not only are the events healthy, educational and fun, we have also made new friends in the neighborhood and have met all kinds of great people.” Bob Johndrow, community member and class participant.

Research suggests that LGBTQ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Despite many society and cultural gains, experiences of violence and victimization are frequent for LGBTQ individuals. This has long-lasting effects on the individual and the community. Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBTQ individuals. (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Report from the Healthy People 2020 Report -US Dept. of Health and Human Services).

These disparities exist despite the growing acceptance in parts of the larger community as seen with the recent passage of the same-sex marriage law. OIBY is attempting to address some of these problems through its many activities. *Zumba and several other FREE exercise classes are offered weekly and open to ALL people who live in the area. “I love Zumba outside in Powderhorn Park on a late summer evening with the amazing Bernice Arias instructor and 70 happy, dancing people of every race, age, shape and size. Even the spectators are happy and smiling, enjoying the music and the sense of community.” Pam Costain, community participant

(*see the BYI Back Page for more about the Out in the Backyard CHAT and a list of all of their classes.)

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