Research Advisory Board Spotlight Series - Felicity Daly

24 September 2019


The six respected and accomplished experts on our Research Advisory Board play an important role in ensuring the economic and business case for LGBT+ inclusion is sound, robust and current by providing guidance and feedback on the new research we produce.

We had the opportunity to speak with Felicity Daly for the third issue of the six-part Research Advisory Board Spotlight Series.

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What motivated you to focus your work on LGBT+ issues?

It was a gradual process that probably began 30 years ago when I first came out. My early work for Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City grounded me in the impact of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) on gay men. A decade later, after relocating to the UK to study at the London School of Economics, I began advocating for the UK government to expand their development interventions on HIV as well as sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Over the years, I became concerned that the heteronormative framing of SRHR interventions and the strain on HIV services meant that few sexual and gender minority people are able to access adequate and non-discriminatory health care. In my doctoral thesis, I conducted policy analysis of South Africa’s consideration of sexual health needs of lesbian and bisexual women in a setting with a high burden of HIV among all women. After completing my doctorate, I have had the privilege to be engaged in a range of advocacy and research efforts that seek to advance the inclusion of LGBT+ people in social and economic development.

What are the challenges facing LGBT+ research?

There are a variety of challenges to the expansion of evidence on the lived reality of LGBT+ people in low and middle-income countries. These include limits to the funding available for research; low research capacity within potential research partners; and imbalance in the areas being investigated. Open For Business is one of the engines behind the investigation into the economic case for LGBT+ inclusion and while this one area of the economic, social and cultural rights of LGBT+ people is garnering a lot of interest, there also needs to be a focus on developing evidence on social and cultural inclusion. This includes understanding how to overcome the barriers LGBT+ people face in claiming their rights to development and to access basic services without discrimination.

Are there any particular areas in LGBT+ research which you think have not been appropriately covered and should deserve more attention?

When thinking about how to measure LGBT+ inclusion, health is one factor that we need to understand more about. While we have had a lot of investigation focused on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men as well as trans women within the HIV response, we are missing health data on many other aspects for other LGBT+ people. I am a passionate advocate for reframing research on LGBT+ health and well-being in more holistic ways.

The Guttmacher-Lancet Commission on SRHR urged that we expand and improve data collection assessing the sexual and reproductive health needs of people with diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and expression, and sex characteristics. Yet the commission recognized that there is a lack of funding for such research.

In terms of mental health and well-being, we have insights from general population studies conducted in Australia, Europe, and North America which found that compared with heterosexual people, lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are at higher risk for mental disorders, including depression and anxiety, suicidal ideation and deliberate self-harm. Evidence about the mental health of transgender people is mainly concentrated in the global north and is alarming. A national survey in the US finding 41% of transgender respondents reported ever attempting suicide compared to 4.6% of the general population.

Minority stress theory suggests that sexual and gender minorities experience distinct, chronic stressors related to their stigmatized identities which disproportionately compromise their mental health and well-being. Better data on the mental health and well-being of LGBT+ people in low and middle-income countries will help campaigns for greater social inclusion.

Could you describe one moment when you felt particularly proud about your work?

In 2016, I was asked to join South Africa National AIDS Council’s Technical Task Team for Key Populations to support the development of South Africa's National Strategic Plan for AIDS, TB and STIs (2017-2022). I was honored to be asked to provide technical input on the response to HIV and STIs among lesbian and bisexual women and to continue to represent these concerns in the policy process. It was one important way to continue building on the groundbreaking advocacy undertaken by South African feminist LBQ women and keep urging implementers to deliver on commitments made over the past decade.

Is there a piece of work on LGBT+ issues which you feel is particularly unique or interesting? Tell us more.

I have been particularly inspired by the recent work from the Southern and East African Research Collective on Health (SEARCH) conducted by researchers in the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at the University of Cape Town and LGBT+ civil society organizations, which presents the first cross-sectional study to describe levels of mental health specifically among sexual and gender minority people in East and Southern Africa. Findings from their survey of 3,796 LGBT+ people across Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, eSwatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe show that discrimination, stigmatization and marginalization related to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression place LGBT+ people at: higher risk for high levels of verbal harassment as well as physical and sexual violence; higher levels of depression, anxiety, suicidality, and substance use; and greater barriers to healthcare. The study shows that stigmatization, marginalization and exclusion have a negative impact on the mental health and well-being of LGBT+ people and confirms that minority stress occurs in East and Southern Africa.

There are many organizations out there advocating for LGBT+ inclusion. In your opinion, what is the unique role that Open For Business plays?

Open For Business has established an evidence base to support economic arguments for LGBT+ inclusion, grounded that with an analysis of cities, and begun to expand to country level analysis with the Kenya report and other work. It is important to ensure that LGBT+ communities understand the methodology and findings that inform Open For Business’ evidence.

There is a huge gap in this kind of country level analysis and these arguments can be useful for LGBT+ human rights defenders as well as a range of stakeholders in the private sector, the diplomatic community and allies within states.

Another important role that Open For Business can help play is to encourage their coalition partners to take more tangible steps to further ground their commitment to diversity and inclusion of all LGBT+ employees, including those working in the global south. We need more evidence of promising practices where employers have found ways to demonstrate LGBT+ inclusion in workplaces as one important space to promote greater social inclusion.

About Felicity Daly

Dr Felicity Daly is a Researcher at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London for the ‘Strong in Diversity, Bold on Inclusion’ project funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development’s UK Aid Connect program. She serves on the project research working group and is developing a multi city research program that will deepen understanding of the lived reality of LGBT+ Africans in relation to socio-economic inclusion and well-being.  She is also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Australian Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University.

She has two decades of professional experience in international development, forging the advocacy efforts of international non-governmental organizations promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, responding to HIV/AIDS in low and middle-income countries, and focusing on marginalized communities’ access to the benefits of social and economic development. Felicity previously served as Global Research Coordinator for OutRight Action International and Executive Director of the Kaleidoscope Trust. Felicity earned a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and undertook her doctoral thesis research as a Research Associate at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.


Research Advisory Board Spotlight Series - Paul Jansen

20 August 2019

Consisting of six distinguished experts who are well-respected and accomplished in their respective fields, our Research Advisory Board plays a critical role in ensuring the economic case is comprehensive and up to date by providing guidance and feedback on the new research we publish.

In this second issue of the six-part Spotlight Series that will feature each Research Advisory Board member, we spoke with Paul Jansen to hear his thoughts on research into LGBT+ issues.

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What motivated you to focus your work on LGBT+ issues?

Coming from the development sector, it is crystal clear that no one can fully grow their full potential and develop all the talents that we as humans have within us, if there is no respect for human rights and groups of people are being discriminated against, marginalized or excluded from society.

The LGBT+ community is one of the groups that is facing discrimination and exclusion based on their gender and on who they love. That to me is simply unacceptable and should be unacceptable to anyone who believes in human rights as a basic principle underpinning our societies.

Dignity and equality should not be exclusively for those who identify as heterosexual or express a certain gender. Dignity and equality apply to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or any other excuse that is used to keep divisions and inequalities in place.

What are the challenges facing LGBT+ research?

Research into LGBT+ issues faces multiple challenges. First, it is a chicken or egg story. We are hearing calls for more data on LGBT+ exclusion, as there is not much data available. However, there are few financial resources available or made available for data collection, which makes it challenging for research to take place. At the same time, statistics about LGBT+ people and the issues they face are collected by very few national statistical agencies, even in countries which are seen as progressive in terms of LGBT+ equality. It would probably take another generation before that might become a reality.

Another issue is that when funding is available for research in the Global South and East, it is often awarded to academics and institutions with little knowledge or connections with the communities on the ground. I truly believe that research must be done in full partnership with the LGBT+ communities and academics in these countries to ensure accurate portrayal, accountability and sustainability. Moreover, this partnership must start from the inception of the research idea – not after funding is granted.

Furthermore, the LGBT+ communities involved in the research should have full access to the data and reports for them to use for lobbying and advocacy purposes. There are times when this is not the case, which results in misunderstandings and the LGBT+ communities feeling they were exploited.

Are there any particular areas in LGBT+ research which you think have not been appropriately covered and should deserve more attention?

There is a need for data in all areas. What is most important to me is that data collection and research are conducted for the benefit of LGBT+ communities, not just for academic purposes. Data should be alive and be used for multiple purposes, including lobbying and advocacy, and not end up as another statistic.

Could you describe one moment when you felt particularly proud about your work?

I feel grateful, humble and privileged to be able to do the work I do to the best of my abilities and knowledge and deliver my efforts to improve the situation for LGBT+ people around the world.

Is there a piece of work on LGBT+ issues which you feel is particularly unique or interesting? Tell us more.

There is a lot of interesting work going on. Areas that interest me in particular are, for example, the work done on calculating the costs for the economy when LGBT+ people are excluded, which shows that exclusion affects everyone and makes the business case for investment in LGBT+ issues. I am also particularly interested in the work that companies are doing to become more inclusive as well as to adhere to the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct and the United Nations Development Program’s Inclusion Index.

In my own work, I am looking forward to OutRight Action International’s research on so-called conversion therapy world-wide, which will be published within the next month. It is a ground-breaking study showing the global reach of these barbaric practices; the horrors people, who are forced, or at times choose, to undergo conversion therapy, face across the globe; and the harmful consequences they suffer many years later. The phenomenon of conversion therapy is present all around the world, and it is shrouded in cloud and taboo. We need to bring it to light as an unjustifiable practice deliberately aimed at harming LGBT+ people and perpetuating misinformation and stigma.

There are many organizations out there advocating for LGBT+ inclusion. In your opinion, what is the unique role that Open For Business plays?

I love that Open For Business is a business-led initiative. Too often, businesses come to the table as additional partners, but businesses have the potential to play a game-changing role in LGBT+ inclusion. It is so important that businesses speak openly about inclusion and put it in practice as role models, and this can only be done by cultivating a group of LGBT+ advocates in business in every sector of the economy.

A number of multinational companies are doing great work, but Open For Business’s focus on growing a supportive network of local businesses is just as important and unique. At the moment, it is a missing link in the growing network of allies for LGBT+ inclusion worldwide.

And most importantly, Open For Business’s research on the economic and business case for LGBT+ inclusion. We can never have too much data and facts to debunk the myths and counter the arguments for why LGBT+ should be excluded.

 

About Paul Jansen

Paul Jansen is OutRight Action International’s Senior Advisor for Global Advocacy. Prior to joining OutRight International, he worked as an international consultant from Sitges, Spain, mainly on organisational and strategic reviews for LGBTIQ organisations and networks, as well as key population networks working on HIV issues. Before his consultancy work, Jansen held positions in various organizations across the globe. In Salzburg, Austria, he was the Program Director for Salzburg Global Seminar in the areas of education, nature and sustainability issues, as a side step from his LGBTIQ work. In Bangkok, Thailand, Jansen worked as organizational sustainability advisor in APCOM, the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health. At Hivos, he served as the Program Officer for LGBT Rights/MSM & HIV in The Hague, The Netherlands, and as Country Director of the Hivos office in Johannesburg, South Africa.


Research Advisory Board Spotlight Series - Lee Badgett

11 July 2019

Because all of Open For Business’s advocacy work is grounded in knowledge and research, we construct and promote the economic and business case for LGBT+ inclusion. While we continuously work with coalition partners to develop new research to strengthen the evidence base, our Research Advisory Board plays a critical role in ensuring the economic case is comprehensive and up to date by providing guidance and feedback on the new research we publish.

Our Research Advisory Board consists of six distinguished experts who are well-respected and accomplished in their respective fields. In the coming weeks and months, we will be publishing a six-part series that will feature each Research Advisory Board member and shed more light on the experts that strengthen the rigor of our research as well as ensure the economic case for LGBT+ inclusion is even more robust.

In the first of the six-part Research Advisory Board Spotlight Series, we spoke with Lee Badgett to hear her story.

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What motivated you to focus your work on LGBT+ issues?

I originally got into this area of research because I read a story about allegedly affluent gay people in the Wall Street Journal and I saw that the misleading data was later used to justify bad policies. My training as a labor economist—plus my personal knowledge as a lesbian—led me to doubt that societies steeped in homophobia and transphobia would result in LGBT+ people earning more than the typical person. I found better data to analyze, and it turned out that there is a wage gap for gay and bisexual men, who earn less than straight men with the same qualifications. This research helped debunk that myth of affluence and generated a lot of interest from policymakers and the media. I started hearing other questions in policy debates related to LGBT+ people, including employer compensation, marriage equality or poverty, and I started doing more economic research and policy analysis to answer them—making a career out of it.

What are the challenges facing LGBT+ research?

The biggest challenge has always been getting data. We worked hard to convince statistical agencies to add sexual orientation and gender identity questions to surveys in the U.S., and we now have a lot more data than we used to. We can study economic, social and health differences between LGBT+ people and cisgender, heterosexual people on a detailed level. But that is only true in a small number of countries, and even in the US we need much more data on transgender people and intersex people. We need better data in all countries to understand the challenges faced by LGBT+ people and to figure out how to promote equality and inclusion.

Are there any particular areas in LGBT+ research which you think have not been appropriately covered and should deserve more attention?

In economics, I think we need much more research in the economic development area. We also need to study how to reduce prejudice toward LGBT+ people and how to increase economic opportunities for LGBT+ people, particularly for those in the most precarious economic positions.

Could you describe one moment when you felt particularly proud about your work?

For about ten years, I did a lot of research on economic inequality for same-sex couples and their families because they were denied the right to marry, and I also wrote a book that showed letting same-sex couples marry would not harm the institution of marriage. That research led to my being an expert witness in the court case in California that eventually resulted in same-sex couples being able to marry there. The judge used some of my testimony in his decision, along with the testimonies of the other social scientists and historians, and I’m very proud of being a part of that case.

Is there a piece of work on LGBT+ issues which you feel is particularly unique or interesting? Tell us more.

I am a big fan of using experiments to see if LGBT+ people are treated the same way as non-LGBT+ people in hiring, education or other settings. In the employment realm, for example, researchers create fictional resumes of two people who have very similar qualifications. They make one of those fictional people LGBT+ by saying they volunteered for an LGBT+ organization, or by noting that they once used a different name (for transgender applicants). These LGBT+ applicants are almost always less likely to get an invitation to an interview. It is very persuasive evidence of discrimination, because the qualifications are exactly the same.

There are many organizations out there advocating for LGBT+ inclusion. In your opinion, what is the unique role that Open For Business plays?

Open For Business has a very clear strategy for promoting LGBT+ inclusion. They have brought together big companies with powerful voices to speak as one in contexts that need to hear how inclusion is good for economies. Pulling together existing evidence on the economic and business case for LGBT+ inclusion and amplifying it through media and policy connections is so important. It is also exciting to see Open For Business building partnerships with local researchers and organizations to expand research and use it to argue for inclusion.  

About M. V. Lee Badgett

M. V. Lee Badgett is an economist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Williams Distinguished Scholar at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law & Public Policy at UCLA School of Law. An expert in economic and policy issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, her own research has helped change the world by debunking myths about LGBT people and, as an expert witness in the Proposition 8 Trial, by demonstrating the benefits of marriage equality for same-sex couples and society.

Badgett is also the author of When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage; she has written for the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Nation and has been featured on NPR and CNN.

Her latest book is The Public Professor: How To Use Your Research To Change The World and her new book, The Economic Case for LGBT Equality: Why Fairness and Equality Benefit Us All, will be out from Beacon Press next spring.