2022, Active

Exploring factors related to firearm violence among LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color in Detroit, Michigan

Institute Project
Image of pistol handgun laying on rainbow flag.

In alignment with the mission of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, and driven by our formative work with LGBT+ people of color in Detroit, we propose to fill gaps in understanding gun violence and firearm injury prevention efforts among LGBT+ youth and young adults of color by identifying the specific structural, social, organizational, and psychological factors that may influence gun violence and firearm injury prevention efforts among LGBT+ youth and young adults of color in Detroit.

Abstract

In the United States (US), gun violence is a major cause of preventable mortality. The presence of guns is associated with increased risk of death since violence whether directed at self or others is more lethal than other means when firearms are used. As a result of the high prevalence of gun violence in the US, there is a high probability that a person’s social network includes a victim of gun violence. Accumulating evidence suggests that those most susceptible to gun violence are youth and young adults, with Black and Latinx youth and young adults being disproportionately affected by gun violence in urban settings. Violence is a significant public health problem for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and other sexual and gender minority (LGBTQ+) people, particularly among LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color. However, there has been limited attention to the roles of guns in contributing to morbidity and mortality among LGBTQ+ people overall and specifically with LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color.

LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color experience cyclical, interlocking systems of structural and institutional oppression rooted in racism, heterosexism, and transphobia. This pervasive and systemic intersectional stigma (e.g., in education, employment, and housing) fuels structural vulnerabilities, which manifest through many forms of violence, including biased and traumatic police interactions, community violence, and discrimination. Nearly one out of four LGB people have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) – similar to non-LGB counterparts. IPV is more common among transgender than cisgender people and among bisexual compared to heterosexual women. Moreover, high rates of school-based bullying, including being threatened with weapons at school, has been widely documented among LGBTQ+ youth, which negatively impacts mental health and increases the likelihood of school drop-out and poverty. LGBTQ+ youth are two to four times more likely to attempt suicide compared their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts; however, there has been a lack of information collected on the means used in suicide attempts. Importantly, LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color who live in low income, urban communities such as Detroit with a history of communal neglect and economic deprivation are more prone to gun violence. Systemic oppression also leaves LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color more likely to witness violence, experience violent victimization, and lack well-funded resources needed to survive.

Information about the extent that firearms have been used against and by LGBTQ+ youth and young adults to inflict harm on self or others is currently lacking. Notably, information about sexual orientation and gender identity is not collected on death certificates, nor in most public systems and registries that track injury. These gaps limit existing knowledge about the extent and characteristics of gun violence and firearm injuries experienced by LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color and inhibit efforts to integrate LGBTQ+ youth of color in firearm injury prevention efforts. In alignment with the mission of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, and driven by our formative work with LGBTQ+ people of color in Detroit, we propose to fill gaps in understanding by identifying the specific structural, social, organizational, and psychological factors that may influence gun violence and firearm injury prevention efforts among LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color in Detroit with the following specific aims:

Aim #1: Identify the oppressive structural, social, organizational, and psychological factors that contribute to gun violence and firearm injury, inclusive of suicide, among LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color in Detroit.

Aim #2: Pilot test standard measures utilized to assess firearm exposure among youth and young adults and assess need for adaptation for use with this population. 

Aim #3: Identify potential strategies to improve data collection about LGBTQ+ gun violence and firearm injury. 

To address these aims, we will gather qualitative and quantitative data from three sources: a) LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color in Detroit (Aims 1 and 2); b) medical, behavioral and social service providers currently serving LGBTQ+ youth and young adults (Aims 1, 2, and 3); c) organization leaders who serve LGBTQ+ communities, including those that address homicides and violence committed against the LGBTQ+ community in Detroit (Aims 1, 2, and 3).  

The proposed study will capitalize on the strengths of our ongoing community partnerships in Detroit, including Ruth Ellis Center, Corktown Health Center, Fair Michigan Foundation, Trans Sistas of Color Project, and Nuii-Waav Brotherhood. The proposed project will allow us to collect critical data necessary for applying to extramural funding and allow us to better understand gun violence and firearm injury among LGBTQ+ youth and young adults of color. Together, these data will help to further our program of research designed to address cycles of racism, heterosexism, transphobia, structural vulnerabilities, and health inequities and enhance existing community approaches aimed to alleviate injustices experienced by LGBTQ+ people of color.

Project Team

Kristi Gamarel, PhD, Ed.M.

Funders

Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention, Office of the VP of Research, University of Michigan

Partners

Corktown Health Center

Fair Michigan Foundation

Nuii-Waav Brotherhood

Ruth Ellis Center

Trans Sistas of Color Project