Areas of Growth

ISGMH makes it a priority to research underrepresented populations in order to more broadly improve sexual and gender minority (SGM) health and wellbeing. We forge collaborations with leading scholars, connect with community organizations, and hire faculty, postdocs, and staff who are experts on SGM health.

Our current areas of expertise include HIV/AIDS prevention, adolescent sexual health, intervention evaluation, network analysis, and health promotion intervention development. We continue to expand our research in the following areas: (1) women’s health;  (2) bisexuality; (3) stigma, structural inequality, intersections of race and SGM identities; and (4) transgender health.

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ISGMH aims to promote research focusing on women’s health. Women are included as participants in several ISGMH studies, and many projects focus specifically on women.

EDIT’s Community-Academic Partnership to Build Capacity for Research and Evaluation at Chicago Women’s AIDS Project (CWAP) works to evaluate interventions tailored to primarily African-American women with histories of addiction and incarceration.

Another current study, FAB 400, seeks to understand relationship dynamics and personal development among young SGM people assigned female at birth (AFAB) in Chicago. FAB 400 is working to shed light on the experiences young SGM people assigned female at birth have with intimate partner violence, including risk and protective factors and help-seeking behavior.

The collaborative Improving health Knowledge and Opportunity for Women (IKNOW) study is designed to understand the challenges for women, mainly African American, to accessing PrEP in Chicago. This study will explore the knowledge, attitudes, and experiences with PrEP among women and will inform the development of future interventions to address identified gaps.

To expand our work in women’s health research, ISGMH plans to collaborate with Northwestern faculty conducting women’s health research and place an emphasis on securing funding for future women’s health projects.

ISGMH researchers recognize bisexual populations have unique perspectives that need to be heard. We are committed to highlighting bisexuality in our research as well as in our event programming.

Dr. Brian Feinstein was recently awarded a K08 Career Development Award from the National Institute on Drug Abuse for a project specifically focusing on bisexual male youth. His 5-year Bi+ Youth Project will focus on: (1) examining factors that drive engagement in HIV risk behavior and substance use among self-identified bisexual male youth (ages 14-17); and (2) developing and pilot testing an HIV and substance use prevention intervention for self-identified bisexual male youth. Dr. Feinstein was also awarded funding for his Bi+ Visibility Project to advance our understanding of bi+ individuals’ attempts to make their sexual identity visible to others. Dr. Christina Dyar, another ISGMH faculty member whose work focuses on health disparities in bi+ populations, is a collaborator on this project.

In February 2017, we were proud to feature Dr. Brian Dodge along with Dr. Wendy Bostwick in one of our first Current Issues in LGBTQ Health lectures. In a presentation titled “Bisexual Health: Risk and Beyond,” Drs. Dodge and Bostwick discussed their work and the current bisexual health research landscape, highlighting health disparities in bisexual populations that need to be addressed through further research.

In November 2017, Dr. Lauren Beach, ISGMH postdoctoral research fellow, coordinated a conference with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago dedicated specifically to bisexual health awareness. Co-sponsored by our EDIT Program, “We See You: Countering the Invisibility of Bisexual Individuals” was the first event of its kind – an entire day open to the public dedicated to discussing the health of bisexual individuals hosted by a large HIV/AIDS advocacy organization. We take pride in highlighting research and activism dedicated to improving bisexual health and wellbeing.

Several ISGMH studies involve large sexual and gender minority samples that enable us to more closely study bisexual health. The large samples in our YRBS and RADAR studies give us significant data to look across sexual orientation groups and observe factors unique to bisexual youth health.

In addition to utilizing our current data, ISGMH studies have incorporated additional measures to explore the experiences of bisexual people. Questions were added to our RADAR study to find out about bisexual men’s experiences with discrimination, preferences for health interventions, and sense of pride in their identify. Our FAB 400 study quickly found a high percentage of participants identifying as bisexual or pansexual and subsequently added measures specific to the unique experiences of these participants.

Moving forward, we strive to use these data, as well as new and existing relationships with our community partners, to continue launching projects focused on the experiences of bisexual populations.

ISGMH acknowledges that individuals in sexual and gender minority communities live with multiple identities. We recognize and research the role of stigma, structural inequality, and the intersections of race and SGM identities in our work. ISGMH projects with a specific emphasis on race include the SMART Project, our EDIT Program's Evaluation Center, the Adolescent Scientific Access Project (ASAP!), and many studies within the CONNECT research program.

The SMART Project’s eHealth sexual education and HIV prevention intervention targets multiple cultural identity groups, will be delivered in both English and Spanish, and is designed to reach adolescents in rural areas through online modalities.

EDIT's Evaluation Center projects address stigma, structural inequality, and the intersections of race and SGM identities by working closely with over twenty community based partners who offer services addressing social determinants of health in marginalized populations. By building capacity and conducting rigorous evaluation at these agencies, EDIT helps to improve programmatic activities to better respond to the needs of SGM individuals, particularly Black and Latinx individuals, seeking HIV prevention services.

The Adolescent Scientific Access Project (ASAP!) examines barriers and facilitators to HIV and sexual health research participation that go beyond the individual-level. In addition to exploring these barriers (including fear of having to come out to parents in order to participate in an SGM health study and concerns about historical mistreatment of SGM people in research) ASAP! also examines youth perceptions of their sexual and reproductive health as well as barriers and facilitators to accessing healthcare.

The CONNECT program studies SGM health by elucidating the complex mechanisms driving the health disparities of stigmatized populations. CONNECT’s Project VOICE explores how networks, venues, and neighborhoods function as risk environments for young men who have sex with men of different racial groups. The project also investigates how structural factors like stigma and discrimination may shape racial differences in risk environments.

In addition to research projects, our Current Issues in LGBTQ Health lecture series highlights the importance of an intersectional lens in SGM health and wellbeing work. ISGMH’s 2018 State of Sexual and Gender Minority Health Symposium will focus on these intersections, thanks to a Daniel I. Linzer Grants for Innovation in Diversity and Equity from the Office of the Provost awarded to Dr. Gaiba, ISGMH associate director.  As ISGMH expands, we continue to honor our commitment to investigating the intersections of race, stigma, and structural inequalities.

Transgender participants are already  included in many of our existing projects, and as ISGMH grows, we will continue to build our expertise on transgender health research.

Our FAB 400 and RADAR projects have a combined longitudinal cohort of roughly 200 transgender and gender non-conforming (TNGC) people, giving  us insight into the prevalence of various health outcomes in this population. In addition, we are actively developing studies with a focus on transgender health. ISGMH works to collaborate with partners including Lurie Children’s Hospital, Center on Halsted, University of Chicago and Howard Brown Health Center to strengthen our transgender health research infrastructure.