Discrimination Survey Results


Certain classes of people are protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations in Pennsylvania. Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, people cannot be discriminated against because of “race, color, religious creed, ancestry, age or national origin, handicap or disability, use of guide or support animals because of the blindness, deafness or physical handicap of the user or because the user is a handler or trainer of support or guide animals is a matter of concern of the Commonwealth.”[1] The law does not expressly cover people based on sexual or gender identity, expression, or orientation. The law known as the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act of 1955 as amended in 1997, prohibits discrimination for employment, housing, and public accommodations, while federal and Pennsylvania education law covers discrimination at school.


This study serves as a guide to determine where discrimination is happening in Pennsylvania. As such, we define “discrimination” as any form of intimidation, bullying, segregation, harassment, or denial of service. In terms of employment, we also consider discrimination to consist of refusal to hire, discharge from employment, or harassment during the course of one’s employment, such that said discrimination occurs or has occurred on the basis of one’s sexual or gender identity, expression, or orientation. The survey also considers discrimination, bullying, and hazing that happens during the course of one’s education. As such, we consider Pennsylvania education law which says the following: [2]

“Bullying” shall mean an intentional electronic, written, verbal or physical act, or a series of acts:

    (1)   directed at another student or students;

    (2)   which occurs in a school setting;

    (3)   that is severe, persistent or pervasive; and

    (4)   that has the effect of doing any of the following:

        (i)   substantially interfering with a student’s education;

        (ii)  creating a threatening environment; or

        (iii) substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school; and

“school setting” shall mean in the school, on school grounds, in school vehicles, at a designated bus stop or at any activity sponsored, supervised or sanctioned by the school.

24 P.S. § 13-1303.1-A (2008)

Responses to the survey are confidential, and throughout this report, we share anecdotal evidence based on the respondent’s entry number without divulging any of the respondent’s personal information beyond the county of residence, sexual orientation, gender identity, race (for demographic purposes), and age range.


We have discovered that Pennsylvania’s statistics are comparable to other surveys conducted nationally regarding discrimination. We further find that most discrimination occurs at school (for people under 18 through 29), and at places of employment for people between the ages of 18 and 39. We will continue to conduct this survey in future years to compare results over time. We anticipate releasing similar reports every mid-September for at least the next five years.

Methodology & Limitations


The Pennsylvania Equality Project conducted an online survey between June 14, 2019 and August 31, 2019. The survey was open to all Pennsylvania residents at least 13 years of age.The survey consisted of a series of questions related to demographic information, followed by a series of questions to determine where discrimination is actively happening in Pennsylvania. Survey respondents were asked to answer whether they faced discrimination at school, work, public accommodations, within a medical setting, within a governmental setting, or at some other location. Respondents were asked to provide details about all affirmative answers.



1. Some of the survey responses included affirmative responses to questions; however, the anecdotal information was either not provided or lacking in details about specific occurrences of discrimination. 

2. The survey ran for over two months. Typically survey respondents have considerably less time to submit responses to surveys. According to SurveyMonkey, surveys with between 50 and 500 responses receive 80% of all responses within the first 7 days of the survey release. [3] 

3. Pennsylvania Equality Project, Inc. spent $100 in advertising to promote the survey. Of that money, $50 was spent in June, while $25 each was apportioned for July and August.

4. Some respondents reported no discrimination at all. Of 150 responses, 121 reported some form of discrimination, while 29 reported none.


Confidence Interval and Margin of Error

Given the 121 responses reporting discrimination, the confidence interval for this survey was 95% with a margin of error of +/- 6.0%.


Table 1


As of August 31, 2019, the Pennsylvania Equality Project concluded its survey about where discrimination is happening in Pennsylvania. We received a total of 121 responses out of 150 submitted indicating some form of discrimination by the respondents. Of those reporting, people responding classified by sexual orientation identified as follows: 19 identified as gay, 27 identified as lesbians, 28 identified as bisexual, 21 identified as pansexual, 7 identified as asexual, 12 identified as heterosexual, 3 identified as demisexual, and 4 responded that they are of some other sexual orientation. (See Table 1)


When sorted by age, our respondents reporting discrimination included: 13 people under age 18, 70 people between 18 and 29 years of age, 21 between 30 and 39 years of age, 8 people between 40 and 49 years of age, 7 people between 50 and 59 years of age, and 2 people who were 60 years of age and older. (See Table 2)


When sorted by gender identity, our respondents reporting discrimination included: 23 people identify as cis-male, 44 people identify as cis-female, 17 people identify as non-binary, 11 identify as genderfluid, 9 people identify as transgender (male to female), 16 identify as transgender (female to male), and 1 identified as a some other form of gender identity. A redacted copy of our demographic material is listed below.


Throughout the results portion of this study, whenever referring to a respondent in the third person, we use the gender pronouns we were given within the survey.

Sexual Orientation Number Percent of Population (121)
Gay 19 15.7%
Lesbian 27 22.3%
Bisexual 28 23.1%
Asexual 7 5.8%
Pansexual 21 17.4%
Demisexual 3 2.5%
Heterosexual 12 9.9%
Other 4 3.3%
Table 2
Table 3
Age Number Percent of Population (121)
Under 18 13 8.7%
18 – 29 70 46.7%
30 – 39 8 14.0%
40 – 49 8 5.3%
50 – 59 7 4.7%
60 and older 2 1.3%
Gender Identity Number Percent of Population (121)
Cis-male 23 19.0%
Cis-female 44 36.4%
Non-binary 17 14.0%
Genderfluid 11 9.1%
Trans (Male to Female) 9 7.4%
Trans (Female to Male) 16 13.2%
Other 1 0.8%



At School

Overall, most reports of discrimination are taking place at school with 68% of all respondents telling us that they hear name calling, verbal assaults and threats, and physical altercations happening on their campus grounds. While some events took place years ago, 100% (13 out of 13) of all the under 18 group reported some form of discrimination, harassment, or bullying happening within their schools. Entry 7 from Cambria County said he faced bullying on a consistent basis.


Consistently being bullied by peers over liking both and for identifying as a male. When going to the Principal, I was brushed off and told it was “The area.” And there was nothing she could do. I can’t go to gym class because they refuse to find a reasonable compromise even though I have been threatened that I Will be harmed if I go into the girls locker room. And they are worried something Will happen if I go in the male locker room.


Evidence of bullying is not limited to rural areas of Pennsylvania. In cities such as York, Erie, and Philadelphia, respondents reported verbal intimidation. Entry 20 from Erie County said that kids frequently yelled profane language and that “all gays should die.” In Philadelphia, Entry 59 commented that people constantly harass (me) when walking through the halls because of what people assume my sexuality is.” In the case of Entry 111, the harassment consists of mis-identifying her sexual orientation, “I always get told because I’m dating a male, I’m straight. I’m not straight. I fall in love with people. not gender.” 

Respondents who range in age from 18 to 29 made up the largest portion of the sample group, and within their age group 69% (48 out of 70) reported incidents of bullying or harassment at school. Entry 5 from Schuylkill County provides significant insight into what bullying took place within his Catholic high school:


Throughout my entire childhood, being gay was always a joke to my bullies. I went to a Catholic school where our priest gave lectures on how being gay was a sin and all the while, I was looking across class at all the boys I started to have feelings for. I was severely bullied throughout my whole childhood and my school didn’t care that the word gay was being used as an insult. Although I didn’t come out until much later, I know this is much of the reason why I stayed in the closet so long. Then in high school, we had one boy who was out and he was pretty badly bullied and had to sit alone everyday at lunch so I sort of knew the effect it would take on me if I came out.

Some respondents reported issues with using locker room and restroom facilities at school. Entry 12 from Lancaster County reported being hit, slapped with sticks, and having rocks thrown at them. Although recent court precedent on the subject of bathroom use may change eventual treatment at schools, Entry 13 from Butler County, reported having a knife pulled on him for “using the wrong bathroom.” Entry 15 from Wayne County reported, “I was bullied throughout my whole school experience. It became based on my sexuality when I came out in middle school as bi, then fully when started when I came out as lesbian in my sophomore year. I couldn’t even enter the locker rooms because girls thought I was looking at them.”


Experiences related to mis-naming individual respondents and using incorrect gender pronouns were frequently reported. Entry 6 from Butler County did not fare much better. “I’ve been tailgated on my campus for having a Pride bumper sticker, been called slurs, and had my pronouns deliberately ignored by other students after clearly stating what they were.” Entry 22 from Cameron County reported that other students frequently used his birth name and gender, despite being corrected to the contrary. He also reported being called derogatory names. 


Other respondents simply said that they 


1. http://giampololaw.com/docs/Human_Relations_Act.pdf Giampolo Law Firm, Search September 21, 2019

2. https://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/pennsylvania/index.html, Search September 21, 2019

3. https://www.surveymonkey.com/curiosity/time-to-respond/, Search September 21, 2019