LGBTQ+ Discrimination: It’s a Poverty Issue
By: Kiese Hansen
Anti-LGBTQ+* discrimination is legal under most states’ laws. As a result, many LGBTQ+ people are shut out of resources that guarantee economic stability. This includes employment, housing, health care, and government programs and services. As an anti-poverty nonprofit, CLASP is deeply concerned with how a lack of legal protections impacts the LGBTQ+ community. Research shows they face unique barriers to social and economic stability. Those who identify as LGBTQ+:
Experience high rates of economic insecurity.
- One in 4 LGBT people earns $24,000 or less annually.
- Twenty-seven percent of LGBT people are food insecure.
- Almost a third of transgender individuals live in poverty.
- Approximately 15 percent of same-sex couples live in poverty. Almost a quarter of children raised by same-sex couples live in poverty.
Have limited health and mental health support.
- LGBTQ people are at high risk of suicidal behavior.
- LGBTQ people are more than twice as likely to be uninsured.
- Eight percent of LGBQ and 29 percent of transgender people have reported being denied health care services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Include immigrants who face other challenges in their day to day security.
- Close to 1 million immigrants identify as LGBT. A third of them are undocumented.
- Many in the LGBTQ immigrant community report not having—or barely having—enough income to meet monthly expenses.
Experience discrimination in and out of the workplace.
- More than 1 in 5 LGBTQ people have experienced institutional discrimination.
- Approximately 20 percent have reported discrimination when applying for jobs, negotiating pay, or being considered for promotions.
- LGBTQ people of color are twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to report workplace discrimination.
- Twenty-two percent of LGBTQ people have experienced discrimination when trying to rent or buy property.
- Roughly 1 in 4 transgender people reports experiencing housing discrimination because of their identity.
Are frequently youth.
LGBTQ+ youth are represented throughout the previous categories. Here are some examples of how they’re affected:
- Criminal justice system: Approximately 20 percent of youth in juvenile detention facilities identify as LGBT or gender non-conforming.
- Economic security: Twenty to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Approximately 22 percent of youth in out-of-home care identify as LGBQ. Over half are youth of color.
- Health and mental health: In 2017, 95 percent of LGBTQ youth reported trouble sleeping at night. Seventy-seven percent said they recently felt down or depressed.
Over the last few decades, some protections for LGBTQ+ individuals and families have expanded. But recent actions by states, as well as the Trump Administration, threaten people’s rights. The bipartisan Equality Act, which recently passed the House, would protect individuals from discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, and sexual orientation in public and work settings. Congressman David Cicilline and Senator Jeff Merkley sponsored the bill, which has 286 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors.
The Supreme Court has also announced it will consider three cases regarding whether employers can lawfully discriminate against workers because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
While the fate of the Equality Act and judicial process remains uncertain, LGBTQ+ people are left in a state of limbo. This has major consequences for their short- and long-term wellbeing. Job security, housing stability, and health care are foundational to economic security. Losing employment or housing can cause individuals and families to spiral into poverty. We can’t continue to let this happen. Everyone has a responsibility to support inclusive policies that meet the needs of all individuals and families.
* CLASP uses the acronym LGBTQ+ to identify a broad population. We use limiting acronyms when referencing data from subpopulations.