A landmark report from a wide-ranging national coalition says LGBTQ people face heightened rates and indicators of economic disparity.
“Intersecting Injustice: A National Call to Action, Addressing LGBTQ Poverty and Economic Justice for All” was released in May by the LGBTQ Poverty Collaborative. The national coalition began their study in 2013 with a series of community meetings and focus groups.
The years-long study found several high indicators for economic inequity for LGBTQ people, including food insecurity and housing instability, low-wage earning potential and higher unemployment and underemployment rates. Those challenges, study authors say, are exacerbated for marginalized communities facing several intersecting social injustices.
“Transgender, gender nonconforming, and non-binary Black and Brown people are disproportionately affected by high rates of homelessness, trauma, criminalization, under-employment, and incarceration, which are inextricably linked to chronic poverty and reinforced by state-sanctioned violence,” the report notes.
The Collaborative says their report shows a need to prioritize economic justice issues within the larger LGBTQ movement.
“In a 2016 study, one in four LGBTQ people — approximately 2.2 million people — did not have enough money to feed themselves or their families during some period in the last year,” Tyrone Hanley, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Policy Counsel and one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “As we work to advance equality for the LGBTQ community, poverty must be a central issue in that fight.”
Hanley said the report shines “light on the gravity of this issue for our community, which is particularly critical as we work to counter the cruelty of [the Trump] administration’s policies and a House farm bill through which even higher numbers of Americans would go hungry.”
The Collaborative’s initial intent was to study wide-ranging economic justice issues for LGBTQ people. Their goal was to “make a case to a friendly federal administration that LGBTQ economic justice must be prioritized.”
But, then, Donald Trump was elected president. “As a result,” the study’s introduction reads, “this report was refocused and reimagined as a response to our current historical moment, in which the federal government is controlled by a deeply hostile administration.”
Study authors have accused the Trump Administration of “actively seeking to dismantle programs and policies that took years to build — programs and policies that have tangibly benefited LGBTQ communities, communities of color, low-income communities, and those who exist at the intersection of these communities.”
Melissa Boteach, senior vice president of Center for American Progress’ Poverty to Prosperity Program, said recent administration actions represent “shameful attacks on LGBT Americans” and that recent actions “will exacerbate poverty in America.”
The study’s findings reveal a harsh reality on life for LGBTQ people — flying in the face of past surveys that tout the community’s supposed wealth, disposable income and purchasing power.
Poverty rates are dramatically higher for minorities when compared to the average white American. For black Americans, the poverty rate is nearly three times that of whites. LGBTQ people living at several intersections of injustice fare the worst — the average black transgender person, for example, earns less than $10,000 per year.
The Collaborative’s report includes several key recommendations and suggestions across a variety of policy areas, including employment and labor policy, social services and benefits, housing and homelessness, schools and education, health, hunger and issues surrounding the criminalization of poverty, among others.
“Our community knows what poverty looks like,” said Meghan Maury, policy director at the National LGBTQ Task Force and one of the report’s authors. “This report gives a voice to the creative solutions queer and trans people have built to address systemic oppression. From policy solutions that would change our tax code to cooperative solutions to housing access, we had the chance to hear from LGBTQ people living in poverty about how they are already working to create change in their lives.”
The full report can be read online at socialjusticesexuality.com/intersecting_injustice/.
The LGBTQ Poverty Collaborative includes members from the Center for American Progress (CAP), Family Equality Council, National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Social Justice Sexuality Project at the City University of New York (CUNY Graduate Center), The Vaid Group, Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), Whitman-Walker Health (WWH) and the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.