Want to Flight Poverty? The LGBTQ Community Must Work Together
It’s painful truth to tell you that there are thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people living in the Bay Area who are unemployed or underemployed and not making a living wage. While many in our community are prospering, a large amount also face significant challenges rooted in bias and lack of acceptance.
Despite our community being tremendously diverse, homophobia and trans phobia with racism, gender bias and economic challenges to keep many individuals marginalized, particularly when seeking employment and economic stability.
To look on the bright side, I’m proud to tell you that there are organizations like the Human Rights Campaign, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and many others. They are taking affirmative steps to create change, a safe and supportive work environment for all LGBTQ individuals and people of color. The LGBTQ communities have made incredible progress. We have won marriage equality, the right to serve openly in the military, and our brave youth are coming out at younger and boldly like never before. However, there is more work needs to be done to make sure that no one, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, gets left behind on our path to full racial and socioeconomic equality for all.
LGBTQ people are born into all types of families, rich and poor. They all face the same socio-economic challenges as other people who share their sex, race, ethnicity and age. Yet, they also face unique obstacles because of their sexual orientation and gender identities. They are at a higher risk of being homeless when they are young, targeted for harassment and discrimination within schools and workplace, and are being denied the economic benefits of marriage. It’s far too familiar when one hears a story of another LGBTQ individual who has been kicked out of their home and taking the first bus they can get to seek a new life elsewhere, bound for a hard life on the streets, the transgender woman being turned down job interview after job interview for entry level occupations, or an elderly lesbian whose partner’s death means less social security income and possibly the loss of her home.
However, LGBTQ poverty remains a surprising topic to most because these are not the dominant images of the community, and stereotypes remain resilient. Most directly implicated is the myth of affluence that historically has been pinned on several marginalized communities, including Jews and Asian-Pacific Islanders. However, for LGBTQ people, this stereotype rests on a number of other ones. For many, when they think about LGBTQ people, they envision gay, white, young men who do not have children.
LGBTQ people are of all ages, and the young and the old are particularly economically vulnerable. According to The National Conference of State Legislatures, an estimated 1.6 million youth in the U.S. experience homelessness each year, and research suggests that between 20% and 40% of them identify as LGBTQ. Among members of same-sex couples in the United States, 7% are 65 years of age or older and 28% are disabled. Nearly 6% of individuals in same-sex couples receive Medicaid or other government assistance for those with low incomes or a disability.
Understanding the diversity within the LGBT community is both the key to breaking down the myth of affluence and to beginning to understand where and how to fight LGBTQ poverty. It also points to a network of progressive collations, among women, people of color, the young and the old, parents, and LGBTQ people, who must all work together to fight poverty.
McAnallen Katie. NCSL.“ What is the Status of Employment Protection for LGBT People”. Jul 01.2015. Web. Nov 11.2016.
Human Right Campaign Foundation. “Rating Workplaces on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality”. Jul 2016. Web. Nov 11.2016