I think it’s great that some communities have dropped the initials that Pride Month celebrates — Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning — and simply call this “Pride Month.” San Francisco started this several years ago, and I note that Portland, my new home, calls June Pride Month as well.
So: Happy Pride Month!
But let’s not forget the initialized members of our community as we celebrate, and remember one thing about our community’s initials: no person is LGBTIQQ. People are lesbian, people are gay, people are bisexual. Individuals are queer or questioning; persons are born intersex: 1 in 100 whose bodies differ from standard male or female, and 1 in 1000 with Klinefelter syndrome (XXY). When we speak of the inclusive community — the folks who, because of their sex difference, have been excluded from the benefits mainstream America conveys on the majority — it’s fine to call the community LGBTIQQ.
But while we are proud, we still lag behind. Let’s remember that being a member of this community means one has lower socio-economic status, on average:
While LGBT persons tend to have more education on average than the general population, evidence suggests that they make less money than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts (Factor and Rothblum, 2007; Fassinger, 2007; Egan, Edelman, & Sherrill, 2008). Studies on income differences for LGBT persons indicate that:
* Gay men earn up to 32 percent less than similarly qualified heterosexual men.
* Up to 64 percent of transgender people report incomes below $25,000.
* While 5.9 percent of the general population makes less than $10,000, 14 percent of LGBT individuals are within this income bracket.
Re-runs of Will & Grace, or new episodes of ABC’s Modern Family and Brothers & Sisters feature wealthy, pampered, privileged gay men with disposable income to spend on travel, trinkets, and toys — this is the exception in America, not the rule.
We are poorer than the rest of America. And some of us are very poor indeed. More than twice as many of the rest of America lives on less than $10,000 a year. All those images of sun-tanned men, or expensively but sensibly dressed lesbians, driving their expensive convertibles to the golf club or the discotheque or Palm Springs or Fire Island? Ellen and Portia in St Barts? Elton and David at Kate and Will’s wedding? Not how we actually live.
Not at all.
And two-thirds of us self-report discrimination at work:
Discrimination of LGBT persons in the workplace is a significant factor in the differences in socioeconomic status for LGBT persons. In many cases, discrimination against and unfair treatment of LGBT persons remains legally acceptable (Fassinger, 2007).
* Termination of an employee based on sexual orientation remains legal in 31 American states.
* Termination of an employee based on gender identity remains legal in 39 American states.
* Up to 68 percent of individuals identifying as LGBT report experiencing employment discrimination.
Our young face their own, higher and more complex hurdles:
A lack of acceptance and fear of persecution lead many LGBT youth to leave their homes and live in transitional housing or the streets. The consequences of youth homelessness have many implications for the socioeconomic status of LGBT youth (Ray & National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2006). Studies on LGBT youth reveal the following:
* LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate. Studies indicate that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
* Upon coming out to their parents, up to 50 percent of gay teens report a negative reaction, and 26 percent report being kicked out of their homes.
* Many homeless youth programs are run by faithbased organizations, which express disapproval of homosexuality. This often contributes to discrimination of LGBT youth within homeless youth shelters.
* Homeless LGBT youth are without economic support, often engage in drug use and risky sexual behaviors, and often develop mental health disorders (Cochran, Stewart, Ginzler, & Cauce et al., 2002).
* Homeless LGBT youth miss out on education and social support during critical formative years—more than half of homeless LGBT youth report experiencing discrimination from peers (Milburn, Ayala, Rice, Batterham, & Rotherham-Borus, 2006). For these reasons, LGBT youth are often at the lower rungs of the SES ladder and may have greater chances of remaining at a lower SES level in the future.
So when we ask America to recognize us for a month, to allow us to celebrate who we are, please acknowledge with us all that this recognition — and the acceptance that can then flow from it — is a petition from an under-minority: despised some places in this country, discriminated against most places, and hounded in others.
We are Proud, but we deserve this month. Celebrate with us, and make our cause your own.