Poverty is bigger than our differences

June 4, 2011 § 3 Comments

This June people across America will celebrate sexual diversity. As visible as gay, bi and transgendered people will be on our streets many are still invisible in Census data. Same sex couples will be counted—-sort of—- but gay, lesbian, and transgendered singles won’t be noted. So it’s hard to tell exactly how poverty and low incomes impact those populations. But poverty is an issue that affects all communities and our nation and the LGBT community is no exception.

We have some idea of the impact for LGB (Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Sexual) people from a 2009 analysis done by the Williams Institute, a think tank specializing in sexual orientation law and policy. Using Census 2000 data and other national surveys the report found that lesbian couples and their families are more likely to be poor then heterosexual families. Nearly 25% of all lesbian and bisexual women are poor compared to an incidence of 19% in heterosexual women. Lesbian couples over 65 are twice as likely to be poor.  In general lesbians experience poverty more often then gay men.

As with national statistics racial difference is reflected in LGB poverty rates. African American same sex couples are 3 times more likely to be poor than white same sex couples.  White gay men have poverty rates of 2.7%, Asian Pacific Islanders 4.5%,  Black gay men are at 14% and Native American men have poverty rates of 19%!

In a 2001 American Health Association survey gay Latino men in LA, Miami, and New York drew a picture of economic hardship. 61% had run out of money to buy basics, 54% were forced to borrow money, and 45% were forced to find a new job at least once in the survey year. The story of economic hardship gets more intense for transgendered communities. A survey in 2006 by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and Transgender Law Center found that 59% of transgendered respondents were living in poverty, 9% had no source of income what so ever, and  34% were unemployed.

In June LGBT communities celebrate their identities and take a break from the sobering realities of elevated poverty rates around them. They focus on the hope that we’ll understand one another and not on the bias that’s preventing us from clearly seeing the impacts of challenges they must confront. Maybe you never attended a gay pride celebration or don’t think you know anyone lesbian, gay or transgendered but poverty knows all our communities.  Poverty is a national crisis. It’s bigger than any of our individual differences. Let’s unite to eradicate poverty.

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§ 3 Responses to Poverty is bigger than our differences

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