LGBT Issues

By: Sarah Kroth |

The LGBTQIAAP community is, arguably, the “next” major civil rights movement in the US. While there is currently a large focus on marriage equality in political platforms, but this often pushes the spotlight off other pressing LGBT equality issues.

The “Alphabet Soup”

A major misconception about gay rights is that there is only the LGBT groups, but that’s only a partial acronym. The full acronym most commonly used is LGBTQIAA, occasionally adding a “P” on the end. This acronym, also called the “Alphabet Soup” stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally, and Poly. It just goes to  show that sexuality and gender are not a binary thing, but more of a spectrum that is usually truncated to only focus on the familiar Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans. There are far too many sexual, gender, and romantic orientations than can truly be defined. As such, there is great debate as what the subjective meaning of each term is, and if we should even use the acronym. There is an online movement to switch to several different abbreviated options including: GSM (Gender Sexual Minorities), GSRM (Gender Sexual and Romantic Minorities), or GSD (Gender Sexual Diversity). Many people feel that by switching to one of these labels, it encompasses the fluidity of gender and sexual identity, and better encourages an inclusive community rather than hurting someone who feels their identity doesn’t fit within “LGBT”.

Transgender

As defined by GLAAD (formerly Gays and Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation), transgender means someone whose gender identity or gender expression differs from their gender assigned at birth. This means that while someone may have female reproductive organs, they identify socially as a man, or vice versa. Transgender women and men may simply choose to identify, and dress/live as their preferred gender, or fully transition with the help of hormone replacement therapies, and gender reassignment surgery.

There are many stigmas that arise from discussing transgender people. For example, it wasn’t until the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was published in 2013 that the APA (American Psychological Association) announced that being transgender was not a mental illness. Many people do not know how to address a transitioned man or woman. There is not a widely used non-gendered pronoun in the English language to identify, so people will often use “man” when she prefers “woman.” And finally, there is major stigma about working with transgender people. In 33 states you can be fired for expressing your preferred gender identity. The only states that have laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts,  Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Colombia.

One way to combat these stigmas are in schools, however the climate surrounding LGBT safety has been suspect there for a long time. Transgender students, reporting in the 2011 National School Climate Survey, were most likely to feel unsafe at school, with 80.0% of transgender students, reporting that they felt unsafe at school because of their gender expression. Luckily, in California a law was passed, and went into effect for the 2013-2014 school year that may start to change these statistics. The law allows children to choose what bathrooms they are most comfortable using, as well as join whatever sports teams they feel most comfortable on.

Disproportionate Amount of LGBT Homeless youth

While homelessness is on the rise in general, homeless LGBT youth has become endemic within the homeless population itself. This is a major problem because many shelters will not take in LGBT youth, either because of their sexual identification or their nonconforming gender identity.

Between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, though there is no true way to know precise figures, this percentage translate as anywhere between 115,000 to 620,000 homeless LGBT youth. From surveys done with both homeless youth, and their families, the leading cause of homelessness is family conflict specifically over a youth’s gender identity, or sexual identification.  Transgender youth are the largest percentage of homeless LGBT youth, with many reports indicating as many as 1 in 5 homeless LGBT youth identifying as transgender. Since many shelters are segregated by age and sex, these youths are forced out of a support system of any kind.

Sourced from: The Task Force special report on Homeless LGBT youth

Hate Crimes

Congress’ definition of a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” The LGBT community is one of the largest groups victimized by hate crimes.

The FBI collects national data regarding law enforcement agencies reported hate crimes. In 2012, the most recently published data set, the FBI reported that 19.2% of all reported hate crimes were targeted because of a particular sexual orientation. This was the 2nd largest group discriminated against, after racial persecution. There have been laws put in place to help prosecute these types of crimes, such as the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd, Jr. Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, but there is still wide controversy about how effective hate crime laws are. The most effective way to end violence against LGBT individuals, is to change the social climate, and that is slowly happening.

For More Reading:

The Human Rights Campaign’s Ally’s Guide to LGBT Rights – also has many other pamphlets and informative material about many human rights’ issues.

National Center for Transgender Equality – news for transgender equality.

The Economist – many articles about international LGBT issues.

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness Blog – many articles on homeless LGBT youth, and homeless general population.

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