June 28, 2015

Beyond Marriage Equality

After a weekend of celebrating and a Facebook feed filled with rainbows over all your pictures, here are some things we still really need to work on to achieve "equality" for LGBT people. If you think marriage is the end-all and be-all in the fight for equality, sadly, you are very wrong. This is a huge and important step, yes, and I'm SO happy that couples who want to get married now have the freedom to do so, but we have a LONG WAY TO GO.

If you are a straight person who wants to be an ally, please read this. These are some of the issues that matter to us - way more than marriage equality.

1. There are still 29 states where a person can be fired from their job based on sexual orientation, and 32 states where there are no laws to protect transpeople from being fired for their gender identity (including New York!)

2. ...and that's if you can get a job in the first place. Employment opportunities are often limited or denied to transpeople, people who are gender non-conforming, or who live life as LGBT. Tennessee and Arkansas even have a BAN on employment non-discrimination laws.

3. There's a huge economic disparity between LGBT people and their straight, cisgender counterparts. LGBT people of color have the HIGHEST rates of poverty in the country. Lesbian and bisexual women experience poverty at higher rates than straight women. Transpeople are 4-times more likely to make under $10,000 a year than the general population.

4. 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. 1/5th of transpeople report experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives. We need more shelters, affordable, and SAFE housing!
2012, Williams Institute and 2012, National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

5. Healthcare!!! LGBT people are more likely to delay or avoid seeking medical care. Stigma, discrimination, under-employment and being under-insured all contribute to a lack of adequate healthcare for LGBT folks - especially the T.

6. LGBT youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. More than HALF of young transpeople people have at some point seriously considered suicide, and one quarter have attempted suicide. These attempts are also two times higher for black and latinx individuals than their white counterparts. And damn does this part still hurt the most to write about. I don't want to lose another friend to suicide.
Statistics from the Trevor Project.

7. Last week Jennicet Gutierrez made headlines for "heckling" (their word, not mine) the president during his pride event - but what she was saying IS IMPORTANT. Roughly 1 in 500 ICE detainees are LGBT, and account for one out of every 5 sexual abuse cases in ICE custody. There are approximately 267,000 undocumented LGBT immigrants, MANY of whom are seeking asylum, who will not get to enjoy these new liberties. We need to protect LGBT individuals from violence and physical abuse in detention (and let's not pretend solitary confinement is the answer) and make the process of immigration, especially for asylum seekers, more accessible. On an anecdotal note, a friend from my former place of employment was a transwoman from Bangladesh who began presenting as female full-time while we worked there together. She was in the process of seeking asylum when she was laid off from our place of work... Remember above the note about employment discrimination laws? This happens. Even to accountants in New York.

8. LGBT people experience violence, sexual assault and abuse at staggering rates. And if individual state legalization and the aftermath is anything to go by, we can probably expect to see a spike in violence against LGBT people over the coming months. 1/8 of lesbian women and approximately half of bisexual women have been raped, and half of bisexual men and 40% of gay men have experienced some type of sexual violence. 64% of transgender individuals have experienced some type of sexual violence. 64%!!!
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, 2010.

9 ...and that is just the tip of the iceberg. In 2015 so far there has been a record number of reported homicides of LGBT people, half of which targeted transgender women of color. A lot of people have referred to this moment in history as the "transgender tipping point," but my friends are out there fearing for their lives, and a couple of magazine covers alone is not going to diminish that fear or the real threat of physical violence. This is happening in Los Angeles (Yazmin Vash Payne, 33), in San Francisco (Tara DeJesus, 36), in New Orleans (Penny Proud, 21) - all cities with queer hubs, and they're still not safe.
Statistics via The Anti-Violence Project

10. Things you can do today: donate clothes, money, and toiletries to local shelters and LGBT centers. You can inform yourself. You can write a letter to your local legislatures. You can talk about these issues with your friends and families - and PLEASE do; it might seem easier for you to "unfriend" the bigots in your life, but please consider the privilege you have as a straight, cis ally to educate the people around you. You can support and promote the voices of LGBT individuals - especially transwomen of color - instead of waiting for Jon Stewart to repeat what is already being said. You can advocate for LGBT people in your workplace. You can march with us at our pride events, rallies, and protests... It is endless. The work is endless. So please don't give up on fighting with us just because there might be more wedding cake in your future.

And in general, just because federal marriage is now recognized (but do NOT assume that all LGBT people WANT to get married), it's going to take a long time for culture to catch up. I hope you can help us get there faster.

PS: If any of the statistics seem old, it's because LGBT research is also EXTREMELY UNDERFUNDED. But thank you to Ali for helping me share the best and most accurate numbers available to us.


  1. Nicolette, you have no idea how helpful this is to me! As a white, straight, cis woman, it can difficult to relate to the issues the LGBT community faces but I never, ever want to be blind to them. I will always do everything I can to fight discrimination, but sometimes it can be hard to do that when you don't have the words to fight with. I so hope that marriage equality is only the beginning of all the positive changes to come!

    And it's WAY overdue, but congratulations on your marriage! The photos were beautiful and all your snaps from Japan looked like it was incredible!!

  2. Thanks for this post. Our community needs things like this. I'm really concerned about the possibility of having children (actually the lack of...) I don't know about USA, but in Europe is still not legal in lots of countries. We live in Germany and if we want to get pregnant we have to travlle to other countries because here is ilegal for a doctor to help a lesbian woman to get pregnant. Not even with private insurance. it's simply illegal. Besides, here we are not married, even though we tied the knot five years ago in Spain. We've had problems to share bank accounts, to pay our taxes, even to sit together in airplanes because we are not considered a family by many.
    I think people are not aware of the discrimination we suffer. And we are lucky to live in free countries....
    Thanks again, Nicolette. You and Ali are helping. You may not notice it, but it's important for us to have people like you.

  3. These are all such important issues. Thank you for writing about them!

  4. Reposting this because this is super important this. Other than passing along your (and other LGBTQ's) words, what is your suggestion for other straight people to be an effective ally?

  5. Bevin BranlandinghamJune 29, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    YES! Thank you for posting this, Nicolette!!

  6. I started getting goosebumps by the time I hit #8. And yes, I started crying. I know that Saks fired a transgender person because she failed to live up to the standards of dressing as a male. I haven't stepped foot in Saks since then. That really broke my heart that they did that. Neiman Marcus got my business. I'm definitely going to share this. I am always supportive of Housing Works here in NYC, but I'm going to look into a few LGBT shelters to donate and help out. I know where I work there were a few LGBT families that we bought backpacks for in the Backpack program (where we purchase school supplies & brand new clothes for shelter families). If you hear of any other charitable organizations worth getting involved in, please let us know. P.S. I'm very proud of the work the Ropes & Gray's Pro Bono team did to argue for the rights of gay marriage at the Supreme Court. They were a huge part of this landmark decision. The lead attorney said the reason why he did it, it's because of his old roommate. He wanted him to have an opportunity to marry the person he loved someday.

  7. Thanks for sharing Nicollette! It is so important to keep the dialog open and moving forward. Did you happen to watch John Oliver last night? He did a wonderful segment that works well with your post today: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmoAX9f6MOc

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