Report Documents Persistent, Widespread LGBTQ Discrimination, Healthcare Barriers

LGBTQ activists and supporters block the street outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it hears arguments in a major LGBT rights case in Washington
LGBTQ activists outside the Supreme Court last October when the court heard arguments in the Title VII employment nondiscrimination cases that yielded an historic victory for the community this June.
Reuters/ Jonathan Ernst

A new report from the Center for American Progress reveals the many ways in which LGBTQ Americans continue to report wide-ranging discrimination and persistent barriers to healthcare, especially among people of color and transgender and non-binary individuals.

The survey — conducted in conjunction with NORC, the National Center for Opinion Research, at the University of Chicago — included answers from 1,528 self-identified LGBTQ adults in June and examines how queer Americans are navigating their workplaces, public spaces, and mental health challenges in the face of homophobia, transphobia, racism, and income inequality. Details about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the community were also part of the report.

On a broad level, the survey found that more than one-third of queer Americans across demographics said they experienced discrimination in the last year. Notably, non-binary, genderqueer, agender, and gender non-conforming folks reported the greatest rates of discrimination: A whopping 69 percent of those individuals reported experiencing discrimination in the last year, along with 62 percent of people who self-identify specifically as transgender.

Comprehensive data reveals barriers impacting queer community, particularly regarding gender identity, racial, ethnic affiliation

When broken down by race, 46 percent of queer Hispanic folks reported discrimination, along with 33 percent of Black individuals and 31 percent of white people. More queer women — 38 percent — said they faced discrimination than the 29 percent of queer men who reported that they were discriminated against.

Fully 56 percent of respondents said they hid a personal relationship to avoid discrimination, though transgender individuals have consistently reported finding it most necessary to take steps to avoid discrimination. Forty-seven percent of transgender people, for example, said they avoided doctors’ offices compared to 20 percent of total respondents. Sixty-six percent of trans respondents said they changed the way they dressed or their mannerisms to avoid discrimination, compared to 35 percent in the survey overall.

In a sign of the hostile culture permeating some workplaces, 58 percent of trans people said they have “made specific decisions about where to work” to avoid facing discrimination, compared to 35 percent of total respondents.

Furthermore, 50 percent of trans folks said they avoided law enforcement compared to 30 percent of total respondents and 34 percent of people of color.

Broader LGBTQ protections could be enshrined via the Equality Act, which passed the House last year under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi but is blocked by the Republican Senate, despite efforts by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley (left) and his Democratic colleagues.Reuters/ Leah Millis

Healthcare discrimination has also remained a major issue during an era when the Trump administration has gone to greath lengths to give doctors and providers the right to turn away transgender and non-binary patients. Twenty-eight percent of trans respondents and 15 percent of LGBTQ people overall said they opted against going to the doctor due to discrimination, and those who do seek medical care said they often get denied.

Forty-three percent of trans people said their insurance provider rejected their request to receive gender-affirming surgery and 38 percent said their insurance company also refused to provide hormone therapy. Those rejections were even more pronounced among people of color, with 52 percent reporting such rejections. Adding insult to injury, 34 percent of respondents said their insurance company wouldn’t even update their name or gender to align with their current identity.

Such rampant discrimination coincides with the Trump administration’s efforts to wreak havoc on queer folks in many other areas of their lives. It has paved the way for discrimination against LGBTQ prospective parents, transgender service members, homeless trans folks seeking shelter, transgender student-athletes, and others.

All of those problems are compounded by healthcare costs. A majority — 51 percent — of transgender respondents reported delaying or avoiding necessary care due to costs, while 40 percent of trans individuals said they have opted against obtaining preventative screenings due to cost.

The consequences of discrimination has been most pronounced among both transgender and Black individuals. Seventy-seven percent of Black people said discrimination had a moderate to significant impact on their psychological well-being, while 66 percent of trans folks reported moderate to significant impacts on their psychological well-beng as a result of discrimination.

The survey also added to existing data that has illustrated the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on queer communities, but this research zeroed in on the way COVID has affected mental health. Sixty-nine percent of queer Americans said they felt nervous or anxious when thinking about the coronavirus during the two weeks before they answered the study, and 35 percent of those folks said they have had feelings of anxiety for more than half of their days or almost every day.

The comprehensive survey furthermore shed light on the different reported experiences of queer people depending on their age. More younger folks said they experienced discrimination in the last year — 57 percent of Generation Z respondents compared to 42 percent of millennials, 30 percent in Generation X, and only 19 percent of Baby Boomers — and greater cost barriers.

Interestingly, however, Boomers said the discrimination they faced had a greater impact on their ability to get hired for a job.

The report concluded with a reminder that policymakers should consider the issues facing queer folks and seek out ways to bolster protections. The authors suggested lawmakers prioritize the Equality Act, a long-stalled piece of legislation that would build on the Supreme Court’s June ruling stipulating that workers are protected on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — extending protections to areas like housing, public accommodations, and credit access.

While the June ruling could eventually pave the way for court decisions that create broader protections for queer Americans, especially since the judiciary often looks to Title VII as precedent in ruling on other antidiscrimination laws, the Equality Act — which passed the House of Representatives last year but stalled in a Republican-controlled Senate — would have the same impact.

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