Is Marriage the Benchmark for Equality for LGBT People of Color?
Should marriage be the benchmark through which LGBT people of color measure equality?
A new report from the Center for American Progress concludes it will take more than marriage equality alone to effectively address long-standing inequities among black gay and transgender people. The report-"Jumping Beyond the Broom: Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More than Marriage Equality"-specifically examines socio-economic, educational and health disparities among these groups.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 34 percent of trans people of color have an annual income of less than $10,000. Black LGBT parents have children at twice the rate as white LGBT adults, but they are twice as likely to live in poverty. Only 35 percent of black lesbians had mammograms over the last year, compared to 62 percent of white lesbians.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that new HIV infection rates among black men who have sex with men between the ages of 13-29 rose 48 percent between 2006 and 2009.
In the District of Columbia, more than 7 percent of black Washingtonians were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2008. Blacks were 52.2 percent of the District’s population during this period, but they comprised 75.6 percent of the total HIV/AIDS cases at the end of 2008. The District’s HIV/AIDS Administration further reported that 4.7 percent of black Washingtonians were living with the virus through the same period.
"All of these statistics together show us is that we need more than marriage," said CAP’s Aisha Moodie-Mills, who wrote the report. "We need more than marriage because over the last decade, in spite of the number of gains that we’ve had in the LGBT movement in general and the rights of LGBT people, we haven’t seen very much change in these disparities for black gay and transgender folks. So somehow they’re falling through the cracks and there’s something there that’s missing."
How does the movement effectively ensure that LGBT people of color do not fall through the cracks?
Activists, public policy officials and service providers who took part in a forum that Colorlines.com news editor Jamilah King moderated at CAP’s Washington, D.C., office on Jan. 19 stressed the need for LGBT-specific data that can provide a more accurate picture of the issues that this and other underrepresented groups face. They specifically called for the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in the U.S. census and other federal, state and local surveys.
"Most data collected from federal agencies-the data sets that I rely on to tell the story and uncover disparities and think about the resources that we need-do not do an adequate job of collecting sexual orientation and gender identity information," said Nicole Dixon, executive director of the Women of Color Policy Network at New York University. "As a result, we do not know what’s going on in communities and we do not understand the distance we have to go to close the gaps."
The report acknowledges a lack of data on black LGBT people, but it noted common themes found within existing research. These include health research that largely focused on HIV/AIDS among black MSM and the majority of recommendations to reduce disparities among LGBT people of color centered around marriage equality.
"That’s interesting because when we really dig deep into the statistics, we see that there are a whole lot of issues happening that are related to relationship recognition, but also economic insecurity, educational attainment issues and health and wellness disparities," said Moodie-Mills.