Opinion: Celebrate, Embrace LGBT Diversity Beyond June

June is Pride month: a month where millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals and families, regardless of race or ethnicity, celebrate their sexual orientation and gender identity and raise awareness about issues that affect the LGBT community.

It is also a month where the diversity of the LGBT community globally is on display with pride celebrations that embrace the uniqueness of the black, Latino, and Asian-American/Pacific Islander LGBT community.

As the United States inches closer and closer to a minority-majority country, June should not be the only time where the diversity of the LGBT community is embraced and celebrated. LGBT people of color and their unique needs are very important to the larger movement for equality.

LGBT people of color are disproportionately affected by inequalities in economics, education, and health care. Unfortunately, these issues are not widely known as the quest for marriage equality has dominated the headlines.

This is not to say that marriage equality is not important. It is very important and can have a tremendous impact for LGBT individuals and families, particularly for those of color. Without bringing awareness to these issues and developing solutions, equality cannot be achieved for the whole LGBT community.

Let's now turn our attention to the economic disparities of the diverse LGBT community. The stereotype that LGBT people are more affluent than the general population can lead many to believe that the needs of the LGBT community do not reflect that of society. Yet, this could not be further from the truth--especially for LGBT people of color. In fact, LGBT people of color bear the brunt of disparities experienced by both the LGBT community and communities of color.

As a result, this population faces high rates of unemployment or underemployment, poverty, lower rates of pay, and a greater likelihood of being uninsured. These disparities also suggest that LGBT people of color face high levels of discrimination in the workplace because of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Currently, 32 states (including Washington, D.C.) have implemented at least one kind of workplace nondiscrimination law or administrative policy that protects LGBT workers from discrimination. The lack of protection can spar job insecurity, which can result in lower rates of pay, unemployment or underemployment, higher rates of poverty, and sporadic health coverage.

Discriminatory practices in health care fuel health disparities for LGBT people of color compared to their white, straight, and non-transgender counterparts. LGBT people of color may be hesitant to seek treatment due to a lack of culturally competent health care providers, which negatively affects their quality of care. Additionally, health-related issues will often go untreated due to lower rates of health coverage because LGBT individuals (like many Americans) receive their health coverage through their employer.

Education is another area where disparities exist within this community. LGBT youth of color have lower levels of educational attainment than their white LGBT and heterosexual counterparts due to harassment and bullying they face in school. In particular, LGBT youth of color who experience highs amounts of harassment because of their sexual orientation and their race or ethnicity have a grade point average of a half of a point lower than students who do not experience harassment in school.

Furthermore, LGBT youth experience higher rates of homelessness because of a lack of inclusive educational environment and family rejection at a time when they are emotionally, financially, physically, and materially dependent on their families. LGBT youth make up nearly 40 percent of homeless youth in America. Of this population 44 percent are black and 22 percent are Hispanic.

So, as Pride draws to a close and the floats and rainbow flags are tucked away in storage until next year, the disparities affecting LGBT people of color will not go away. The same vigor that is used to embrace the diversity of the LGBT community during Pride needs to be applied to bring awareness and tackle the issues impacting people of color all year round. After all, equality is the ultimate goal and it cannot be achieved if these disparities exist for LGBT people of color.

Jerome Hunt is a research associate for LGBT Progress at Center for American Progress, working on a range of issues that impact the LGBT community.  

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