Why Black Gay And Trans Americans Need More Than Marriage Equality Report

TransGriot Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Aisha Moodie-Mills during the 2011 Out On The Hill conference . We had some interesting conversations during the Monday opening panel discussion at the Capitol Visitors Center and at a subsequent forum the Center For American Progress hosted at their headquarters.  

She just penned a report posted on the Center For American Progress website entitled Jumping Beyond The Broom – Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More Than Marriage Equality

You can download the full report here  

Here’s the intro and summary to it.

Liberty and justice for all is not yet a reality in America. Despite
the election of our nation’s first African American president, black
Americans continue to trail behind their white counterparts in
education, employment, and overall health and wellbeing. And while some
states and the federal government continue to expand protections for
lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, more than half of all
states still deny them basic civil rights. Such systemic inequities
render people of color who are also gay and transgender among the most
vulnerable in our society.

Black gay and transgender Americans in particular experience stark
social, economic, and health disparities compared to the general
population and their straight black and white gay counterparts.
According to the data we currently have, families headed by black
same-sex couples are more likely to raise their children in poverty,
black lesbians are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases, and
black gay and transgender youth are more likely to end up homeless and
living on the streets.

These issues, along with the others laid out in this report, can and
should be addressed through a policy agenda that seeks to understand and
tackle the structural barriers—discriminatory systems, conditions, and
institutions around socioeconomic status, race, sex, sexual orientation,
and gender identity—that perpetuate negative economic, health, and
other life outcomes among this population. The strength of our society
depends on the resilience, health, and wellbeing of all Americans,
especially marginalized groups such as black gay and transgender people.
They too deserve to be counted and to have their needs met, so we must
work to bridge these gaps.

Doing so will require fresh thinking about the root causes of these
problems as well as the political will needed to employ new strategies
to address them. As this report highlights, the quality of life of many
black gay and transgender people remained relatively unchanged over the
last decade despite the significant gains the gay and transgender
movement achieved. This suggests that some of the gay headline policy
priorities that garnered the most research, analysis, and advocacy—such
as marriage equality—underserve this population when taken alone even
though they are important for overall progress. This also applies to
broad racial justice priorities that overlook gay and transgender people
within their constituencies.

In short, black gay and transgender people fall through the cracks
when lumped under either a gay or black umbrella. Such categorical
thinking ignores the fact that black gay and transgender people are at
once both gay and transgender and black. As a result they experience
complex vulnerabilities that stem from the combination of racial bias
and discrimination due to their sexual orientation and/ or gender
identity. So advocacy agendas that prioritize the eradication of one
bias over the other do not fully respond to the needs of the
population—nor will they eliminate the inequities discussed in this

Going forward, it is necessary to find policy solutions that will
empower black gay and transgender people rather than fragment them. And
we need to move beyond the dichotomy of race versus sexual orientation
or race versus gender identity to do so. Scholars such as Kimberle
Crenshaw, Cathy J. Cohen, and C. Nicole Mason offer frameworks for
applying this intersectional lens to policy analysis and advocacy in
order to understand how race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and
gender identity influence public policy choices at the national, state,
and local levels, as well as individual outcomes. Our analysis is drawn
in part from their theories.

At the most basic level, we believe that this fine-tuned approach
will best capture how public policy shapes the day-to-day experiences of
the black gay and transgender population. We also believe it will
encourage both gay and transgender and racial justice advocates and
policymakers to understand how their approaches engage constituents who
are members of other groups as well. By doing so, we can highlight new
opportunities to address their needs.

This report by the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality, or FIRE,
initiative at the Center for American Progress offers the foundation on
which to build this approach. We aim to establish a common understanding
and knowledge bank of the data and policy research on black gay and
transgender people since no consolidated inventory of literature or data
on the population’s issues currently exists. Through our review, we
developed a high-level summary of what we know about the black gay and
transgender population in terms of economic security, educational
attainment, and health and wellness.

We define these issues and frame policy measures that will enhance
quality of life for black gay and transgender people. Our
recommendations for dealing with the issues include policies that can be
enacted by Congress, as well as changes to administration policy. These
include gay and transgender specific measures along with others with a
broader focus that would best tackle the issues we’ve identified.

Recommendations for addressing economic insecurity

  • Adopt inclusive family policies and safety net programs.
  • Pass housing antidiscrimination laws.
  • Take a comprehensive federal approach to gay and transgender youth homelessness.
  • Make consumer financial protection a priority.
  • Pass employee nondiscrimination laws.
  • Support gay and transgender entrepreneurs.
  • Legally recognize same-sex relationships.

Recommendations for addressing low educational attainment

  • Adopt school safety policies.
  • Enforce existing federal civil rights laws.
  • Review school discipline policies.

Recommendations for addressing health and wellness disparities

  • Implement the Affordable Care Act.
  • Work toward health equity.
  • Examine domestic violence among same-sex couples.

Our key finding, though, is that there is a dearth of data available
to fully understand the disparities faced by this population. This
limits our ability to develop a credible, data-driven agenda that will
help policymakers, advocates, and researchers craft effective solutions
for eliminating them.

The need for high-quality data to inform policy decisions and help
design effective programs that will address the needs of black gay and
transgender people cannot be underscored enough. High-quality data is an
indispensable part of any policy or advocacy work because it allows us
to paint a more precise picture of society as a whole and focus on
hard-to-reach populations—such as black gay and transgender people—who
are most at risk of slipping through the cracks.

Unfortunately, few federal and state surveys ask respondents their
sexual orientation and gender identity, which severely limits our
ability to analyze and understand the needs of gay and transgender
Americans regardless of their race or ethnicity. In order to fully
understand and be responsive to the needs of this population, every
opportunity to expand data collection at all levels of government should
be pursued.

Nonetheless, existing research and literature reveal that exposure to
antigay and/ or antitransgender policies and institutionalized racial
discrimination derails black gay and transgender Americans’ financial
stability, creates barriers to accessing quality health care, and erodes
safeguards for black gay and transgender families. We teased out areas
that we found or hypothesized to disproportionately affect the black gay
and transgender population and each of these warrants additional
research, analysis, and/or advocacy to begin to address these issues.

The research and advocacy roadmap outlined below presents an
opportunity to insert black gay and transgender perspectives into the
policy dialogue, and inform the policy and regulatory work currently
underway in these areas. These are components for a long-term approach
to tackling disparities among this population.

Data collection advocacy

  • Collect comprehensive data on gay and transgender populations across all federal agencies and health measures.

Areas for additional research

  • Ensuring inclusive family policies and safety net programs
  • Addressing unfair punishment of black gay and transgender youth in schools
  • Reducing barriers to quality health care for black lesbians
  • Protecting black lesbian and bisexual women from violence
  • Protecting gay and transgender prisoners of color
  • Identifying structural barriers that perpetuate high rates of HIV/AIDS in the black community
  • Instituting antibullying policies and safe spaces in schools serving predominantly black populations
  • Analyzing the impact of conservative political and cultural climates on black gay families in the South
  • Supporting black transgender and gender nonconforming populations
  • Reducing housing discrimination and homelessness among black gay and transgender populations

This report is just a starting point in identifying policy areas
beyond the gay and transgender headline issues that would go a long way
toward addressing the disparities black gay and transgender populations
face. In the meantime it is important that the issues discussed in this
report be actively inserted into mainstream conversations and policy
debates on both gay and transgender equality and racial justice.

Aisha C. Moodie-Mills is the Advisor for LGBT Policy and Racial
Justice at the Center for American Progress. Her work with the Fighting
Injustice to Reach Equality, or FIRE, initiative explores the
intersections of race, economics, sexual orientation, and gender

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