New York City recently hosted World Pride in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the LGBTQ uprising that started with a police raid at NYC’s Stonewall Inn bar and eventually sparked the modern movement for gay and trans rights. The parade drew millions in their rainbow best celebrating how far the community has come, and our photographer was in the mix getting these top shots from the festivities. But as the glitter is swept away and the technicolor flags come down, it’s time for people to keep the same energy they had in June throughout the other months, especially ahead of yet another decisive presidential election.
Here are just five LGBTQIA+ issues that need everyone’s attention.
Violence against black trans women
At least 11 black trans women have been murdered this year so far, showing a grim and persistent pattern that the Human Rights Campaign has deemed an epidemic. Around 65 trans people (nearly all trans women of color) have been murdered in the U.S. since 2017, according to Human Rights Watch, so it’s no wonder the average life expectancy of trans women is only between 30 and 35.
Existing at the fragile intersection of race and gender identity, black trans women are arguably the most marginalized group in society, even within the LGBTQIA+ community. A recent report from the National Center for Transgender Equality found “widespread failure” among 25 of the largest police departments in the United States to adopt or update policies protecting trans people. The organization’s 2015 study found that 58% of trans people who interacted with police were mistreated; 17% of black trans people reported being physically and sexually assaulted by police, including being forced to engage in sexual activities to avoid arrest.
Even at this year’s Pride, tensions simmered at Stonewall Inn (of all places) when a black trans woman interrupted a drag performance to spotlight the murders of her sisters, eliciting boos and heckling from the white, cis gay crowd. If trans women of color aren’t protected and supported in the community that bears its letter, how is anyone else supposed to care?
In April, the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that looks at whether civil rights laws should ban job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This month, more than 200 U.S. companies including Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook, Microsoft, Nike, and Uber threw their weight behind the case with a friend-of-the-court brief arguing that discrimination of any kind is harmful.
At the heart of the case is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits companies from discriminating against employers on the basis of sex, race, color, nation origin, and religion. What SCOTUS needs to determine is if those rights extend to sexual orientation and gender identity.
Rights to healthcare
The Trump administration announced this year its intention to rollback healthcare protections for trans people covered under Obamacare. The proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services aims to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sex prohibited under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. In 2016, that rule extended to gender identity, which meant that gender affirmation surgeries would be covered.
Now Trump wants to eliminate that coverage. In a statement, GLAAD underscores the importance of Section 1557:
Time and again, the American people have confirmed they believe health care is not just a human right, but also an American one as well. The most recent proof point came during the 2018 midterm elections as it orchestrated how vital these values are–by electing political leaders whose sole vision is improving access to health care, not restrict it. However, this new proposed rule orchestrates the Trump Administration’s priority to prevent an estimated 1.5 million transgender people from vital prescriptions, screenings, and treatments–all of which would save lives. Should President Trump and his administration follow through with this new rule, blood will be on their hands.
Being counted in federal surveys
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. Census Bureau removed questions on sexual orientation and gender identity from the 2020 Census and the American Community Survey. The Census only asks couples living together to define their relationship as same or opposite sex, a question that was originally introduced in 2013. Democratic lawmakers recently reintroduced the LGBT Data Inclusion Act, which would require federal surveys to include a wider scope of questions pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community.
In a press conference, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) said:
Transgender people are at greater risk of being victimized by violence and experience significant health disparities and being vulnerable to poverty. While the Census took a very important step forward in 2013 by including the marital status of same-sex couples as part of the [American Community Survey] data on the families, the fact is that we know little else about the social and economic circumstances of LGBTQ population at large.
Expanded data collection on LGBTQ people will help policymakers and community stakeholders understand the full extent of these disparities and help identify needs of these communities so that they can be better served. It is also crucial to our ability to respond with effective policy solutions that address the unique needs of vulnerable populations.
A report from the LGBTQ Poverty Collaborative analyzed statistics around food insecurity, housing instability, and employment and found that LGBTQ people are more likely to live in poverty than their peers—and black and brown people in the community are far more at risk.
“The average black trans person earns less than $10,000 a year,” states Lourdes Ashley Hunter, executive director of Trans Women of Color Collective and one of the report’s authors and editors. “Black and brown trans people are disproportionately impacted by state-sanctioned violence, which is rooted in the lack of sustainable socio-economic growth that many of our lesbian, gay, cis, and predominantly white counterparts benefit from.”
Another of the reports’ authors cited a 2016 study that found one in four LGBTQ people (roughly 2.2 million people) didn’t have enough money to feed themselves or their families.