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Intersecting Oppression: Study Shines Spotlight on Penalties for LGBT People of Color

From lack of family recognition to the school-to-prison pipeline, LGBT people of color face disproportionate economic injustice, study concludes

"What 'Black is Beautiful' was to the ’70s, #BlackLivesMatter is for us." (Photo: scottlum/flickr/cc)

The new report finds 34 percent of black transgender people live in extreme poverty. (Photo: scottlum/flickr/cc)

A new study documents how systemic discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, queer, and transgender people of color—from legal discrimination to educational inequality to lack of family recognition—compounds into a "financial penalty" that forces people from this demographic, and their families, into disproportionate economic insecurity.

Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for LGBT People of Color in America (pdf) was released Thursday by the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress. It is part of a series exposing intersecting oppression, with the previous report focusing on dramatic inequalities endured by LGBT women.

This latest study finds that racism and LGBT discrimination combine to subject this community to economic injustice that can be measured in dollars and cents.

LGBT people of color in same-sex couples are far more likely to live in poverty than their white lesbian and gay counterparts, and this disproportionate poverty extends to their children. According to the report, 55 percent of Native American LGBT people are food insecure, and 34 percent of black transgender people live in extreme poverty. For Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, and Black LGBT people, unemployment is across-the-board higher than the general population.

Naomi Goldberg, a researcher with Movement Advancement project, told Common Dreams, "For LGBT people of color, the impact of racial and ethnic discrimination is huge, and this works together with LGBT discrimination."

Because LGBT people of color are statistically more likely to be raising children than their white counterparts, they are disproportionately impacted by anti-LGBT legal frameworks targeting families. A report summary explains, "the denial of marriage and legal parenting ties particularly harms LGBT families of color and undermines their financial stability. Among those harms: higher healthcare costs or the unfair denial of health insurance, lack of access to safety-net programs, higher taxes, the inability to access Social Security retirement and disability programs, and more."

Furthermore, in educational systems, people from this community face bias and violence. "Not only do LGBT youth frequently contend with unsafe school environments, they also face punitive discipline systems that frequently push students into the school-to-prison pipeline," the report states. "This happens when students are suspended, expelled, or otherwise removed from school settings—often for relatively minor offenses—and pushed into the juvenile justice and broader correctional systems."

According to the study, these inequalities add up to systematic economic injustice for the estimated three million LGBT people of color in the United States.

Goldberg said she is hopeful that awareness and resistance to this intersecting oppression appears to be growing, particularly with the nation-wide rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, which is advancing "broader conversations about systemic racism."

Goldberg added, "The conversation needs to continue."

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