Yes, it's true. We're white, black, latino, and everything else. We're rich and poor. We're struggling with our jobs. We're part of the 10% unemployed. We're part of the group of people with no access to health care. We're immigrants. We're men and women and everyone in between. We're in your base, killing your dudes. All that stuff.
Lots of people tend to forget that gay Americans are Americans who deal with all the things straight Americans deal with. We know racism. Gay blacks were just as enslaved as straight blacks. Gay Jews endure just as much antisemitism as straight Jews. Our experiences can't be separated out from the rest of America as if we are a one-issue group and our only struggle we ever deal with is our orientation. Gay people's rights aren't "special interests." Our interest is in being a full-fledged member of society so that we can reach the status quo. So that our lives can be at least as tolerable as yours are right now.
All of the problems Americans are facing right now are made so much worse for gays just because our orientation is different from others. This carries over into jobs. This affects health care. It affects housing. Immigration. It's incredibly difficult in a lot of ways for everyone right now and our government-backed punishment for being gay amplifies it. Housing is an example.
Studies on homelessness in the GLBT community show that there are "more frequent departures from home, greater vulnerability to physical and sexual victimization, higher rates of addictive substance use, more psychopathology, and riskier sexual behavior in comparison with homeless heterosexual adolescents." Gays are often kicked out of their homes or forced to decide to leave in fear of their families. Given that, you'd think GLBT people would have an easier time in shelters or in finding housing.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's study on homelessness notes the high level of homelessness. "Our analysis of the available research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT.) Given that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, it is clear that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate."
So don't our laws protect GLBT kids from homelessness? Well yes and no. There are certainly laws addressing it, and then there is government enforcement of discriminatory policies that completely undermines the scant laws that are in place. The faith based initiatives program lets religious organizations handle a big chunk of homelessness and housing issues. They also aren't big fans of gays, so if they don't want to help, well, that's too bad.
In 2001, "...the White House had made a ‘firm commitment’ to issue a regulation protecting religious charities from state and city efforts to prevent discrimination against gays in hiring and providing benefits."
Oh and shelters are not safe for GLBT people. Gays are kicked out of shelters, or abused and raped inside them, because of their orientation - when they are allowed to seek shelter from homelessness in the first place.
HUD has finally started to address the rampant housing discrimination against LGBT people. There's not a study that gives national numbers about the problem but HUD says, "While there are no national assessments of LGBT housing discrimination, there are state and local studies that have shown this sort of bias. For example, Michigan's Fair Housing Centers found that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when attempting to buy or rent a home."
So I'm just getting started and we're up to massive homelessness and inability to even get housing amidst all this. And I should remind you that all of these studies are prior to the economic conditions we all face.
Gay people face poverty at higher levels. Lesbian women face EXTREMELY high poverty levels. The CAP notes, "The study found that 6.9 percent of lesbian couples, 4.0 percent of gay male couples, and 5.4 percent of married heterosexual couples are living below the federal poverty line. The poverty rate for families with children is 9.4 percent for lesbian families, 5.5 percent for gay male families, and 6.7 percent for heterosexual married families. The poverty rate for lesbian couples 65 years of age and older is particularly high, with 9.1 percent living below the poverty line compared to 4.9 percent for gay male couples 65 or older and 4.6 percent for heterosexual married couples 65 and older."
Another study notes that the government punishment of banning our marriages and government protected employment discrimination are huge factors in creating poorer gay people. Far from being white and affluent, the LGBT community is multiracial and living in poverty.
The study says, "same-sex partners are more likely to be poor than their heterosexual counterparts because they lack access to safety nets such as a spouse's health insurance coverage and Social Security survivor benefits."
Even moreso now that the economy is doing horribly. And it costs a lot of extra money to be gay. This is a direct result of the government punishing us for being gay through discriminatory laws.
The New York Times studied the costs of just being gay and found, "In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs."
So now we're up to homelessness, poverty, and high costs as punishment for our orientation. We can't get health care because we simply can't afford it. Health coverage cost gay couples $28,595 more, just for being gay. So, we got our issues addressed in the health care reform debate?
Wrong. That was one of the first things to go.
So we're still discriminated against and hurt in trying to get health care.
And given the high level of joblessness you'd think that, well, after all this, gays could at least have an opportunity to have a job. Sounds really good. The American dream and all that. We can work and prosper. Except, we can't. In over half of the states there are no protections against employment discrimination for LGBT people. And at best, people are still trying to eliminate protections for transgender people in the current ENDA bill - which isn't even likely to get taken up in the first place.
Not to mention the fact that if employment discrimination is allowed, what do you think happens when employees want benefits for themselves and their husband or wife? Think they're just given? They're not, in a lot of cases. So even having a job, if you can get one, doesn't help you or your husband or wife with health care
But, you say, as a last resort for employment, we can do what lots of poor kids do. We can join the military. I don't think this point needs further elaboration. Gays are still being dispensed with quickly and unfairly despite the so-called "more humane approach" (to keep allowing discrimination in a kinder way.)
So, tell me, what are we supposed to do? Things right now are difficult for white, heterosexual males in this country. For gay people they're a million times worse. For black lesbian women, I can't even think of a relative term to describe how fucking hard it must be.
These things affect travel and immigration. Got a gay partner who wants to be here with you? Well, ya know, we could have the United American Families Act but it's just easier to keep punishing gay people. Undocumented people get it, too. They have started a new campaign to "come out" as undocumented and share their experiences and their similarities to gays. And they do face a lot of the same discrimination we do just for being who they are and telling people. Their struggle is ours too and this inclusiveness helps everyone.
The stability of just being married and being able to call it that would bring a lot of peace to LGBT people, but even then, it's not enough to change our dire circumstances. People need to see how much these every day American issues are hurting us. It's at disproportionately higher levels than others. My problems are yours times a thousand. And nothing will change for any of us until we are seen as equal and not separate from other Americans.
This economy is hitting us really hard. The unemployment levels suck for everyone, but for gays who can't get a job or keep one because of discrimination, it's worse. For gays who don't have a home or even an opportunity to find a safe place, it's worse. We can deal with bullying and hatred any day. But it's not separate from any other issue going on in this country. We don't want ponies. We want the government to stop sanctioning hatred against us and inflicting punishments upon us.
Is that too much to ask for?