Despite great victories in the fight for equal rights in recent years, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender remains a difficult—and often dangerous—task in America in 2016. In an era where queer Americans must continue to worry about being discriminated against at their jobs, or killed on the dance floor at a nightclub, the LGBT community is also facing a hunger crisis that far exceeds that of their straight countrymen.
A new study from UCLA Law School's Williams Institute shows that in the past year more than 2.2 million LGBT Americans experienced a time when they did not have enough money to purchase food. That's one in four LGBT adults struggling with food insecurity over the last 12 months, while just one in six non-LGBT identified people found themselves in a similar crisis. Compared to heterosexual couples, LGBT couples are also nearly twice as likely to have received SNAP benefits—or food stamps—in the past year.
"Contrary to the stereotype that LGBT people are affluent, many do not have the resources to access the food that they and their families need,” Taylor Brown, one of the authors of the study, said in a press release. “Policy makers and anti-hunger organizations need to include LGBT people when considering issues of poverty, homelessness, and hunger.”
While the LGBT community as a whole has been affected by this crisis—and needs to be included in the national conversation—intersectionality applies as well. Women, people of color, and single parents in the LGBT community are even more likely to report food insecurity than other members. The study also does not include LGBT teenagers, who are likely to struggle with hunger at similar or worse rates.
As the New York Times points out, the current hunger crisis often goes unnoticed in America, as mainstream media outlets are primarily concerned with rich and famous members of the LGBT community. Figures like Ellen DeGeneres, Apple CEO Tim Cook, and reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner might be positive role models for LGBT youth, but few celebrities, regardless of their sexual orientation, ever need to deal with this kind of crippling hunger.
"[This is] one of the most persistent and, frankly, pernicious myths about the LGBT community,” Gary J. Gates, another co-author of the study, told the Times. “It emerged in part from the community itself, as part of a strategy of marketing the population as an attractive consumer market.”
The crisis can be attributed to many factors—including employment discrimination, as well as a lack of reliable support systems—and the Times spoke with a number of LGBT New Yorkers about their experiences with food insecurity over the years. Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, a 53-year-old transgender woman, has relied on food pantries for years because says finding a job has been so difficult.
“As soon as they realize you’re trans, you see their face changes; everything stops right there,” she explained.
While lawmakers and the media have often turned a blind eye these issues, activists also claim that the crisis goes unrecognized within the LGBT community itself.
“Our own community is as ignorant of these statistics as the straight world,” Lorri L. Jean, chief executive of Los Angeles' LGBT Center, told the Times. “There’s this myth in our society that gay people are rich, but it’s not the truth. We have this huge swath of people who make less than their straight counterparts, and most people, even in our own community, do not know that.”
[via New York Times]