Alicia Garza's new report offers insight into the needs of Black LGBT+ communities. (Courtesy photo)
Alicia Garza's new report offers insight into the needs of Black LGBT+ communities. (Courtesy photo)

Black lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans may be more concerned with everyday economic issues than with marriage equality, according to a new report produced in part by Black Lives Matters co-founder Alicia Garza.

The report, “When the Rainbow Is Not Enough: LGB+ Voices in the 2019 Black Census,” examines the priorities and concerns of over 5,300 respondents to the 2019 Black Census who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual or describe their sexual orientation as “other.” It found that police violence and impunity—and broader societal violence that targets the LGBTQ community — are also urgent concerns, showing a strong alignment with the larger part of the Black community who doesn’t identify as LGBTQ.

“Too often, Black LGB+ people are perceived as distinct and separate from the larger Black community and defined more by their sexual orientation than their race,” said Garza, principal at the Black Futures Lab. “In fact, LGB+ respondents prioritize the same concerns as the rest of the Black community and face triple consciousness: violence and discrimination based not only on race but gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Black LGB+ people often lose employment opportunities, access to housing and quality affordable health care because of how we identify. It is important for policymakers, activists and community groups to remember this and create an agenda that reflects that understanding when representing and serving Black LGB+ people. Attending a gay wedding and changing your Facebook profile picture to a rainbow flag is great, but it’s simply not enough.”

The Black Census is the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States since Reconstruction. The Black Futures Lab is publishing the findings of the census in a series of reports and briefs in partnership with Color of Change, Demos and Socioanalítica Research.

“Black LGBTQ people hold in their very bodies the dual brunt of racism and discrimination based upon their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said K. Sabeel Rahman, president of Demos. “The day-to-day experience of economic insecurity, mistreatment by families and communities, combined with discrimination in housing, religion and even health care leaves many Black LGBTQ+ people locked out of economic opportunities and sometimes far removed from our democratic process. As this report shows, while Black LGBTQ+ respondents know this, their pain and concerns are inexcusably left out of the conversation around what LGBTQ people need.”

A forthcoming report will explore the distinct concerns and experiences of Black Census respondents who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or identify their gender as “different” than male or female. Highlighting the findings of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals in their own report provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on a community that is too often marginalized, even in discussions about LGBTQ+ people.

The Black Census Project was launched in early 2018 by Black Futures Lab with an ambitious agenda to poll tens of thousands of Black people on their political beliefs, frustrations and aspirations.

Released last month, its first report — “More Black Than Blue: Politics and Power in the 2019 Black Census” — showed that respondents were strongly aligned with key Democratic policy priorities such as quality public education, health care and closing wage gaps, but that alignment did not translate to immediate support for the party or its candidates.

“Black people are vital members of every community we’re part of, whether placed-based, work-based or identity-based communities,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. “Neither our country’s Black communities nor our country’s LGBTQ communities will be fully understood, served or strengthened without Black LQBTQ people being heard and seen—counted and cared for. We have helped make Black communities what they are — and have helped make LGBTQ communities what they are. And we will always continue to. Our needs must be known. Thankfully, this report moves us in the right direction in terms of understanding all Black people much better.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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