Lesbian, bisexual and transgender or LGBT adult women in America face unique obstacles to achieve basic economic security and are among the most likely to live in poverty, according to a recent report by the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project.
The report cites employment discrimination as well as barriers to health care and family supports as some of the key challenges threatening LGBT women and their economic well-being.
America's more than 5 million LGBT women are at increased risk for financial insecurity due to stigma, discrimination as well as anti-LGBT and outdated policies, according to the researchers.
"Even at a time when the public is showing increased understanding and acceptance of LGBT people and their relationships, the unique concerns and struggles of LGBT women are largely absent in the national conversation," said Laura Durso, director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. "Women who are LGBT have the same concerns as other women, but they face added challenges and worries -- not just because of their gender, but also because of who they are and whom they love."
Among other notable findings, 30 percent of bisexual and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty, compared with 21 percent of heterosexual women. Transgender women are nearly four times more likely than the general population to have annual earnings of $10,000 or less.
"Discrimination and stigma, combined with the struggles faced by all women, make LGBT women and their families especially vulnerable," said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT-focused think tank in Denver, Colorado.
"The burden falls most acutely on those who can least afford it: LGBT women raising children, older LGBT women, LGBT women of color, LGBT immigrants, and those LGBT women and families who are already living near or below the poverty line," Mushovic added.
When it comes to employment-related issues, the report says LGBT women confront discrimination both while job searching and in the workplace. Wage disparities and hostile work environments are just some of the issues facing LGBT women.
It is common for women who identify as transgender to run into additional employment difficulties. One major obstacle involves obtaining the government-issued identity documents necessary for work, the report says. For transgender people, getting such documents updated to match their lived gender can be "onerous and expensive."
Moreover, only six states plus the District of Columbia have policies that do not require transgender people to show proof of sex reassignment surgery in order to change their birth certificate. In Illinois, proof of sex assignment surgery is required for a new birth certificate.
As far as health care, anti-LGBT laws combined with "discrimination by providers, insurance exclusions for transgender people and inadequate reproductive health coverage" can make health care costlier for LGBT women.
LGBT women are also up against barriers to family supports, including "lack of recognition of couples and parent-child relationships; pregnancy discrimination; lack of paid, job-protected leave; lack of affordable health care; and inflexible workplaces."
More than a dozen research and advocacy organizations helped develop the report, including the pay-equity group 9to5.
"Change is needed to improve economic security for all women--including LGBT women," said 9to5's National Executive Director Linda Meric. "Laws prohibiting discrimination against women need to be strengthened and expanded to include LGBT people. Policymakers should update programs designed to support families to allow LGBT families to access the same protections and benefits available to others, such as health insurance, family leave and childcare assistance."
Image: Center for American Progress