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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 6, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 45
The LGBT Divide: Communities and rights in the South, Midwest, and Mountain States
Section One
ALL STORIES
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The LGBT Divide: Communities and rights in the South, Midwest, and Mountain States

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Last year The Williams Institute released a report, The LGBT Divide, which included data on the LGBT community nationwide and where it stands in areas of education, public opinion on the issues that face the LGBT population and much more.

Chiefly, the report found that while things are improving with public sentiment towards the community their still exists deep disparity between LGBT people and our straight counterparts. When looking at economics in particular The Williams Institute report by Amira Hasenbush, Andrew R. Flores, Angeliki Kastanis, Brad Sears, and Gary J. Gates showed a deep divide that officials say continues today.

In response to this The Williams Institute and the City of West Hollywood's Human Rights Speakers Series held an important discussion on Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 p.m. inside the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room on San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, California to talk about the differences between LGBT communities in states without protective non-discrimination laws and those who live in states that do have such laws.

In a nutshell, The Williams Institute reports that employment protections and regional differences are impacting the educational, economic and health realities of LGBT people.

'Research shows that these communities are more racially and ethnically diverse, face a more hostile social climate, and experience greater socio-economic disparities than those who live on the coasts,' said Williams Institute officials in an email invitation to the event sent to Seattle Gay News. 'As the LGBT movement increasingly turns its attention to the South, Midwest, and Mountain states, our expert panelists will describe the challenges faced by the LGBT communities living there, the legal protections that they need, and what people living in California and on the coasts can do to help.'

Speakers at the event included Brad Sears, Executive Director of the Williams Institute; Matt McTighe, Director, Freedom for All Americans; Christy Mallory, Anna M. Curren Fellow and Senior Counsel, The Williams Institute; Terrance Moore, Deputy Executive Director of the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors; Bamby Salcedo, Founder and President of the Trans-Latin@ Coalition; Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California.



Key findings from the report that were discussed are as follows:

Race, Ethnicity & Parenting
63% of the LGBT population lives in the Midwest, Mountain and Southern regions of the country.

Within each region, the LGBT population is more likely to be African-American and Latino/a than the non-LGBT population.

When looking at the race/ethnic breakdown in the states with protections compared to the states without, African-American LGBT individuals are more likely to live in the states that do not offer employment protections. (About 900,000 LGBT people living in states without employment protections are African-American.)

When looking at childrearing, there are much higher concentrations of same-sex couples raising children in the Midwest, Mountain and Southern regions of the country.

Education
Researchers have hypothesized that LGBT people may intentionally pursue higher education as a way to buffer themselves against discrimination in the workplace.

However, more LGBT individuals maintain higher levels of college completion in the states with protections than in the states where they might need education to prevent discrimination the most.

The Midwest region reports the lowest rates of college completion among LGBT people. The Mountain and Southern states are not too far behind.

The Midwest and Mountain states are the only regions where non-LGBT individuals are more likely to have a college degree than their LGBT counterpart.

Economic Insecurity
Employment protections are closely tied to economic security and well-being.

LGBT people in the states without protections are more likely to report household incomes below $24,000 than those living in the states where workers are protected.

Poverty gaps are at their highest in the Midwest and Mountain states, where LGBT individuals are almost 1.5 times more likely to have incomes below $24,000 than non-LGBT people.

LGBT people also consistently report not having enough money for food at higher rates than non-LGBT people. Particularly in the Mountain and Midwestern states.

Health
Across the U.S., LGBT people report significant financial constraints on healthcare. This is particularly true for Midwest, Mountain and Southern states.

Given higher rates of poverty and food insecurity and lack of money for healthcare, it is not surprising that LGBT people in these regions are also less likely to have health insurance.

More new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) have come from the South than any other region in the country. Southern LGBT individuals also have the lowest insurance rates in the country, with nearly one in four individuals lacking insurance.

MSM in the Mountain states currently have the highest incidence of HIV in the country, at 61.6 new infections per 100,000 MSM. The new HIV infection rate among MSM is nearly six times the regional population rate.

Conclusion
LGBT Americans in the states without state laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation consistently see greater disparities than in the states with such laws.

LGBT Americans face greater social and economic disparities in the South, Midwest, and Mountain states. While there has been a lot of focus on the South, the inequities for those living in the Midwest and Mountain states are sometimes overlooked.

It's not just that LGBT people in the Midwest and South are poorer because people in those regions tend to be poorer overall. In some cases the economic disadvantages that LGBT people have relative to non-LGBT people markedly increase in these regions.

Legal and social differences across the states and regions are likely both the cause and effect of the disparities in economics, education and health.

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