As public conversation over President Trump’s proposed (and rejected) inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census continues, another census is reflecting intersectional concern over critical issues facing the Black LGBT community.
As part of the 2019 Black Census, collected by Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza and the Black Futures Lab, a report titled “When the Rainbow is Not Enough: LGB+ Voices in the 2019 Black Census” surveyed over 5,400 Black participants who identify as LGBT. The respondents identified issues they felt affected their communities most. The Black Census is the largest collection of data concerning Black citizens since the Reconstruction era.
Some of the topics Black LGBT citizens found most pressing included low wages, healthcare cost, housing cost, education cost, police brutality and crimes against LGBT individuals.
The report states the Black Census includes groups of people underrepresented or not included in other surveys. Homeless people, incarcerated people, LGBT people, Black Republicans and conservatives, Black immigrants and mixed-race people with a Black parent, among others.
The authors of the report wrote, “The Black Census is not a traditional probabilistic survey sample, which often fails to fully represent populations whose experiences are important to understanding the complexity of Black life.”
This report acknowledges the complexities that lie at the intersection of Blackness and queerness, and how its respondents’ lived realities affect their experiences and opinions. Explaining feminist theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw’s definition of intersectionality, the report states:
The overlapping forms of discrimination faced by Black LGB+ people—who are impacted by both homophobia and racism and often other types of oppression as well—are best understood through the lens of intersectionality, a term pioneered by Black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe how multiple forms of exclusion shape people’s lives. While it is frequently difficult to pinpoint exactly how discrimination based on race and sexual orientation intersect, the cumulative impact is clear: Researchers find that Black LGBTQ+ people face higher unemployment rates, are more likely to experience economic hardship, and are less likely to have health care coverage than the general population
The survey found LGBT Black census respondents were more likely to their heterosexual counterparts to have low incomes. Sixty-nine percent of gay respondents, 68 percent of bisexual respondents, 63 percent of respondents who identify as “other” and 62 percent of lesbian respondents all reported household incomes under $50,000 a year. To compare, 58 percent of Black heterosexual respondents reported low incomes. However, the survey points out the lower incomes of LGBT respondents may be a result of the relative youth of those who identified as queer on the survey.
Though Black LGBT respondents said they supported marriage equality, most expressed even greater concern over fundamental resources like wages, education, healthcare and safety. The problems LGBT respondents considered the most pressing were economic.
LGBT census participants all responded to low wages, lack of affordable healthcare, lack of affordable quality housing, schools that fail to prepare children adequately and rising college costs as problems in their communities.
Police misconduct was another cause that greatly concerned all respondents — especially those who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or other.
“LGB+ respondents are even more likely than respondents who identify as heterosexual to have experienced a negative interaction with the police in the last 6 months,” the report says.
LGBT respondents to the Black Census also said people treated them with less respect than others at higher rates than their straight counterparts. Studies have shown the elevated levels of stress Black people experience as a result of injustice leads to increased mental illness. LGBT people, especially youth, also contemplate and attempt suicide at higher rates than heterosexual people due to the high levels of bullying and mistreatment they endure.
Relatedly, violence against Black LGBT people is rampant. In the survey, more than 78% of queer respondents said violence against gays, lesbians and transgender people is a problem in their community.
History and current events have shown Black transgender women in particular face violence at alarming rates. In 2017 alone, 60% of crimes against people in the LGBTQ community were against Black people, with most being transgender women, the report states. The Human Rights Campaign keeps a list of transgender women killed every year, and there have already been 11 so far.