The U.S. Census Bureau has released first-of-its-kind data on LGBTQ+ households through the Household Pulse Survey, which measures household experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the results are not great for our community.

Despite the image of LGBQ people as affluent, the survey results showed that LGBTQ+ households were nearly twice as likely to experience food insecurity, and were more likely to experience financial insecurity, lost income, and difficulties making housing payments.

The Census data confirms what the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, has previously reported—that the LGBTQ+ community is disproportionately impacted by economic inequality, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Census Bureau’s new data only continues to highlight what we have long known—LGBTQ+ Americans disproportionately bear the brunt of economic hardships from food insecurity to unemployment,” said Jay Brown, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Programs, Research and Training. “This disparity is further fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, as the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to work in front-line service jobs, have their hours cut, and face housing and employment discrimination.”

Key findings from the Census survey:

  • Overall, about 13.1% of LGBTQ+ adults lived in a household where there was sometimes or often not enough to eat in the past seven days, compared to 7.2% of non-LGBTQ+ adults.
  • 36.6% of LGBTQ+ adults lived in a household that had difficulty paying for usual household expenses in the previous seven days, compared to 26.1% of non-LGBTQ+ adults.
  • 19.8% of LGBTQ+ adults lived in a household with lost employment income in the past four weeks, compared to 16.8% of non-LGBTQ+ adults.
  • Among those living in homes that were rented or owned with a mortgage or loan, 8.2% of LGBTQ+ adults said they were not at all confident that their household will be able to make their next housing payment on time, compared to 6% of non-LGBTQ+ adults.

The HRC Foundation issued a brief on the elevated risks facing LGBTQ+ people as the COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold. HRC estimated that 40% of employed LGBTQ adults work in restaurants and food service, K-12 and higher education, hospitals and retail - industries significantly impacted by the pandemic.

What HRC did during the pandemic:

HRC partnered with PSB Insights to track the economic impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community throughout 2020. Using polling data from thousands of U.S. adults, HRC released 5 issue briefs on the disparate economic impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ people, LGBTQ people of color, transgender individuals, Black LGBTQ people, and Latinx LGBTQ people. HRC has also released issue briefs on the impact of reopening on LGBTQ people, and LGBTQ people’s concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Key findings from HRC’s research shows that LGBTQ people have been economically struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Throughout the pandemic LGBTQ people have consistently been more likely than the general adult population to have experienced a cut in work hours.
  • LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color, have been more likely than the general adult population and their white counterparts to have become unemployed during the pandemic. HRC tracked an overall seven point increase in unemployment from November 2020 to March 2021 among LGBTQ people and LGBTQ people of color.
  • More than half of transgender and transgender people of color had lost work hours in the Summer of 2020, while one in five became unemployed.

Read more about HRC’s efforts during COVID-19 here.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.