Topics Within this Training

  • Current Legal Issues
  • Current Social Issues
  • Developmental Outcomes

Legal Issues

LGBTQ+ individuals generally lack the same civil rights as their straight and cisgender counterparts. Moreover, they face vast instability due to the fact that their identities and bodies are highly politicized and their personhood is continually a point of debate in government.

Let’s talk about some of the key issues faced by transgender individuals today.

Lack of Protections

While marriage equality brought all LGBTQ+ people closer to equality with cishet Americans, sadly, no Federal protections exist for sexual orientation or gender identity in relation to employment, housing, and hate crime laws. While the Obama Administration interpreted gender to include gender identity and expression, and sex to include sexual orientation, the current administration has made it clear they will not do so. Several Federal courts have upheld the previous administration’s interpretation, but it is unclear how easy it will be for LGBTQ+ individuals to work with the Federal government.

When it comes to the individual States and Territories within the United States, protections in housing, employment, and hate crimes laws at the state-level are spotty.

Figures 3a-c: LGBTQ+ inclusion in housing, employment, and hate crime laws

Housing Equality: Only 20 states (plus the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico) currently include both sexuality and gender identity and expression in their housing discrimination laws. Only 2 states include sexuality only in their housing discrimination laws. This means that LGBTQ+ people in 40% (and and LGB people in 42%) of the United States have housing equality.

Employment Equality: Only 20 states (plus the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico) currently include both sexuality and gender identity and expression in their employment discrimination laws. Only 1 state includes sexuality in their employment discrimination laws (though gender identity and expression is included in their state employment policy). Only 6 states include both sexuality and gender identity and expression in the state employment policy, and 4 states include just sexuality. This means that LGBTQ+ people in 40% (and and LGB people in 2%) of the United States have employment equality. LGBTQ+ state employees enjoy employment equality in 12% (and LGB people in 8%) in their state job.

Hate Crime Laws: Only 17 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) currently include both sexuality and gender identity and expression in their hate crimes laws. Only 13 states include just sexuality in their hate crimes laws, and 2 states merely require LGB deaths be recorded as a hate crime but not prosecuted as such. Thus, justice for the victims of LGBTQ+ violence is only possible in 34% of the United States, and for LGB victims in 26% of the United States.

Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation

Anti-transgender bathroom bills are on the rise, and they represent the most significant legal struggle experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. Anti-transgender bathroom legislation has been introduced in 15 US states, but has only passed in two states (North Carolina and Texas). In six states, legislation has not been passed, with the remainder of legislation under discussion or tabled for the next legislative session. They operate under the argument that allowing access to transgender people will increase harm to women and children. This argument ignores the fact that transgender people are more likely to experience harm in the bathroom.

Other legislation has been passed allowing discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community by religious adoption agencies. Legislation of this kind puts thousands of orphaned children in an even more vulnerable position by needlessly exacerbating the shortage of foster parents. Additionally, they open the door for future attacks on families headed by same-sex parents, thus increasing the risk for children of same-sex couples to have negative psychosocial outcomes due to lack of legal stability for their family.

Social Issues

LGBTQ+ individuals do not just experience legal discrimination. Socially, LGBTQ+ people also experience a lack of equality and increased victimization which have a negative impact on their physical, psychological, and social development.

Parental Rejection and Youth Homelessness

One of the most significant social issues which affects the majority of LGBTQ+ people from the start of their open and affirming life is parental rejection. Indeed, reports indicate that up to 42% of LGBTQ people live in hostile environments. This means that nearly half of the LGBTQ+ community lives in a home which does not affirm their identity and in which they do not feel safe. Indeed, further reports suggest that up to 46% of LGBTQ+ individuals experience parental rejection, and 32% experience physical or sexual abuse as a result of their sexuality or gender identity. Consequently, there is a high rate of homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth. Indeed, up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+, and 59% of those youth will be the victims of sexual violence (seven times higher than for straight homeless youth) and 62% will be at increased risk for suicide.

Peer Rejection and School Problems

Sadly, rejection in the home is only one side of the coin. Indeed, LGBTQ+ youth experience rejection and victimization at school which is so bad it has adverse affects on their psychosocial and academic outcomes. Transgender students have it especially bad. According to an annual nationwide school climate report, 80% of transgender students feel unsafe at school. Even more upsetting are the statistics which suggest that up to 84% experience sexual harassment at school and 55% experience physical violence at school. Indeed, other estimates have found that nearly 60% of LGBTQ+ youth reporting experiencing bullying or some other form of aggression from their peers. As a result, LGBTQ+ students miss five times more days than their cishet counterparts, and nearly 30% will not finish high school.

Unemployment and Adult Homelessness

The rough start many LGBTQ+ people experience at home and school play out in their economic and housing stability as adults. Indeed, nearly of LGBTQ+ people out at work face harassment and discrimination, 55% have lost their job due to their gender identity and 9.2% have lost a job because of their sexuality. Sadly, 54% of transgender individuals will have to present as their birth sex to keep their job, and only 1% will successfully transition at work.

Because of high rates of academic dropout, and because of discrimination, the transgender community has a 14% unemployment rate (mostly Native and Black). Sadly, the housing instability forged in youth continues into adulthood, with up to 21% of LGBTQ+ people, the majority identifying as transgender, facing housing discrimination. Many LGBTQ+ adults, especially transgender adults, are forced into unlawful activities to survive. Sadly, 44% of transgender adults will be forced into sex work to survive, and 30% of transgender women have been incarcerated. A shocking 70% will be sexually assaulted by law enforcement officers.

Barriers to Healthcare

While LGBTQ+ people experience barriers to healthcare, transgender people face serious barriers to healthcare above and beyond those experienced by LGB+ people. Even though all major medical and mental health organizations recommend hormone therapy and affirming surgeries, these treatments are not covered by health insurance. Sadly, 50% of transgender people have had to educate healthcare providers, 19% have been denied care, and 1 in 4 delayed treatment out of fear of discrimination or abuse. This fear is justified considering that 70% of transgender people have been verbally or physically abused by their healthcare providers.

Physical and Sexual Abuse

Again, while all LGBTQ+ people experience a disproportionate amount of physical violence, transgender people have it even worse. Sadly, 49% of transgender individuals report physical abuse, and 50% of transgender individuals have been raped or assaulted or experienced domestic violence.

Developmental Outcomes

All of these terrible legal and social issues combine to reduce the positive developmental of LGBTQ+ people psychologically and physically.

Psychological Outcomes

According to the minority stress model the effect of chronic and systemic oppression of minority populations is increased negative health outcomes. These include increased mental and physical health issues, socioeconomic issues, and interpersonal issues. LGBTQ+ people are up to three times more likely than the general population to experience mental health issues. Indeed, 77% suffer from stress-induced mental illness including depression and anxiety. Tragically, LGBTQ+ youth are five times more likely than the general youth population to die by suicide, and nearly 70% of transgender individuals will make a suicide attempt in their lifetime.

Physical Outcomes

In addition to having difficulty accessing the care they need, the LGBTQ+ population is four times more likely than the general population to contract HIV. For transgender people, this is especially bad as 19% of the transgender population has HIV, but 73% are unaware of their HIV status because of lack of healthcare access. These abnormally high rates can be attributed primarily to unsafe survival sex.

HIV is not the only medical issue faced by the LGBTQ+ community. They are also two times more likely to develop an alcohol addiction or dependency, three times more likely and eight times more likely to develop an addiction to cocaine. These abnormally high rates can be attributed to maladaptive stress and anxiety management.

The most tragic physical outcome for the LGBTQ+ community is found in the homicide rate for transgender people. The stark reality is that transgender people have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered. This rate is worse for transgender women of color who have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered.

The Big Picture

LGBTQ+ people make up approximately 4.1% of the US adult population by some counts. This is 10 million adults. LGBTQ+ youth make up approximately 4.5% of the US youth population by some counts. This is 1.8 million youth. If nearly half of this smallest proportion of our population experiences negative outcomes, isn’t it time we did something?


The reality is that LGBTQ+ people experience severe legal and social discrimination. These experiences include lack of legal protections, active political actions against the identities and bodies of LGBTQ+ people which threaten their safety, rejection by family and friends, homelessness, unemployment, lack of healthcare access, and abuse. The result of this toxic environment is increased risk for psychological problems and physical problems.

Take the next module: Strategic Steps, Righting Wrongs ›

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