June is the month we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer people. There are celebrations, parades, music, and parties. Many will openly revel in being LGBTQ-identified. Focusing on LGBTQ provides an opportunity for reflection on where we’ve been and how we are doing as a nation and community. For the YWCA, it gives us a chance to reflect on the intersection of LGBTQ issues, employment, and race.
First, highlights. There are successes and accomplishments to celebrate for greater public awareness. Examples include restroom safety for transgender, gender-queer, and/or gender non-conforming people (the new Bucks Arena will have all-gender public restrooms) and the Supreme Court declared marriage equality as the law of the land in its historic 2015 ruling. Systemic oppression is wrong and LGBTQ people deserve to be treated with dignity, acceptance and respect. We can be pleased for transgender people of color such as Laverne Cox and Janet Mock.
The challenges. LGBTQ-identified black and brown people experience more workplace issues, greater economic and housing instability, and struggle with a healthcare system that fails transgender people. In 2017, 28 transgender people, largely women and of color, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign, were victims of homicide.
Employment. Milwaukee faces an employment picture that reveals fuller employment for white workers than workers of color. Black workers in Wisconsin are 3.5 times more likely to be unemployed. Milwaukee metro ranks as worst area for black-white unemployment gap. A national study found “LGBTQ people of color were over twice as likely to report experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination when applying for jobs and interacting with police than their white peers.”
We have a significant body of work to do to build our awareness and understanding of LGBTQ issues facing our black and brown family, in order to create full appreciation and acceptance in our community. We can continue to celebrate the successes being mindful that our work is only beginning. Let us ask ourselves, how accepting is my family of LGBTQ-identified family members? Do we tolerate you as “different?” What would it mean to allow for full gender expression as a black or brown LGBTQ-identified person? To build an inclusive, equitable and just Milwaukee, we will need to open our hearts and minds and welcome many more people at our table. Let’s get going!
For further reading and understanding: