Category Archives: People of Color

Shared Differences Examines LGBT Students of Color Experiences in School

NEW YORK – LGBT students of color face unique and diverse challenges regarding victimization at school, according to Shared Differences: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Students of Color in Our Nation’s Schools, a report released today by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

The report documents the experiences of over 2,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) middle and high school students of color who were African American or Black, Latino/a, Asian or Pacific Islander, Native American, and multiracial, using 2007 data collected as part of GLSEN’s biennial survey of LGBT students, the National School Climate Survey, along with results from in-depth individual and group interviews.

“While research on the experiences of LGBT students has increased in recent years, few studies have examined the specific victimization of students who identify as people of color and LGBT,” said GLSEN Executive

Director Dr. Eliza Byard. “Our schools are diverse environments, and it is important to understand how our students experiences differ based on personal characteristics such as race and ethnicity. This report provides alarming evidence that we must act now to ensure sure that America’s LGBT students of color are safe in school.”

The report also provides descriptions of the experiences of LGBT students of color in their own words.

“You could very well on any day hear someone yelling across the hall, ‘fag,’ etc,” said a 10th grade Latino male student in the report. “I’ve heard it before. … It’s hurtful because it’s just not something that you say. And it’s just generally hurtful. And I know that I’ll just be walking in a hallway, and someone will just say under their breath with a group of friends, “fag” … and hearing things like that in my school – it kind of brings me down almost. It kind of negates any hope that I have for our school to be a better place.”

Key Findings:

  • Across all groups, sexual orientation and gender expression were the most common reasons LGBT students of color reported feeling unsafe in school. More than four out of five students, within each racial/ethnic group, reported verbal harassment in school because of sexual orientation and about two-thirds because of gender expression. At least a third of each group reported physical violence in school because of sexual orientation. 
  • More than half of African American/Black, Latino/a, Asian/Pacific Islander, and multiracial students also reported verbal harassment in school based on their race or ethnicity. Native American students (43%) were less likely than other students to report experiencing racially motivated verbal harassment. 
  • About a quarter of African American/Black and Asian/Pacific Islander students had missed class or days of school in the past month because they felt unsafe. Latino/a, Native American, and multiracial students were even more likely to be absent for for safety reasons – about a third or more skipped class at least once or missed at least one day of school in the past month for safety reasons. 
  • Native American students experienced particularly high levels of victimization because of their religion, with more than half reporting the highest levels of verbal harassment (54%), and a quarter experiencing physical violence (26%). 
  • Less than half of students of color who had been harassed or assaulted in school in the past year said that they ever reported the incident to school staff. Furthermore, for those students who did report incidents to school staff, less than half believed that staff’s resulting response was effective. 
  • Native American (57%) and multiracial (50%) students were more likely than other students of color in our survey to report incidents to a family member. 
  • Performance at school also suffered when students experienced high levels of victimization. Students’ overall GPA dropped when they reported high severities of harassment based on sexual orientation and/or race/ethnicity. Students experiencing high severities of harassment also reported missing school more often. 
  • The report also looks at differing experiences based on the racial/ethnic make-up of students’ schools. For all groups, LGBT students of color who were minorities in their school were much more likely to feel unsafe and experience harassment because of their race or ethnicity than those who were in the racial/ethnic majority.

GLSEN is releasing the report in conjunction with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Organizing Weekend, which takes place January 16-19. Dr. MLK Jr. Organizing Weekend provides an opportunity for students and Gay-Straight Alliances to honor the coalition-building work of Dr. King and other civil rights leaders, such as Bayard Rustin, by reaching out to others committed to working toward safe schools for all students.


LGBT People of Color Need More Than Health Insurance

The health care debate is still raging across the country, and ensuring that it moves forward so that all Americans have access to affordable and high-quality health insurance is a critical first step. But acquiring and keeping health insurance coverage is only half the battle for millions of Americans.


New research from the Center for American Progress, for example, shows that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people have health care needs and challenges that are starkly different from the rest of the population. The research also shows that racial and ethnic minorities who are lesbian, gay or bisexual face some of the greatest health care challenges in our country.


For example, lesbian and bisexual black women are the least likely to have had a mammogram in the past two years. Only 35 percent of these women have had mammograms recently, compared to nearly 70 percent of heterosexual African-American, Asian or Pacific Islander, or white women. One out of every five lesbian/gay/bisexual African-American adults has diabetes. Straight African-American and straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual Asian or Pacific Islander, Latino, and white adults are much less likely to have diabetes—fewer than 8 percent of these populations have been diagnosed with the disease.


Mental health needs are also a concern. For example, lesbian/gay/bisexual Asian or Pacific Islander adults are more likely than other groups to report experiencing psychological distress. Lesbian/gay/bisexual Latinos are similarly much more likely than all other racial or ethnic groups—gay or straight—to report problems with alcohol abuse and addiction.



Data on the general transgender population is notoriously sparse and anecdotal—information on transgender racial and ethnic minorities is even more so. But based on what we do know, people in this population face the largest obstacles to finding and affording high-quality and highly competent health care.


The odds are slim that doctors, nurses and other health care providers are aware of the health realities their LGBT patients of color face and are able to effectively treat them. Ulrike Boehmer’s review of 3.8 million citations of articles in the National Library of Medicine published between 1980 and 1999 found that just 3,800, or 0.1 percent, are related to LGBT issues. And 85 percent of the articles failed to include any mention of the racial or ethnic background of the individuals studied.


A clear first step to improve health treatment for LGBT racial and ethnic minorities is building the medical community’s knowledge of their unique needs. Unfortunately, no national government health survey regularly asks about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The federal government already collects health data based on race and ethnicity, and adding questions on sexual orientation and gender identity would provide researchers with this much-needed information to better identify the health care needs of LGBT people of color. In turn, advocates could then fight for programs and funding that better and more competently serve this population. Medical schools and other institutions could also incorporate this information into their curricula and training programs to prepare future practitioners to treat and care for these patients.


Over time, this approach will reduce the disparities between LGBT people of color and other populations, and the federal government should take the lead in tackling this problem. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should particularly establish a dedicated Office of LGBT Health. Data collection should be a priority for this office, which must ensure that any federally funded health study that collects demographic information on categories such as age, sex, race, ethnicity, primary language or socioeconomic status must also include questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.


Insurance coverage is a vital health care reform issue, but it is not the only factor that prevents people from quality care in the United States. Our nation’s health care system needs to do a much better job treating the real needs of all its patients, and that includes LGBT people who are racial and ethnic minorities.


Jeff Krehely is the director of LGBT research at the Center for American Progress.