Washington, D.C., June 28 – Throughout National LGBTQ+ Pride Month (June), the LGBTQ+ community has been reflecting on the ongoing struggle to secure, protect and expand their rights. The LGBTQ+ community and the disability community intersect in significant ways. According to a study published in 2012, fully 36 percent of women in the LGBTQ+ community and 30 percent of men in the community also self-identify as persons with disabilities. Digging deeper shows that 26 percent of gay men, 40 of bisexual men disclosed having a disability as did 36 percent of lesbians and 36 percent of bisexual women.
Identifying the full scope of the LGTBQ+ community remains a significant challenge due to continuing fears about disclosure and stigmas that remains a painful fact of life in many parts of the United States. The best available estimates put the total number of LGBTQ+ Americans at around 11 million individuals. Extrapolating from there, RespectAbility estimates that there are roughly 2.3 million women with disabilities in the LGBTQ+ community. That number is joined by approximately 1.4 million men with disabilities in the community.
Both people who identify as LGBTQ+ and people who have invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities like dyslexia, mental health or ADHD have to decide whether or not to “come out of the closet.” This is not an easy decision for most people because of the uncertainty of whether or not acceptance will follow. LGBTQ+ youth who come out sometimes are rejected by their families and friends. Some are even kicked out of their homes and forced to live on the streets. According to a University of Chicago report, LGBTQ+ young adults had a 120 percent higher risk of reporting homelessness compared to youth who identified as heterosexual and cisgender.
Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. Yet it is challenging to fully capture the scope of opportunities open to LGBTQ+ workers with and without disabilities. Just as people with disabilities fear discrimination and face bias throughout the hiring process, far too many LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination or bias in the workplace.
“It is vital to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so all people who have faced prejudice can achieve a better future,” said RespectAbility’s President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi.
The consequences of stigma, bullying and rejection can literally be life and death. The Trevor Project reports that LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. Forty percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt, 92 percent of them before the age of 25. Society needs to fight stigmas and promote acceptance so that LGBTQ+ people know that they are valued and that they matter.