The United States is at a crossroads in terms of LGBTQ rights: More Americans than ever before identify as LGBTQ, but more than half of states have introduced – and in some cases, passed – legislation aimed at limiting the rights of LGBTQ residents.
As a result, now is as good a time as any for allies to learn how to better support their LGBTQ loved ones and gain a better understanding of the diversity that exists within the larger LGBTQ community. According to a Human Rights Campaign analysis of census data from 2021, more than 20 million Americans identify as LGBTQ, and this is a critical time to protect and expand LGBTQ rights.
As Pride Month draws to a close, we asked experts to share some of the things LGBTQ people wish others knew.
Religious and LGBTQ experiences are frequently portrayed as exclusive in political narratives, and Christian faith-based arguments are frequently used to oppose rights such as same-sex marriage. Despite this, many LGBTQ people claim to be religious, and some of the largest mainstream Christian denominations openly affirm and ordain LGBTQ members as spiritual leaders.
According to a 2020 report from the Williams Center, UCLA Law’s LGBT-focused public policy research center, approximately 47 percent of LGBT adults are religious. According to the report, this figure reached 65 percent among older LGBT adults.
The report discovered that black LGBT adults, as well as those living in the South, were even more likely to be religious (71 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively). In total, more than 5 million LGBT adults in the United States identified as religious.
The federal legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 – now commonly referred to by the name of the plaintiff in that landmark case, Obergefell – was a massive watershed moment for LGBTQ rights and for LGBTQ couples ready to marry. Gallup reported in 2021 that one in every ten LGBT adults in the United States is married to a same-sex spouse.
Some (but not all) trans and nonbinary people may change their clothing, appearance, pronouns, or name in order to live a more authentic life. A person’s transition could be any or all of these. A lot of the rhetoric challenging the validity of transgender experiences focuses on surgical or medical transitioning, but Conron points out that social transitioning – non-medical changes – can be just as important.
Access to gender-confirming procedures and medical care is critical for trans communities and can be life-saving in terms of mental health. A study published this year by Stanford University School of Medicine and based on data from the most recent US Transgender Survey, conducted in 2015, discovered that trans adults who began hormone treatments as teenagers were less likely to have suicidal thoughts than those who wanted but never received hormone treatments.
Another study of over 100 trans and nonbinary young people published this year found that receiving gender-affirming health care was associated with a 60% lower risk of depression and a 73% lower risk of suicidality the following year.
Intersex individuals are just one example. According to the UN, up to 1.7 percent of the population is born with anatomy, chromosomes, and hormone function that deviates from traditional notions of male and female bodies. Because these variations occur naturally, there is every reason to believe they existed throughout history, even before science had the tools and language to identify them, and even in intolerant societies.
Until 2021, the US Census Bureau did not collect official data on sexual orientation and gender identity. In recent history, the lack of data on transgender individuals has hampered attempts to create a full picture of the trans community in the US – and also presents issues when, say, investigating crimes against transgender people.
Historians such as Susan Stryker and Jules Gill-Peterson have published comprehensive works that explore the recorded history of trans people, with some stories dating back decades before the term “transgender” became popular, and organizations such as the National Center for Transgender Equality have led efforts to survey trans Americans in order to create a more complete picture of the population.
Gallup discovered in a February poll that more people self-identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender – or “something other than heterosexual” – on an anonymous survey conducted in 2021 than at any other point in the previous decade, with young people driving the change.