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LGFT Women Face Higher Risk for Poverty

PHOTO: A new report finds LGBT women in Kentucky and around the country face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence that threatens their economic security. Photo credit: Marius Boatca/Flickr.
PHOTO: A new report finds LGBT women in Kentucky and around the country face lower pay, frequent harassment, compromised access to health care, and heightened violence that threatens their economic security. Photo credit: Marius Boatca/Flickr.
March 26, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. - More than 19 percent of Kentuckians live in poverty, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. A new report finds lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women are among those most at risk. The findings were released by a broad coalition of organizations, including the National Women's Law Center.

Fatima Goss Graves, the center's vice president for education and employment, says the report highlights how those challenges undermine the economic security of LGBT women.

"Getting adequate wages, having the supports necessary to both work and care for families, having access to health care," says Goss Graves. "Those are concerns LGBT women are facing and in some cases facing more acutely."

Goss Graves says those concerns are further magnified for LGBT women of color, immigrant women, women raising children, and transgender women. According to the report, almost 30 percent of bisexual women and 23 percent of lesbian women live in poverty compared to 20 percent of heterosexual women.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign in Kentucky, says high poverty rates affect a community's economic health.

"So we can either support them on the front end and help them get the wages they deserve or we're going to end up helping them on the back end where we're providing homeless shelters and food pantries, things of that nature," he says. "That's not good for the community, it's really not good for anyone."

There are over five million women in the U.S. who identify as LGBT, and Goss Graves says discriminatory laws, along with inequitable and outdated policies compromise their economic security. She adds some LGBT women are unable to access job-protected leave to care for a sick partner, and others struggle to obtain official identity documents that match their lived gender.

"Transgender women in particular have the problem of it being difficult to access appropriate ID," she says. "When ID is so crucial in our society to access jobs, to access things like healthcare."

Goss Graves says policies at the state and federal level should be improved to allow LGBT families the same protections and benefits available to others, such as health insurance, family leave, and childcare assistance.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY