By most counts Rochester is a very LGBTQ-friendly city. My gay identity would be rather unhistoric when I am elected to City Council, as we first did that nearly 30 years ago. Rochester has had non-discrimination statutes on sexual orientation and gender identity in place for years, with New York State still lagging behind on this with the continued failure to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. We have the sixth highest population in the country of same-sex families. And our faith communities have led the way in a variety of traditions to bring inclusion to church and temple. While there's always more to be done to root out heterosexism and transphobia, Rochester's done quite well on this one.
So as we enter into a time where our civil equality is recognized, it's time for the LGBTQ community to take a step back, reevaluate, and then begin a new conversation. The struggle is not over because it's time for us to confront the issues of class and poverty that disproportionately affect the LGBTQ community. That this is an issue may surprise some, given how the narrative of the “pink dollar” is portrayed in the media. But the statistics clearly show that this is a myth. Here are a few numbers to consider:
- 40% of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBTQ
- 14.1% of lesbian couples and 7.7% of gay male couples receive food stamps, compared to 6.5% of different-sex married couples.
- One in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2% of children living with a female same-sex couple are in poverty, compared to 12.1% of children living with married different-sex couples.
- African American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans.
- And the list goes on...
There are a number of factors contributing to this adversity, some of which include the systemic oppression that society has been working to eliminate. Marriage rights, employment protection, and societal acceptance will all help to reduce these numbers. But let's ask ourselves a question. Why do we as a community, LGBTQ or straight, even accept the presence of poverty to begin with? Food, water, housing, and healthcare are all basic human needs contributing to healthy people and healthy communities. These are not privileges to be granted to the worthy or to be hoarded by the elite. These are basic human rights that we are all entitled to. These are rights that the LGBTQ community must fight just as hard for, if we are to truly be equal.
I do not know what these numbers would look like if measured only in Rochester. But given the extreme level of poverty and the high concentration of LGBTQ-identified people, it is surely safe to assume that we are struggling with this in every neighborhood of our City. As Councilmember, I will make sure that we do have local numbers on this and make sure that the City acts appropriately. And because poverty affects us all, any efforts to eradicate poverty will not only benefit our LGBTQ communities, but the City as a whole, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.