Addressing the stigma still present for the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of The Equality Act



I know what you're thinking; Do we really need this Equality Act? Aren't LGBTQ+ people already protected and given more rights. The answer is Yes, we need it! While we have more rights today than in past decades, there's still a lack of equality.

Last week saw the historic passing of The Equality Act in the House, which will provide consistent and explicit anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. While this is a big step forward, there is an opportunity to remind all why this legislation is important to protect against the stigma and discrimination that still happens to those in the LGBTQ+ community. With hate crimes against LGBTQ+ community still on the rise (as reported by the FBI), the emotional and physical impact on LGBTQ+ groups from stigma and discrimination is something we all need to pay better attention to in order to properly education toward better allyship (Frank & Baker, 2019).


Mental health impact makes a great difference for those discriminated against due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. 95% of scholarly articles on the topic show evidence that discrimination on the basis of orientation or gender is associated with health effects to include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even suicide (Frank & Baker, 2019; McCrone, 2019). While there are therapists who support and specialize in supporting LGBTQ+ clients, mental health services to support homosexual issues are not always readily available. Conversion therapy, sadly, is still practiced in the United States and more widely than many expect. This dangerous practice includes discredited methods in an effort to correct homosexual behavior. As of 2018, only 15 states have restricted the practice of conversion therapy and over 99% of cities nationwide have not yet outlawed this harmful practice (Outfront, 2021). The need for support for the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t stop with mental health and the emotional stigma. Discrimination and stigma can also affect the physical health of marginalized groups. Many in the LBGTQ+ community are more likely uninsured, postpone medical care, and seek emergency care for primary care needs than their heterosexual counterparts. In contrast, we have seen LGBTQ+ health outcomes improved as states implement policies requiring equal treatment (McCrone, 2019). For example, youth suicide drop by 7% when same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015 (Frank & Baker, 2019).


In the corporate environment, there is still discussion on when and if to disclose your sexual and/or gender identity in the workplace. Many choose to disclose in order to change how others understand their identity. Heterosexuals uncomfortable with the disclosure of others can experience social identity threat, meaning that the disclosure leads to re-thinking the comparative dominance of their identity (Lyons et al, 2020). Studies show there is a higher level of tolerance for lesbians than gay or transgender people (Matviiko, 2019). When an identity doesn’t fit the perceived norm, it can lead to discrimination and ignorance or an opportunity for education and allyship.


LGBTQ+ rights activism has played a role in changing the view of sexual and gender identity and provided acceptance in personal and professional life. Businesses and individuals better understand the need for LGBTQ+ allyship. It helps companies not only compete better in the market, but it’s the right thing to do. Being an ally of the LGBTQ+ community means that individuals of the majority group take the time to education themselves on the marginalized community and learn supportive language and actions that can be demonstrated in professional and personal settings. In his book The Queering of Corporate America, Carlos Ball said, “A crucial reason for the queering of corporate America has been the recognition by large companies that adopting and supporting LGBTQ+ rights positions could help them maximize profits and reach new customers while hiring and retaining qualified employees” (Ball, 2020). Indeed, a 2018 study by Deloitte found that companies with inclusive cultures are 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets, 3x more likely to be high performing, 6x more likely to be agile and innovative, and 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes (Bourke & Dillon, 2018). A McKinsey study found that today's diverse organizations are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians (Dixon-Fyle et al, 2020).


To be a better ally, individuals should take the time to educate themselves on the community and ask respectful questions when they don’t know where to find the information. Allies can attend LGBTQ+ discussions, find social media support groups, and books to read. Being an ally doesn’t mean that you’ll be 100% perfect in your behavior and actions, but that you’re putting positive intent towards trying to be a better and supportive person. Even those in the LGBTQ+ community can be allies.


Discrimination and stigma of homophobia greatly affects the LGBTQ+ community and the outcomes can be seen in mental and physical health issues. While our society and corporations are becoming more accepting of sexual and gender identifies, discrimination and hate crimes still exist. To combat the negative effects of stigmatization, people of the majority group can educate themselves to become better allies and move from not only tolerance, but to acceptance the sexual and gender identity spectrum. Inclusion means all and that includes our allies, for we cannot have true equity and equality without solid allyship.

References

  • Ball, C. (2020). The Queering of Corporate America: How big business went from LGBTQ adversary to ally. Beacon Press, Boston.

  • Bourke, J. & Dillon, B. (2018). The Diversity and Inclusion Revolution: eight powerful truths. Deloitte Review, Issue 22, January 2018. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/4209_Diversity-and-inclusion-revolution/DI_Diversity-and-inclusion-revolution.pdf

  • Frank, N. & Baker, K. (2019). Anti-LGBT discrimination has a huge human toll. Research proves it. Washingtonpost.com, NA. https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A609242325/AONE? u=pres1571&sid=AONE&xid=5e27536

  • Lyons, B., Lynch, J., Johnson, T. (2020). Gay and lesbian disclosure and heterosexual identity threat: The role of heterosexual identity commitment in shaping de-stigmatization. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Volume 160, ISSN 0749-5978. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.obhdp.2020.03.001

  • Matviiko, Y. & Shkoliar, M. (2019). The Impact of Stigmatization on Social Attitude Towards the LGBT-Community. Mental Health: Global Challenges Journal. ISSN 2612-2138. https://doi.org/10.32437/MHGCJ-2019(0).63

  • McCrone, S. (2018). Lgbt Healthcare Disparities, Discrimination, and Societal Stigma: The Mental and Physical Health Risks Related to Sexual And/Or Gender Minority Status. American Journal of Medical Research, 5(1), 91–96. https://doi-org.proxy1.ncu.edu/10.22381/AJMR5120189

  • Dixon-Fyle, S., Dolan, K., Hunt, V., Prince, S. (2020). Diversity Wins: how diversity still matters. McKinsey & Company. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/diversity-wins-how-inclusion-matters

  • Outfront Minnesota. (2021). Public Policy, Conversion Therapy. Outfront.org. https://www.outfront.org/public-policy#conversion-therapy

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