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LGBTQ Community Still Faces Discrimination in Housing, Employment

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What You Need to Know

  • Only 7% of senior executives in an IBM survey identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
  • Nearly half of LGBT individuals in the survey said their employer discriminates against people of their sexual orientation.
  • Transgender people are particularly likely to say they've faced housing discrimination.

The LGBTQ community in the U.S. continues to face discrimination in employment and real estate, according to two new surveys.

Nearly half of lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans recently polled by the IBM Institute for Business Value said they believed that their employer discriminates against people of their sexual orientation.

Realtor.com said that a survey it conducted in collaboration with LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance revealed that LGBTQ discrimination in real estate remains a problem, members of the community are less likely to be homeowners and neighbors who are accepting are key to feeling welcome in a new place. 

Workplace Discrimination

The IBM study study, conducted with Out & Equal Workplace Advocates and Workplace Pride, also found that discrimination is more pronounced where race, gender and sexual orientation intersect. 

The study polled some 6,000 U.S.-based professionals, including 700 individuals, 73% of whom self-identified as gay or lesbian and 27% of whom self-identified as bisexual. Twenty-four percent of respondents identified as Black, 24% percent as Hispanic, 24% as white, 24% as Pan-Asian and 4% as Native American. 

Across all surveyed racial identity groups, lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents see their sexual orientation as the primary driver of the discrimination they have personally experienced in the workplace.

IBM noted that a global study of chief executive officers the company conducted earlier this year showed just 17% of survey participants ranked diversity and inclusion among the most important organizational attributes for engaging employees.

“There is much more corporations can do to support LGBT+ people’s career aspirations and allow them to bring their full selves to work,” said Ella Slade, IBM global LGBT+ leader, said in a statement. 

“Empathetic leadership and support for employees’ mental health with programs like Safe Spaces to Talk — which give employees in the LGBT+ community and others a safe place for sharing their experiences and gaining support – can help especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Deena Fidas, chief program and partnerships officer for Out & Equal, pointed to an authenticity gap. “Too many LGBT+ people can’t show up as their authentic selves at work without facing negative consequences,” Fidas said in the statement. 

“Too many can’t express their true gender identity. We are shining a light on this problem and providing employers with a roadmap they can use to address it.”

The study found that 74% of Black lesbian, gay and bisexual women surveyed believe their identity group is less successful than the general population. By contrast, that figure dropped to just 4% among white men in the survey who did not identify as gay or bisexual.

In addition, although nearly half of white lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents said they have experienced some discrimination based on their sexual orientation, only 4% said they were discriminated against to a very great extent. For lesbian, gay and bisexual people of color, this figure was closer to 20%.

According to the study, LGBT+ people continue to be underrepresented on executive teams in the U.S. — only 7% of senior executives surveyed identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. 

Two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents reported that they do not feel equipped to overcome professional challenges, and a similar number said they have had to work harder to succeed because of aspects of their identity. 

Although the pandemic’s massive shift to remote work and school affected many professionals with caregiver responsibilities, 43% of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents said they have struggled to balance working from home with taking care of other family members amid the crisis, compared with 34% of non-lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. 

Housing Discrimination

Realtor.com noted that Executive Order 13988, signed by President Joe Biden in January, aimed to prevent and combat discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, but although a significant step forward, housing discrimination in the LGBTQ community continues to be an issue. 

Asked whether they had ever been discriminated against when applying for a rental lease or buying a home, 17% of respondents confirmed they had been discriminated against, 12% were unsure but suspected discrimination and 71% had not experienced it. 

Discrimination was even more pronounced in the transgender community, the survey found, with 44% having experienced or suspected discrimination. Fifty-two percent of respondents said this discrimination took place in the last five years. 

Of those who had experienced discrimination, 68% said it was because of their sexual orientation, 33% ascribed it to their race or ethnicity and 25% said it was because of their gender or gender identity. Some respondents reported that they had experienced multiple forms of discrimination.

“Discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in housing is real, but we know the fear of discrimination is even greater,” Ryan Weyandt, chief executive of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, said in a statement. “Our community already must place an outsized emphasis in identifying safe and accepting communities. Discrimination and the fear of it is another burden.” 

Weyandt noted out that the Fair Housing Act, which was passed in 1968, still not does protect Americans from discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Community Marketing & Insights conducted an online survey in May among 1,538 adult LGBTQ community members in the U.S. 

According to the survey, 49% of respondents own their primary residence, compared with 66% of the general population. This number was even lower in several subgroups of respondents: transgender, 35%; Black, 29%; and Latino, 41%. 

Survey results showed that 27% of respondents live in big cities, 22% in medium-sized cities, 13% in small ones, 25% in the suburbs and 13% in small towns and rural areas. 

Transgender and non-binary community members are the least likely to live in big cities, making non-discrimination legal protections at the state and national level even more important, Realtor.com said. 

Seventy percent of survey takers said their city or town is somewhat to very LGBTQ friendly — however, Realtor.com pointed out that there is likely to be self-selection of inclusive areas. 

When asked what type of environments respondents would consider moving to in the next 10 years, city life remained popular, with 50% favoring medium-sized cities and 40% big cities. Some in the community were also interested in the suburbs, small towns and rural areas. 

When city dwellers were asked whether anything was holding them back from moving or living in the suburbs, small towns or rural areas, they cited, in order, a lack of culture and entertainment in these less urban areas, lack of racial and ethnic diversity and acceptance, and a preference to be in communities with larger numbers or visible LGBTQ community members. 

On the flip side, all survey respondents said the most appealing attributes of these areas are lower cost of living rose, followed by outdoor space and larger yards, and better overall quality of life.

Acceptance Is Key 

Regardless of location, acceptance is a key factor for respondents when it comes to deciding where to buy a home, Realtor.com said. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they would not buy a home if they had doubts about whether they would be accepted, 32% said they were unsure what they would do and only 12% said they would proceed with the purchase.  

What would make a LGBTQ member feel welcome? No. 1: the people in the neighborhood. Seventy-six percent of respondents said neighbors who seem friendly, open, and accepting of LGBTQ neighbors would help make them feel welcome. 

No. 2: a neighborhood or town that is racially and ethnically diverse. No. 3: local anti-discrimination laws that specifically include sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected groups.