The Black LGBTQIA+ Struggle for Equal Pay

In the fight for equal rights and opportunities, the LGBTQIA+ community has made significant strides over the years. However, despite progress in various areas, wage disparities continue to persist as a daunting challenge for many LGBTQIA+ individuals.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBTQIA+ advocacy organization, Black queer and trans workers make about 80 cents for every dollar a white straight worker makes. Broken down even further, Black queer women earn 85 cents.

Jerron Totten, LGBT Detroit’s social outreach coordinator & legislative advocacy specialist, and field director for Pride Decides 2020, told the Michigan Chronicle, “Black LGBT wage gaps in Michigan reveal the harsh reality of intersecting discrimination. As we fight for equality, let this statistic resonate: Black LGBT individuals in Michigan earn, on average, 20 percent less than their non-LGBT and/or white counterparts.

Wage disparities are not solely based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but they intersect with other factors such as race, gender, and disability. Research consistently highlights the existence of significant pay gaps between LGBTQIA+ individuals and their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. These disparities hinder financial security and economic mobility and perpetuate cycles of inequality.

Employment discrimination is one of the primary reasons for wage disparities within the LGBTQIA+ community. Despite progress in legal protections, many queer and trans individuals still face discrimination in the workplace. They may encounter barriers when seeking employment, experience harassment or hostile work environments and even face unjust termination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Such discrimination often limits access to higher-paying job opportunities and prevents LGBTQ individuals from reaching their full earning potential.

As far as the Great Lakes State and how employment discrimination is handled, Totten stated, “Now that we in Michigan have updated the Elliot-Larsen Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, it’s time to dismantle barriers further and ensure fair wages for all, regardless of race, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Another factor contributing to wage disparities is occupational segregation. LGBTQIA+ individuals are often channeled into lower-paying jobs due to prejudice and biases within certain industries. This occupational segregation not only limits their earning potential but also restricts their career advancement and professional growth opportunities. Stereotypes and societal expectations influence employer decisions, unevenly distributing LGBTQIA+ individuals across industries and occupations.

The absence of comprehensive workplace policies and benefits catering specifically to queer employees exacerbates wage disparities. LGBTQIA+ individuals often face limited access to family leave, health insurance, retirement plans and other essential benefits. This lack of support disproportionately impacts queer and trans workers, especially those who face additional challenges, such as raising children or navigating healthcare needs related to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

It is crucial to recognize the intersectionality of identities within the LGBTQIA+ community. LGBTQIA+ individuals who also belong to marginalized racial or ethnic groups, have disabilities or face economic hardships experience compounded disadvantages. These intersecting identities magnify the wage disparities they encounter, making it even more challenging to break free from cycles of poverty and inequality.

Addressing wage disparities for LGBTQIA+ individuals requires concerted efforts from various stakeholders. Activist organizations, policymakers and employers must work together to implement inclusive policies protecting LGBTQIA+ employees from discrimination and promoting fair wages. Legislation must be enacted or strengthened to ensure comprehensive workplace protections and benefits for queer and trans individuals, including equal pay for equal work.

Promoting workplace inclusion is essential to combat wage disparities. Employers should foster a culture that values diversity, inclusivity, and equal opportunity. This can be achieved through diversity training, LGBTQIA+ employee resource groups, and the establishment of non-discriminatory policies. Creating safe and welcoming environments for LGBTQIA+ individuals helps close the wage gap and benefits businesses by tapping into a broader pool of talent and perspectives.

Increasing public awareness about wage disparities faced by queer and trans individuals is crucial. Educating employers, employees, and society about the challenges and discrimination LGBTQIA+ individuals encounter can help combat stereotypes and biases. By fostering understanding and empathy, we can work towards dismantling the systemic barriers contributing to wage disparities.

Wage disparities continue to be a significant concern for LGBTQIA+ individuals, hindering their economic progress and perpetuating inequality. Addressing these disparities requires a multifaceted approach that includes comprehensive workplace policies, legal protections, advocacy, and cultural change. By working together, we can create a society where LGBTQ individuals are accepted and empowered to thrive economically, thus fostering a more equitable and inclusive future for all.



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