United We Dream, the national network of immigrant youth, has just released its “No More Closets” report, the largest national survey of the LGBTQ immigrant community ever conducted.
The report tells the collective and individual stories of some 461 individuals who self identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer and who are either born outside of the United States or are U.S.-born citizens with foreign-born parents. The survey was conducted in late 2015 both online and through individual interviews.
The report uncovers high levels of discrimination and harassment in employment, healthcare, housing and education and a distrust of law enforcement among this highly resilient population.
“With this survey, we aim to both tell our stories to policymakers as well as to the young people in our communities who are struggling that they are not alone and that together we can turn our shared struggle and power into the change we seek,” said Carlos Padilla, national coordinator of United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. “In fact, some of our nation’s leading change makers are LGBTQ immigrant youth – out of great struggle can come great strength.”
Among the findings:
- 73.4 percent of respondents say that their income either doesn’t cover or just barely covers their living expenses. Only 26.6 percent report earning enough to live comfortably.
- About half say they have experienced discrimination at school because of their sexual orientation.
- 41 percent have no health insurance, significantly higher than the general LGBTQ population.
- 46 percent said they have hid or lied about their sexual orientation or gender identity to a health care provider because of fear.
- Nearly half of all respondents say they are afraid to deal with police because of their immigration status or sexual identity.
Survey architect and report author Zenen Jaimes Perez, Policy & Advocacy Analyst for United We Dream, added, “The patterns of discrimination, lack of healthcare and harassment uncovered by this report are heartbreaking but the countless stories of resistance and hope are inspiring. We hope that this report is just the beginning of research into a community determined to live authentically despite the odds.”
In addition to the survey data, the report also includes several individual testimonies of LGBTQ immigrant leaders themselves including this one from Bianey Garcia of New York City:
“Coming out for me was not about visibility, it was about survival and about being able to share my strength with other youth who continue to remain in the shadows and in fear as undocumented and LGBTQ. As a transgender immigrant woman, being out and counted is a critical step so other people in my community can feel safe.”