L.G.B.T. What does this stand for? LGBT is an acronym for a group of people or “community” that refer themselves to as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. This group is diverse in many aspects including gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, and race. The LGBT community is welcoming of people regardless of these differences, but unfortunately, society is not as welcoming of the LGBT community. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders are not yet perceived as normal in this society; therefore, they face discrimination based on preconceptions society holds against them. These preconceptions are usually influenced by peers, family members, social media influencers, mass media, and leadership in politics, corporations, sports, etc. This group encounters discrimination in everyday settings; whether it is in the workforce, the healthcare, on social media, or on the streets. They constantly have the feeling of not being accepted which effects them negatively, both physically and mentally. The issue of inequality towards the LGBT community denies these people their right to achieve happiness and the right to be comfortable being their true self.
Society has many opinions on societal norms; a specific area being in gender roles. Society has these expectations in which a male or female should dress and act in a certain manner, and once they act outside the “norms”, it is likely he or she will receive criticism for it. If men get criticized for not dressing or acting in the manner of a man, and women get criticized for not being ladylike, instead being too manly, or a “tomboy”, then without a doubt will those who have a nonconforming gender identity or sexual orientation receive backlash. One type of backlash LGBT people will experience is violence, as authors Karel Blondeel at al. says in their article, “violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation is one of the ways sexual stigma is expressed” (29). This goes to show that when someone acts outside the norms of societal beliefs like being a transgender, homosexual, or bisexual, it is likely they are treated violently by someone who does not agree with their sexual orientation and gender expression. It is further explained that “sexual stigma based on perceived sexual orientation emerges from a society’s shared belief system in which homosexuality is denigrated and discredited as invalid relative to heterosexuality” (Blondeel et al. 29). Societies “shared belief system” only condones heterosexuality as normal. In comparison to heterosexuals, being homosexual is shameful and belittled upon, therefore individuals who refer to as any other sexual orientation other than straight will face consequences of different forms of sexual stigma.
One particular group of people from the LGBT community that are heavily discriminated against is transgender people. Transgender is defined as a person having a gender identity or expression that is different than the one assigned to them at birth. As bad as it sounds, being transgender also means “societal stigmatization, lack of support from friends and families, numerous forms of discrimination, and possibly the lack of access to supportive mental and physical health care” (Wright 1). Due to majority of the population being gender conforming, those who have a gender nonconformity have a trait that makes them stand out from the rest and not be in the “norms”, causing society to easily be in disapproval of them. As being transgender is looked down upon in society, they tend not to be accepted by family or friends. This kind of mistreatment leads to transgender people being heavily pressured by society, their loved ones, including family and friends, or their peers to not make the gender transition. This goes for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals as well; they are also pressured to not come out or to go back to being heterosexual.
LGBT people are not the only ones who feel pressured by society to be or act a certain way, parents are victims of this too. Some parents are not supportive of their child being a homosexual or transgender, not because they are racist towards them, but because they are worried for their child’s safety. There are understanding and open-minded parents who are at first hesitant to fully support their children based on how society perceives the LGBT community and how they act towards them. In the textbook article, From He to She in First Grade, the author Laurie Frankel, writes about her son’s transition from a boy to a girl. Laurie Frankel was aware her son wanted to be a girl, but she knew society would not be so accepting. She knew he would be bullied and treated differently, hence when her son wanted to wear his dresses to school, she was hesitant because she did not want her son to get hurt. Laurie wanted him to be aware of the possible consequences so she asks her son what he thinks the other kids at school would say if he wore dresses to school. His response was, “They’ll say, ‘Are you a boy or a girl’… ‘You can’t wear that. Boys don’t wear dresses’… ‘Ha, ha, ha, you’re so stupid’” (Frankel 585). Despite knowing he will be made fun of and even after Laurie constantly asked him if he was sure he wanted to do this, each time he would say yes. Laurie gave in and put aside one way of protecting her son from the cruel world we live in, and instead decided to use an alternative way to protect him by supporting him for the sake of his happiness.
Most LGBT individuals have a tough time coming out or admitting to their preferred sexual preferences or gender identity. This is mainly due to fear of rejection by society as they realize their sexuality is not considered as normal to most people. This fear of rejection can cause mental health issues, in particularly, depression. In the article Mental Health of Transgender Children Who Are Supported in Their Identities, a study shows that transgender children aged from three to twelve years who grew up in a supportive environment does not experience greater mental health problems (Olson et al.). Children who are socially accepted and receive support from their family and friends when coming out about their gender transition are less likely to feel depressed from social rejection. On the other hand, when LGBT people are not accepted of their sexuality or gender identity by society or their family, it will lead to negative effects. They will have issues with their self-esteem, as they will feel left out, insecure, worthless, or that they are not loved by their family. This will negatively affect their self-worth, which can lead to depression, anxiety, and even worse, suicidal thoughts.
Once these individuals let their gender nonconformity be known to the public or come out, they are at a risk for of physical and sexual assaults. In the article Violence Against Transgender People: A Review of United States Data, is it found that the prevalence of lifetime physical assaults due to gender identity ranged from 33 to 53 percent (Stotzer). Across the U.S. there is a large amount of people who are assaulted due to their gender identity throughout their lifetime. Transgender people are likely to be victims of assault starting at an early age and continuing till their adulthood and throughout. According to Stotzer, not only physical assault, but sexual assault including rape is also highly prevalent; “the most common finding across surveys and needs assessments is that about 50 percent of transgender persons report unwanted sexual activity” (Stotzer “Violence against transgender people…”). Sadly, half of the transgender population are victims of some sort of sexual assault. Transgender people are assaulted by both strangers and people they know, even relatives. Studies show that motivation for physical and sexual violence towards transgender people is due to the hatred perpetrators have towards them. These perps tend to become angry, anxious, and have negative attitudes towards those with gender nonconformity which ultimately causes them to turn to assaulting them.
Asides from violence, or assaults, transgender people face discrimination on a daily bases in all types of settings. Discrimination in healthcare is another form of stigma that they face. In a national study of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming participants, 28% experienced discrimination in a medical setting, 19% of these people were refused medical care, and 2% was physically assaulted at a doctor’s office (Grant 5-6). Although one would think everyone would receive equal, if not some sort of treatment, especially in a medical setting, that is not the case. Transgender people have been refused or postponed care because of their gender nonconforming status. Discrimination in health care has an effect in the higher rates of HIV infections, alcohol, smoking, and drug use of transgender patients. Another way transgender people are mistreatment by medical providers is their lack of knowledge and training in transgender care. In the same study, Grant reports that 50% of these transgenders “reported having to teach their medical providers about transgender care” (Grant 6). Insufficient training in this area can cause the doctor to use the wrong pronoun, for example, or be indirectly biased towards transgenders. To avoid hostility between the patient and doctor, transgender counselors, counselor educators, and counseling supervisors, along with any healthcare provider; all need to be prepared for counseling or treating transgender clients (Lynne “Counseling Transgendered, transsexual, and…”). Healthcare should have zero tolerance for any exclusion of transgender people, or any LGBT person. It is essential for medical providers to be educated about gender identity and expressions and sexual orientations.
Another everyday setting LGBT people face inequality in is at the workplace. In the United States there are no laws that protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to the Catalyst research, “29 out of 50 states does not have state-level protection for sexual orientation or gender identity” (Catalyst “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and…”). Since there are no nondiscrimination laws or polices including sexual orientation, employees can be fired just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. LGBT employees are prone to hostility in the workplace, but transgender workers are most vulnerable to discrimination. Catalyst reports two statistics: “in 2015, 27% of the transgender population said they were not hired, were fired, or were not promoted due to their gender identity or expression” and “80% of the transgender population who were employed experience harassment or mistreatment on the job or took steps to avoid it” (Catalyst “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and…”). LGBT employees, especially transgenders, are heavily discriminated against at work. This leads to them not fully being able to express themselves at work in the fear of losing their job or to avoid discrimination.
Societies’ preconceptions and prejudice against the LGBT community is not always based on the actual hatred of this group. People are influenced by how the LGBT group is portrayed in the media and how they are portrayed by influencers, such as celebrities or political leaders. A statistics states that “68% of LGBT youth say they hear negative messages about being LGBT from elected leaders” (Human Right Campaign “Growing Up LGBT in America”). If our elected leaders speak negatively about the LGBT people, this group will keep being considered a minority and discriminated against. Whenever a LGBT person is being covered in media, whether it be the first gay man to run for office, a transgender celebrity, or a lesbian CEO, etc., media is always so focused on the fact they are a LGBT person instead of their accomplishments or milestone. Being in this kind of light will not lead to equal treatment of the LGBT people, not until media focuses on their accomplishments, instead of their sexuality. Leaders, celebrities, social media influencers should speak out for the equality of LGBT people to as they have a big influence on societal beliefs of what is considered acceptable.
LGBT discrimination comes in various forms and in different settings. This includes, but is not limited to, giving dirty looks to a LGBT person, physically or sexually assaulting them on the streets, at the doctor’s office, at work, etc., denying them care at a medical setting, and firing or not hiring someone because they are a LGBT person. These people suffer from mental health issues like depression due to being rejected by society and their loved ones. Although sexual diversity is not perceived as normal now, over time, as society progresses, so will the definition of “normal”. With the power media and top influencers have on people, if the LGBT community is portrayed positively, it is possible for this group of people to achieve equality and be accepted by society. Alongside the change in one’s gender or sexual orientation, LGBT individuals often get scrutinized, when in fact, they are simply like everyone else, just making a change in their life for the better.