In November 2015, voters in the city of Houston, Texas voted down the city-council-approved Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) by a margin of 60.9 percent to 30.1 percent. The defeat of the ordinance, meant to protect city residents from discrimination in employment and other services based on factors including sexual orientation and gender identity, proved to be a stunning defeat for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) advocates and organizations nationwide. The ordinance was defeated following a carefully orchestrated transphobic campaign to scare voters about “men in women’s bathrooms.”
The defeat of the ordinance continues to leave Houston residents open to legal discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity as the state of Texas, nor the federal government, explicitly enumerate these identities from protection against discrimination in all areas of life. This is especially harrowing for the city’s LGBTQ immigrant population, one of the largest and most diverse in the country.
The same month that HERO was struck down by voters, United We Dream (UWD) launched a national survey to better understand the needs, experiences, and challenges faced by the LGBTQ immigrant community nationwide. The survey was launched in response to the dire need to increase the amount of information and knowledge regarding this community, which remains “in the shadows” due to the intersection of marginalized identities.
The results of this survey add to the growing body of research about LGBTQ immigrants that will help UWD and other organizations better understand the lives of individuals in this community. This will help bridge the gaps between the LGBTQ and immigration advocacy communities and help guide effective policymaking and advocacy.
Some of the findings of the survey indicate that the LGBTQ immigrant community is:
A young population living with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities as well
as immigration statuses.
Experiencing high levels of discrimination and harassment in multiple areas of life
including employment, education, health care, and housing.
Facing deep mistrust of law enforcement.
Still facing difficulties navigating the constellation of different LGBTQ and immigrant
The LGBTQ immigrant community has been at the forefront of challenging systemic injustices against both the LGBTQ and immigrant community. However, there is still much left to be uncovered to highlight the challenges individuals living in both communities continue to face. UWD’s survey and previous research will hopefully spark even more investigation and help guide advocacy and organizing at the local and national level.