LGBTQ Communities of Color
*This section was created as a collaboration between GLAAD and Tre’vell Anderson
Often media coverage of the LGBTQ community describes it as a homogenous community of white, wealthy, cisgender men. But that perspective ignores the very real impact of race, ethnicity, and national origin (as well as income/class, education level, geographic location, etc.) on the lives of LGBTQ people of color. According to a 2021 Cornell University study, for example, LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color. And LGBTQ people of color face higher levels of discrimination than their white counterparts. Journalists should take an intersectional approach in their reporting, one that recognizes the multiplicity of experiences of LGBTQ people as informed by the specificity of their identities. Also note that just because a group of LGBTQ people share a race or ethnicity does not mean everyone in that group thinks or experiences life the same way.
Black LGBTQ communities
Due to systemic racism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, Black people already over-index negatively on almost every meaningful indicator of well-being, from poverty and food insecurity to homelessness and unemployment. But for Black LGBTQ people, these indicators are even more concerning.
Black LGBTQ people are more likely to experience economic insecurity than their non-LGBTQ counterparts, with a majority (56%) of Black LGBTQ people living in low-income households and in the U.S. South (51.4%), where most states lack nondiscrimination protections. Black LGBTQ people have their own unique lived experiences, different from their non-Black LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ counterparts. It is important that journalists be aware of these statistics and not, unintentionally or otherwise, perpetuate stereotypes or spread stigma associated with these factors. Also, consider the ways language use, source selection, and framing might exacerbate already unsettled conditions of this community.
Journalists should also be aware that in some Black LGBTQ spaces, the lexicon might be more expansive, or altogether different, than non-Black LGBTQ spaces. Some terms that may come up include:
Same-Gender-Loving: Also known as SGL, this is a term used by some African American people as an Afrocentric alternative to what are considered Eurocentric, or white, identities like gay and lesbian. Coined by activist Cleo Manago in the 1990s, the term and its usage explicitly recognizes the histories and cultures of people of African descent.
Stud: A word most often used by Black queer and trans people to describe masculine-presenting lesbians. It is similar to butch, but culturally specific.
House: As depicted on television shows like Pose and Legendary, houses are kinship structures, or chosen families, within the once-underground Ballroom scene, mostly populated by Black and brown LGBTQ people. Not all Black or brown LGBTQ people are members of houses or the Ballroom scene.
Latinx LGBTQ communities
A gender expansive or nonbinary alternative to the gendered Latino and Latina, Latinx is not a term universally used and accepted by Spanish-speaking communities and those of Latin American origin or descent. According to a Pew Research study, one in four U.S. people who identify as Hispanic or Latino have heard of Latinx but only 3% use it. Those who do tend to be younger, American-born, bilingual, or predominantly English-speaking and more likely to have gone to college, signaling a generational split that journalists should take into account when speaking to queer and trans members of this community. Always default to the language your sources use to describe themselves.
Latine is also a gender-neutral way of referring to people from or whose ancestors are from Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean living in the United States. In 2021, it is becoming a popular alternative to Latinx. The website Call Me Latine, further explains the term: Latine (pronounced la·ˈti·ne) is a gender neutral form of the word Latino, created by LGBTQ, nonbinary, and feminist communities in Spanish speaking countries. Similar to Latinx, the objective of the term Latine is to remove gender from the Spanish word Latino, by replacing it with the gender-neutral Spanish letter E.
According to research by UCLA’s Williams Institute, there are at least 2.3 million LGBTQ Latinx adults in the United States, and they have higher rates of unemployment than non-LGBTQ Latinx people. The community also has a higher rate of food insecurity and is more likely to be uninsured than other racial and ethnic communities.
Latinx millennials, defined as those between 24 and 40 years old, are the least likely millennials, when broken down by ethnicity, to call themselves straight. A University of Chicago survey found that 22% of Latinx millennials are LGBTQ compared to 14% of African Americans, 13% of whites and 9% of Asian Americans. Furthermore, research shows that Latinx people can have high levels of acceptance and be as likely as the general population to affirm LGBTQ people, due in part to strong cultural values related to the importance of family as well as sensitivity to the pain caused by discrimination.
Considering the ever-evolving nature of language, and the increasing population of Spanish-speaking and Latinx identified people in the United states, journalists might encounter some of the following words in their reporting.
Latine: Another gender-neutral alternative to Latina and Latino, Latine is sometimes preferred over Latinx as it is easier to pronounce, especially when speaking Spanish.
Jotx or Joteria: Terms based on a derogatory slur, but sometimes used by queer and trans Latinx people in Mexico and the Southwest United States to refer to themselves. Much like other queer terminology, it has been reclaimed as a means of empowering the lived experiences, knowledge and histories LGBTQ Latinx people. Journalists should avoid its use, unless the term is in a direct quote.
Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ communities
LGBTQ Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are not often the focus of mainstream stories about the LGBTQ community. This erasure perpetuates the idea that AAPI people are not LGBTQ, or that it is an uncommon experience. In reality however, there is a rich community of LGBTQ Asian American and Pacific Islanders — over 685,000 according to the Williams Institute — who are melding their sexual orientations and gender identities with their cultural identities.
The AAPI LGBTQ adult population is younger (73% are under 35 years old) and more likely to experience economic insecurity than the AAPI non-LGBTQ population. They experience unemployment at twice the U.S. national rate. The result of these pressures is that almost 25% of LGBTQ AAPI folks experience psychological distress at rates more than four times higher than their straight counterparts.
71% of AAPI transgender adults report experiencing everyday discrimination, while 56% have been physically assaulted and threatened and 63% verbally assaulted or abused. Nearly one in five of all LGBTQ AAPI folks say they feel unsafe in their communities.
As for AAPI youth, negative or nonexistent media portrayals and a lack of culturally competent health and social support, among other challenges, prevent them from being able to fully express, explore and embrace the fullness of their identities. Many resources highlight the role of cultural stigma for these circumstances, but journalists should be careful not to overemphasize this as it can reinforce harmful stereotypes and blame Asian American and Pacific Islander communities for their own oppression.
When reporting on Asian and Asian American communities, be sure not to exoticize their experiences. Also, avoid hyphenating racial and ethnic identities. Use Japanese American or Chinese American rather than Japanese-American or Chinese-American to prevent the inaccurate implication that a subject is not fully or truly American.
Indigenous LGBTQ communities
The Williams Institute estimates that there are a total of 285,000 LGBTQ Native American or Alaska Native (NAAN) adults in the United States. This comparatively small population is a direct result of centuries of oppression, marginalization and displacement faced by Indigenous communities.
In addition to the research that details the compounded oppression of LGBTQ people of color, studies specifically point to the negative experiences of NAAN trans and gender expansive people. For example, according to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, 41% of transgender NAAN people reported living in poverty, 23% reported being unemployed, and 21% reported they had lost a job due to being transgender. In addition, 57% reported experiencing homelessness at some point in their lives.
According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 research, 14% of non-NAAN LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide, but the rate is 33% for LGBTQ NAAN youth. NAAN LGBTQ youth also reported experiencing greater victimization and discrimination compared to non-NAAN LGBTQ peers: Nearly half of NAAN LGBTQ youth reported ever being physically harmed or threatened because of their LGBTQ identity compared to 31% of non-NAAN peers.
As more and more mainstream attention has been paid to Indigenous communities, the term two-spirit has surfaced in popular culture. This term is specific to the Indigenous experience and should not be used to describe someone who is not Indigenous. However, journalists should be aware that not all Indigenous people who are members of the LGBTQ community are two-spirit, though two-spirit people might also call themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Two-spirit people might also use terms from their Indigenous languages to describe their sexual orientations and/or gender identities, although some of their languages do not have terms to describe such experiences. As always, default to the language your source uses to describe themselves.
Please reach out to the below organizations — or GLAAD (firstname.lastname@example.org) — to learn more and connect with spokespeople: