Are Blacks Growing More Comfortable Identifying as LGBT?

Generic image (Thinkstock)
Generic image (Thinkstock)

(The Root) — At a time when more laws are being put in place to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, an increasing number of African-American adults are calling themselves LGBT. An estimated 1,018,700, or 3.7 percent, of black adults consider themselves LGBT, and 34 percent of African-American same-gender couples are raising children, according to a recently released study by UCLA Williams Institute Scholars.


The study also details socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of African-American LGBT individuals and African-American same-gender couples in the U.S., the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports.

Increasingly, African-American adults in the LGBT community appear to be growing more comfortable with their identity, and society appears to be growing more comfortable with defending their rights. This summer the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by states. And in 2011 President Barack Obama certified the repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell," the policy that barred gays from openly serving in the military. As for "Don't ask, don't tell" in the black church? Well, that's still a work in progress.

An estimated 84,000 African-American individuals in same-gender couples tend to live in areas where there are higher proportions of blacks, according to the report. For example, a quarter of African-American same-gender couples live in Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Maryland.

Findings also include overall higher unemployment rates — 15 percent among LGBT African Americans, compared with 12 percent among their non-LGBT counterparts. It also shows a lower percentage with a college degree — 23 percent among LGBT African Americans, compared with 26 percent for non-LGBT blacks.

However, these disadvantages are not present among African-Americans in same-gender couples. 25% of African-Americans in same-gender couples have completed a college degree, compared to 22% of African-Americans in different-sex couples. In addition, 71% of African-Americans in same-gender couples are employed compared to 68% of their counterparts in different-sex couples.

Another interesting highlight is that LGBT African-American females and African-American females in same-gender couples are three times more likely to report military service than non-LGBT black women.

Notably, almost one in 10 African-American females in same-gender couples report serving in the military. While African-American males in same-gender couples are less likely to serve in the military than those in different-gender couples (13% versus 25%), the rate of reported military service for African-American males in same-gender couples is still about one in seven individuals.

The report considers the characteristics of adults who identify as LGBT using the Gallup Daily tracking survey. Data from the 2008-2010 American Community Survey are used to consider characteristics of both married and unmarried same-gender couples. U.S. Census 2010 data are used to report the number of same-gender couples in the U.S. All surveys include respondents who identify as African-American (non-Hispanic) when asked to describe their race.