Study proves black LGBT community no longer invisible

OPINION - Black LGBT people are here and they’re here to stay. However, nothing is more important for full equality than being out, particularly if you’re Black and gay...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

A new Gallup survey, the largest of its kind, found that people of color are more likely to identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT).

In fact, the poll showed that 4.6 percent of African-Americans identify as LGBT along with 4 percent of Latinos and 4.3 percent of Asian-Americans. Only 3.2 percent of white Americans say they are LGBT.

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), the nation’s leading black LGBT civil rights organization, has been at the forefront advocating on behalf of black LGBT people and their families. The findings in the Gallup survey reiterate that black LGBT people are Black, too, and LGBT people are not only black, but predominantly so.

The data tells us the truth that we see daily in our lives, families, churches and communities—a narrative quite different from the ones we witness in the media and in the political arena.

While it is easy to get lost in the rhetoric that pits “black” against “gay” or depicts the LGBT community as wealthy white gay men, failing to recognize that our black families are comprised of black LGBT parents, siblings, children, co-workers and friends is a failure to recognize the full Black narrative and our collective power. Radical right wing groups have been working overtime to “divide and conquer” the black vote during this critical election year, attempting to make marriage equality a “wedge issue.” But research continues to show that these groups are fighting a losing battle.

Not only does the Gallup poll reinforce that NBJC and our programming like the annual OUT on the Hill Black LGBT Leadership Summit are needed more than ever, it supports previous data that communities at the intersection are largely underrepresented. According to the report LGBT Families of Color: Facts at a Glance, when compared with white same-sex couples, Black same-sex couples are more likely to parent children and earn a lower annual income. Additionally, the 2000 U.S. Census reported that there are almost 85,000 black same-sex couples in the United States (African Americans make up 13 percent of the United States population, while Black same-sex households are 14 percent of all same-sex households in the U.S.).

The proof is in the pudding. Black LGBT people are here and they’re here to stay. However, nothing is more important for full equality than being out, particularly if you’re black and gay. We have the data, now it’s time to have the dialogue. The black LGBT community needs to be visible, be proud, and live their lives—authentically and unapologetically. It is up to black America to start the often hard-to-have conversations within our homes, churches, schools and workplaces. There’s a proud and out family of tens of thousands of black LGBT people and allies ready and waiting to welcome our black LGBT brothers and sisters home.

Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks serves as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), which is a national civil rights organization, dedicated to empowering Black LGBT people. NBJC’s mission is to eradicate racism and homophobia. For more information about NBJC, visit