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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Harvard, NPR & RWJF: Poll Finds a Majority of LGBTQ Americans Report Violence, Threats, or Sexual Harassment Related to Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity; One-Third Report Bathroom Harassment

This report is part of a series titled “Discrimination in America.” The series is based on a survey conducted for National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. While many surveys have explored Americans’ beliefs about discrimination, this survey asks people about their own personal experiences with discrimination.

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Majority of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered, and Queer (or Questioning) (LGBTQ) people say they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have experienced violence, threats, or sexual harassment because they are LGBTQ; 34 percent report harassment in bathrooms

Chart 1 shows that a majority of all LGBTQ Americans polled say that they or a friend or family member who is also LGBTQ have experienced multiple forms of discrimination. Among all LGBTQ people, 57 percent say that they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been threatened or non-sexually harassed because of their LGBTQ identity. A majority of LGBTQ people also says they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been sexually harassed (51 percent) or experienced violence (51 percent) because they are LGBTQ.

Additionally, 34 percent of all LGBTQ people say that they or an LGBTQ friend or family member have been verbally harassed in the bathroom when entering or while using a bathroom, or been told or asked if they were using the wrong bathroom (Chart 1). For this question, there are too few transgender respondents to analyze separately. 

Nearly one in five LGBTQ people avoid medical care out of concern for discrimination; nearly a third of transgender people have no regular doctor

Overall, 16 percent of LGBTQ people report being personally discriminated against because they are LGBTQ when going to a doctor or health clinic, and 18 percent say they have avoided going to a doctor or seeking health care out of concern that they would be discriminated against or treated poorly because of their LGBTQ identity.

Regarding health care, 31 percent of all transgender people say have no regular doctor or health care professional who provides most of their health care when sick or having a health concern, and 22 percent say they are currently uninsured.

Dr. Logan Casey, research associate in public opinion at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and deputy director of the survey says, “This report confirms the extraordinarily high levels of violence and harassment in LGBTQ people’s lives. It also shows the serious barriers to health care for LGBTQ and especially transgender people in America.”

Majority of LGBTQ people have personally experienced slurs and offensive comments about their sexual orientation or gender identity

Chart 2 shows that a majority of LGBTQ people have personally experienced various forms of individual discrimination: 57 percent of all LGBTQ people say they have experienced slurs and 53 percent have experienced insensitive or offensive comments or negative assumptions about their sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity.

At least one in five LGBTQ Americans have experienced discrimination in housing, the workplace, or at college because of their LGBTQ identity

At least one in five LGBTQ Americans say they have personally experienced institutional discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity across a wide range of areas of life.

Overall, 22 percent of LGBTQ people say they have been personally discriminated against because of their LGBTQ identity when trying to rent a room or apartment or buy a house. One in five (20 percent) LGBTQ people say they have been personally discriminated against because they are LGBTQ when applying to or while attending college.

In the workplace, 22 percent of LGBTQ people say they have personally experienced anti-LGBTQ discrimination when it comes to being paid equally or considered for promotion, and 20 percent report this discrimination when applying for jobs.

Additionally, nearly one in six (16 percent) LGBTQ people say they have been discriminated against because of their LGBTQ identity when interacting with police.

For these questions, there are too few transgender respondents to report their experiences separately. The full report presents available results regarding transgender people’s experiences of discrimination.

LGBTQ people of color twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to report anti-LGBTQ discrimination when applying for jobs and interacting with police, and six times more likely to have avoided calling the police for fear of discrimination

As Chart 3 shows, LGBTQ people of color are more than twice as likely as white LGBTQ people to say they have been personally discriminated against because of their LGBTQ identity when applying for jobs and when interacting with police.

Nearly a third (32 percent) of LGBTQ people of color say they have personally experienced discrimination because of their LGBTQ identity when applying for jobs, compared to 13 percent of white LGBTQ individuals. Similarly, 24 percent of LGBTQ people of color say they have personally experienced discrimination because they are LGBTQ when interacting with the police, compared to 11 percent of white LGBTQ people (Chart 3).

Additionally, 30 percent of LGBTQ people of color say they have avoided calling the police or other authority figures, even when in need, out of concern they would be discriminated against because they are LGBTQ. Only 5 percent of white LGBTQ people report this avoidance.

LGBTQ people divided over whether individual prejudice or discriminatory laws is the bigger problem for discrimination against LGBTQ people today

Overall, 90 percent of all LGBTQ people believe, generally speaking, that there is discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in America today, and 91 percent of all LGBTQ people believe there is discrimination against transgender people in America today.

Among those who believe anti-LGBTQ discrimination exists, one-third (33 percent) say the bigger problem is discrimination based in laws and government policies, while 43 percent say discrimination based on individual level prejudice. Another 23 percent say that both forms of discrimination are equally a problem (Chart 4).

Older LGBTQ people (50+) are more likely than younger LGBTQ people (18 – 49) to identify individual prejudice as the larger problem for anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Younger LGBTQ people are more likely to identify institutional discrimination based in laws and government policies as the larger problem.

Survey Background

The survey was conducted January 26 – April 9, among a nationally representative, probability-based telephone (cell and landline) sample of 3,453 adults age 18 or older. The survey included nationally representative samples of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, as well as white Americans; men and women, and LGBTQ adults. This report presents the results specifically for a nationally representative probability sample of 489 LGBTQ U.S. adults. Other reports analyze each other group, and the final report will discuss major highlights from the series.

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