March 8 is International Women’s Day – first celebrated over 100 years ago. International Women’s Day brings attention to women around the world- the underserved, the underrepresented, the undervalued, the invisible, the hardworking, the poor.
In October 2011, Family Equality Council, along with the Movement Advancement Project and the Center for American Progress, released a report on how laws and social policies disadvantage the children of parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT). The report confirmed some facts we already knew: laws that restrict children’s access to necessary programs and services deny children stable, loving homes, economic security, and health and well-being.
Other findings were more surprising. For example, the states with the highest percentage of LGBT parents raising children are Mississippi, Wyoming, Alaska, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Kansas. There is something else these states have in common: they all lack basic protections for LGBT people. In these states, you can be fired for being transgender or gay, kicked out of your apartment, denied service in a restaurant, prevented from creating a legal relationship with your child.
There are two million children across the country living with LGBT parents. 40 years of social science research shows that these children grow up as happy and healthy as the children of married different-sex parents. But negative laws and social policy take their toll.
1 in 5 children of LGBT parents lives in poverty, compared to 1 in 10 children of different-sex parents. Neither percentage is acceptable. Families of color have even higher rates of poverty. 32% of lesbian Black and Latina families raising children live in poverty. 41% of Native American children raised by lesbians live in poverty.
These families, these women, these children, face unendurable barriers. Being LGBT can be difficult and costly. Being a woman can be difficult and costly. Being a person of color can be difficult and costly. Raising a child while being an LGBT woman of color is almost impossible, and we are seeing the consequences. Discrimination, job loss, the price of protecting your relationship with your child, especially in a state that makes it very difficult – these costs are sending families into poverty. And it is nearly impossible to escape from the cycle of poverty when the crucial safety nets let you slip right through.
This International Women’s Day, let us lift up the women, the children, the families, who are living at the intersections. The intersections of identity. The intersections of poverty. The intersections of life. This International Women’s Day, say thank you to an LGBT parent in your life. Lobby your local city council or state legislature to add LGBT parents to a bill that might help them. Donate resources, time, money, food to an organization that works to help these families. Tell your story as a parent to five people and ask them to pass it on.
Every day should be International Women’s Day. But let us take this one day to commit ourselves to raising up those of us whom our laws and social policy disadvantage. And let us keep that pledge all year round.