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Gay and Transgender Women by the Numbers

An International Women’s Day Snapshot of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Women in America

SOURCE: AP/Paul Sakuma

Lesbian Army Sgt. Tina Stidman, left, smiles with her domestic partner Julie Snider, right, during a 2005 rally in California to support gay and lesbian rights in the military. Lesbian couples were three times more likely to serve in the U.S. military between 1990 and 2000 compared to women generally. 

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Over the past century, women have made tremendous advancements in politics, family life, and culture both in the United States and throughout the world. People are celebrating these monumental achievements and pushing for further changes to level the playing field for women worldwide on the 103rd International Women’s Day on March 8. Those changes can’t come fast enough for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women in our nation.

Overall, these women are more likely to experience more socioeconomic and health inequalities than their heterosexual counterparts and even more inequalities than male gay and transgender Americans. Moreover, many of these inequalities are even worse for gay and transgender women of color. On a day dedicated to women, it is vital to remember how far gay and transgender women still have to go in the fight for equality in our country. So let’s look at some of the numbers behind these women.

Families and children

  • 51 percent: The amount of black women in same-sex households who are raising children—only 20 percent of white women in same-sex households are raising children
  • 38 percent: The number of lesbians and bisexual women who had their first child before they were 20 years old—only 22 percent of heterosexual women did so
  • 49 percent: The amount of lesbians and bisexual women who say they have had a child
  • One-third: The percentage of lesbians without children who want to have children
  • Three-quarters: The percentage of bisexual women without children who want to have children

Economic insecurity

  • 20 percent: The amount of female same-sex couples who are raising children and living in poverty, compared to 9 percent of married heterosexual couples who are raising children and living in poverty
  • $41,000: The average income of Hispanic lesbian couples—the average household income of a Hispanic heterosexual couple is $44,420
  • 21.1 percent: The poverty rate of black lesbian couples versus 4.3 percent for white lesbian couples and 14.4 percent for black gay male couples
  • Twice as likely: Lesbian couples who are 65 or older are twice as likely to be poor as heterosexual married couples that are the same age.

Health disparities and HIV/AIDS

  • 35 percent: The number of black lesbians and bisexual women who have had a mammogram in the past two years, compared to 60 percent of white lesbians and bisexual women
  • 28 percent: The amount of transgender women in some communities who test positive for HIV
  • Almost 50 percent: The amount of black lesbians who have experienced some form of domestic violence, compared to 25 percent of heterosexual women of all races

Military service

  • 82 percent: The number of lesbian couples who have served in the U.S. military and who reported serving for more than two years, compared to 74 percent of all other women who have served and reported similarly
  • Three times more: Lesbian couples were three times more likely to serve in the U.S. military between 1990 and 2000 compared to women generally
  • 11 times more: Black lesbians are 11 times more likely to serve in the U.S. military compared to women generally
  • Nearly 1 in 10: The number of lesbian couples ages 63 to 67 who both report serving in the Korean War, compared with less than 1 in 100 of other women

These numbers should cause all Americans to reflect upon the challenges of gay and transgender women in our nation today and celebrate their sacrifices for our national security. This next century needs to be about equality for all women regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Crosby Burns is a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress’s LGBT Progress project. Melissa Dunn is an LGBT Research and Communications intern at the Center.

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