Hunger Nearly Five Times as Prevalent with LGBTQ Communities
A 53-year-old transgender woman named Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, the New York Times reported last year, has relied on food pantries for years because finding a job is so much more challenging because of her identity.
You have heard the statistics—one in 10 of our neighbors in our service area are hungry today. As staggering as this number is, it’s not the full picture.
For LGBTQ communities in Minnesota, the rate is almost five times higher.
Forty-five percent of the respondents in this LGBTQ health survey reported being hungry in the last year. This number came from the Rainbow Health Initiative (RHI)’s 2016 Voices of Health survey, which collects data about a variety of health issues within the LGBTQ communities, including information about tobacco use, homelessness, general health access and food security.
John Parker-Der Boghossian, the Equity & Inclusion Education Manager at RHI, said the Voices of Health survey provides much-needed perspective about how different communities are affected differently by the health care system, especially because there is so much misinformation when it comes to LGBTQ communities.
It is paramount to consider food when talking about health, which is why RHI started asking about food security in 2012.
Hunger can be the result of many systemic circumstances, but there’s an added layer for the LGBTQ communities: Because of challenges with acceptance from loved ones, many LGBTQ folks who come across financial challenges don’t have a safety net. “Some folks can’t rely on family to support them through things,” John said. “We have disproportionately high numbers of LGBTQ homeless youth, and we have high numbers of homeless adults.”
As an LGBTQ person grows older and works to get established, they may face additional challenges. “Especially if someone is transgender, they tend to experience troubles in the workplace because employers don’t know how to handle that,” John said, “so the trans person ends up bouncing from job to job. And that creates stress and instability for folks.”
From Tanya’s experience, the difference is palpable: “As soon as they realize you’re trans, you see their face changes; everything stops right there,” Tanya told the New York Times.
It’s cyclical, and one of the biggest barriers for LGBTQ folks when overcoming this barrier is that some Minnesotans don’t believe there’s a problem in the first place. “There’s a mythology of affluence in the queer communities,” John said. “But that just isn’t true. For some, it is much better, but for some, it is very much not. We have two trans people running for city council, but at the same time, we have trans folks being denied care because of their identity in the metro area.”
“There’s this [false] singular narrative when listening to policymakers,” John added, “that LGBTQ communities don’t need SNAP or other food assistance because they don’t have [children of their own] so they have disposable incomes.”
Even if food insecure LGBTQ Minnesotans could really use food assistance, John said, they likely won’t because of the stigma. “They don’t want to visit a food pantry because they don’t want a handout—they don’t want to enroll in SNAP because they don’t want a handout,” John said. “They’ve internalized this belief that if you’re getting assistance, somehow they’re lesser. They’re deliberately not accessing resources because of that belief.”
No person should be hungry—not a single neighbor. Second Harvest Heartland is proud to support our neighbors, inclusive of all identities and backgrounds through being part of the Pride parade and working to reduce stigma associated with getting food assistance.