Living in the South as an LGBTQ+ individual has many challenges. The Southeastern United States has historically been a bastion of conservative and evangelical Christian culture. The role of the South in the history of the United States is well-known, and although things are changing, there is still much cultural intolerance present across the Southeastern United States. For LGBTQ+ individuals living in the South, many of the problems and disadvantages faced nationally by the LGBTQ+ community are magnified.
Lack of Social and Professional Acceptance
First and foremost is a lack of social and professional acceptance. If individuals cannot find a job and a community where they are treated equally, they are severely disadvantaged in almost every aspect of their lives. Out Leadership produced a 2021 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index. Each state was evaluated on five sections with respect to LGBTQ+ individuals. These criteria were:
- Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections
- Youth and Family Support
- Political and Religious Attitudes
- Health Access and Safety
- Work Environment and Employment
Each section totaled 20 points and accounted for 1/5 of the index total. The Southeastern Region, which included Virginia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina, had an average index score of 49 out of 100. For comparison, the Northeastern Region, consisting of 11 states, was the most empowering with an average index score of 84.
Another challenge is insurance. According the Williams Institute of the UCLA Center for Law, LGBTQ+ individuals are at a disadvantage when compared to non-LGBTQ+ individuals in America. Some key findings that affect access to health insurance are:
- 9% of LGBTQ+ individuals are unemployed, compared to 5% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals
- 15% of LGBTQ+ individuals are uninsured, compared to 12% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals
- 27% of LGBTQ+ individuals are food insecure, compared to 15% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals
- 25% of LGBTQ+ individuals have an annual income of less than $24,000, compared to 18% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals
These are national averages, but the Southeastern United States has more poverty and income disparity, historically than other parts of the U.S.
The Anti-LGBTQ+ Legislation
Adding to these challenges is the record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state legislatures. According to a March 2022 NBC News article: “State lawmakers have proposed a record 238 bills that would limit the rights of LGBTQ+ Americans this year — or more than three per day — with about half of them targeting transgender people specifically.” The number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed each year has rapidly increased from 41 bills in 2018 to 238 bills in less than three months of 2022.
What does all this mean for the LGBTQ+ community?
There is a lack of tolerance for this segment of the population. According to Michaelangelo Signorile, the editor-at-large for the Huffington Post’s Gay Voices section, four of the five worst states for the LGBTQ+ community are in the South. They are Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. For these states, as an example, only 32% of people believe in the freedom to marry.
Dealing with Pressure the Wrong Way
The pressure to fit in is great, but the resistance is even greater. How is this strong undercurrent of suppression showing up today? We are finding that many LGBTQ+ individuals are trying to escape the pressures by drinking themselves blind. This is a significant problem that needs attention. The plight of alcoholism is real for this group. The long-term goal is social and economic parity. One piece of good news is that there is an increased amount of public focus that has begun to shift toward the South and the expansion of acceptance and rights for LGBTQ+ people in the region.
Dealing with Pressure the Right Way
In the meantime, resources need to be made available to this population. They need to know there is a better alternative than turning to alcohol. One such resource is treatment centers. La Fuente, for example, specializes in treating LGBTQ+ individuals. We can only imagine how strong the pull is to be able to numb the feelings of hurt, discrimination, etc., with the use of alcohol. But without some type of intervention, this region of the country could have an added social epidemic–excessive rates of alcoholism among the LGBTQ+ community. You can learn more about our center by calling us at 888.903.9898 or contacting us online.