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Identifying High-Impact LGBT Equality & Support Nonprofits

September 20th, 2012 by admin Leave a reply »


At Philanthropedia we are pleased to announce the launch of our research on nonprofits supporting the LGBT community. This is Philanthropedia’s newest addition to our list of causes on which we can supply vital information for donors.

The LGBT Movement is a social justice movement in which lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) people and their straight allies work to bring about equity and well-being to LGBT individuals in various capacities all over the world. For years, nonprofit organizations have been helping to achieve those goals in various ways. Philanthropedia’s research will take a closer look at these organizations and identify top nonprofits achieving their mission in powerful, tangible ways.

Research Scope

In preparation for this research, I spoke with several experts from key organizations working in the issue area of LGBT Equality and Support. Their collective insight has helped define the scope of this research. (Thank you to those of you who offered your time and expertise!)

While attaining LGBT rights and support is a global issue, for capacity reasons this research will focus specifically on identifying organizations within the US. We are asking experts to recommend up to four high-impact organizations working at a national level on LGBT Equality and Support and up to three organizations having a high impact at the local level. Below is an overview of the LGBT nonprofit landscape.

Area of focus within the cause

Over the course of the interviews, experts identified a set of prominent issues that are being worked on in various ways throughout the movement.

  • Aging – Right now, estimates show there are 1.5 million LGBT elders in the United States, and by 2030 that number will nearly double to 3 million LGBT people 65 and older (source: National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce). Issues of ageism and health care access can be easily compounded by homophobia, trans-phobia, and racial and economic injustice. Often LGBT older people don’t have access to adequate health care, affordable housing and other social services they need. This is due both to a lack of resources and a fear of discrimination. One study indicated that LGBT older adults may be as much as five times less likely to access needed health and social services because of their fear of discrimination from the people who are supposed to help them (source: SAGE). This type of social isolation has an enormous impact on the health and well-being of LGBT older adults.
  • Family and Relationship Recognition – –Under Federal and many state laws, same-sex and transgender couples do not receive the same legal protection and recognition as married opposite-sex couples. Not only does the lack of legal recognition invalidate same-sex couples’ commitment, the denial of benefits, tax status, medical decision-making and more is financially and emotionally harmful. Same-sex couples, even those legally recognized by their states, are denied the 1,138 federal benefits available to or required of married opposite-sex couples. LGBT headed families are particularly affected by these prohibitions . There are policies and laws that prevent qualified and caring LGBT people from foster parenting or adopting kids. Additionally, there are laws and practices that interfere in custody and visitation relationships between LGBT parents and their children. These discriminatory practices leave LGBT families vulnerable both economically and socially, which can cause harm for adults and their children.
  • Health & HIV/AIDS –LGBT people suffer disparate health outcomes in numerous health categories. The most visible health struggle in the LGBT community has been the HIV/AIDS epidemic which continues to disproportionally impact gay men, especially men of color. Additionally, negative physical and mental health outcomes ranging from obesity to substance abuse are more prominent in the LGBT community. Lack of heath care, societal pressure, stigmatizing and discriminatory practices by health care providers, and a host of other factors that can contribute to diminished income for LGBT individuals all play an important role in these outcomes.
  • Nondiscrimination – Many LGBT people suffer discrimination in employment, housing, education, medical care and more. For example, in 29 states, a person can be fired solely because that person is gay. If a person is transgender, there are 38 states in which that person can be fired (source: Gill Foundation). The lack of legal protection and attempts to weaken the existing nondiscrimination laws make LGBT individuals vulnerable to discrimination in all aspects of their lives. These conditions significantly hinder even the basic ability to support and care for one’s self and family.
  • Racial & Economic Justice – The LGBT population is vast and diverse in terms of culture, income, and other aspects of identity. Within the movement, there is a growing awareness of the personal and political concerns unique to LGBT individuals who are people of color and/or low income. LGBT immigrants, for example, have a unique set of policy concerns around deportation and relationship recognition. The intersection of these not only has the potential to translate to compounded institutional discrimination, but can also result in marginalization from within their own racial and ethnic communities because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Transgender – People who are transgender and gender nonconforming face issues that are both interrelated with and independent from other populations within the LGBT community.  Often individuals are faced with heightened instances of violence and discrimination. Other issues that are of particular concern in the Transgender community include:
    • Health Care – Trans people are more likely to be uninsured, to be unable to afford to pay for health care out of pocket, and to delay seeking health care because of cost or fear of discrimination (source: IOM). Additionally, insurance plans still frequently exclude coverage of any services for a transition-related medical purpose, even when the same or comparable services are routinely covered for other medical indications.
    • Identity Documents – There are state and federal legal barriers to transgender people obtaining government identity documents appropriate for their gender identity. For example, governments often require proof of surgery and/or court orders to alter identity documents; a set of requirements that have made it impossible for many trans people to obtain an accurate and consistent ID. This requirement limits access to travel, opening bank accounts, starting new jobs, and sometimes voting.
    • Police and Jails – Trans people are at high risk of abuse in prisons, jails, and juvenile detention and there are few regulations to protect them.  The categorical denial of transition-related medical care is common, as is prolonged isolation, which has been shown to have devastating effects on mental health (source: NCTE).
    • Violence and discrimination – These are issues shared across the LGBT community. However, they tend to be experienced more acutely among Trans individuals. For example, LGBT individuals disproportionally experience homelessness. Trans individuals face increased risk of violence within a shelter as well as discrimination from the agencies where they seek help.
    • Violence/Hate Crimes - LGBT people frequently face violence motivated by their sexuality or gender identity. Violence can range in severity from bullying all the way up to murder. While some hate crime legislation is in place, the targeted violence toward the LGBT community represents a significant threat to safety.
  • Youth – Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender can be challenging for young people. LGBT students encounter widespread bullying, harassment, and alienation in high schools and college campuses. Additionally, ex-gay ministries have decisively shifted their focus to young people. These things have likely contributed to the climbing suicide rates as well as the overwhelming rates of homelessness among LGBT youth.


Types of organizations doing this work

The nonprofit landscape of those working for the LGBT cause is broad and diverse. There is a good deal of overlap between the various organizational focuses and categories. In general, it may be helpful to look at the landscape of nonprofit organizations in two broad categories.

  1. Nonprofits working to achieve social justice and equitable treatment for LGBT individuals
  2. Nonprofits working to ensure the mental and physical well being for LGBT individuals

Nonprofits working to achieve social justice and equitable treatment for LGBT individuals

Organizations we’re placing in this category work to change policies and regulations at the national, local and organizational level to ensure safety and equal treatment. This would include:

  • Academic and research organizations
  • Advocacy organizations
  • Legal organizations
  • Public education organizations
  • Watchdog organizations

Nonprofits working to ensure the mental and physical well-being for LGBT individuals

Organizations in this category work in various ways to support individuals, focusing on their emotional, social, spiritual and physical wellness. Organizations in this category include:

  • Community Centers
  • Crisis support centers
  • Faith-based organizations
  • Homeless shelters
  • Medical treatment centers
  • Social clubs and organizations
  • Support groups

Participation in the Research

If you are a nonprofit expert in the field of LGBT Equality & Support, you should have received an email from us with a link to our survey. The survey will be open until early-November, 2012. We hope you will share your perspective and insights!

Experts I interviewed overwhelmingly mentioned that in addition to the rich landscape of nonprofits, there is a passionate network of individual activists and volunteers who fuel this movement. While this research does not highlight individuals (our research is limited to highlighting nonprofits), we hope these individual will contribute to our research so that we can highlight some of the most effective nonprofits working in this sector.

If for some reason we have missed you and you think you have a valuable perspective to offer, please contact Jasmine Marrow at with information about your current position and background, and we will send the survey to you to include your insights.


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