Study finds youth's priorities in LGBT movement differ along racial lines

White, African American, and Latino young people have different priorities for the LGBT movement, according to a new report released by the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago. The report, entitled "Moving Beyond Marriage: What Young People of Color Think about the LGBT Agenda," describes the results of a nationally representative survey of 1500 young people ages 18 to 30 of all different sexual and gender identities.

Although great strides have been made in marriage equality in recent years, different groups of young people feel differently about the prioritization of LGBT issues. This report shows that opinions differ along racial lines. Among the young people surveyed, Black youth believed HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment should be the most important issue for mainstream LGBT organizations to address. However, Latino youth said that bullying should be the most important issue, and white youth believed that same-sex marriage is the most important issue that should continue to be promoted by LGBT organizations.  

One of the report's co-authors, Cathy J. Cohen, explained:

“For the last decade, many LGBT organizations have worked tirelessly to expand marriage rights to same-sex couples and the public has become considerably more acceptant. This report demonstrates that while young people grant strong support to marriage equality, young people—especially young people of color—also believe that several other policies should have greater priority in the fight for LGBT equality, including employment rights and prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.”

More Black and Latino youth expressed that the marriage equality movement has taken too much attention away from other important LGBT issues relevant to their communities, compared to white youth. Along with this, more Black youth than white and Latino youth said that LGBT issues in communities of color have not been well-represented by mainstream LGBT organizations. The fact that Black youth see HIV/AIDS as the most important issue is not surprising given that the CDC in 2010 found young people of color to represent an overwhelming majority of new HIV infections and AIDS diagnoses.

In addition to HIV/AIDS, more Black and Latino youth supported the prioritization of transgender issues than did white youth. Greater percentages of young people of color believed that policies should require police to participate in sensitivity training around transgender issues, and also require health insurers to provide coverage for transgender health issues.

Study co-author Jon C. Rogowski remarked:

“Our findings indicate that young people of color are skeptical about whether mainstream LGBT organizations advocate policies that are important for LGBT individuals in communities of color. The data in this report may provide some guidance about how LGBT organizations may branch out beyond same-sex marriage in advocating on behalf of LGBT youth. While much has been accomplished, young people of color are reminding us that the fight for overall equality is far from over.”

With this in mind, the shifting of priority issues may sooner or later fall in line with the concerns represented in the study, including transgender issues, bullying, HIV/AIDS, youth homelessness, poverty, and decriminalization of LGBT youth. The LGBT community faces a wide range of issues and struggles, and the responses of the youth in the survey show areas that have lacked focus and attention. They also represent opportunities for advocacy for individuals and organizations.