As Clarifi celebrates LGBTQ+ History Month this October, we had the pleasure to speak with Andrew Spiers about the financial obstacles members of the LGBTQ+ community face. Andrew Spiers, LSW (he/him), is the Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Housing First University (HFU), the educational initiative of Pathways to Housing PA. HFU provides custom training to organizations and communities on the Housing First model, harm reduction, integrated care, and service delivery best practices, including LGBTQ+ competency. Andrew is a person of queer and trans experience, and a former Clarifi client.
“Most financial challenges that the LGBTQ+ community faces stem from a lack of basic legal protections.” Spiers said, “Additionally, many folks are given an unfair disadvantage in the way they’re treated in their youth. 58% of LGBTQ+ students in Pennsylvania report discrimination in schools, with 1/6th of those who identify as transgender reporting enough harassment that they end up dropping out. This creates a snowball effect, if a person doesn’t have a high school diploma or equivalent, it can be even harder to seek and maintain a job.” Last year, the Supreme Court ruling protecting LGBTQ+ folks from employment discrimination moved things in the right direction, Spiers said, but it can be costly to fight anti-discrimination suits in courts. Spiers also talks about the hidden financial costs of starting a family. “Surrogacy can cost well over $100,000, between legal fees and adoption costs, as well as determining parental and custody statuses.” Spiers also emphasized the high percentage of LGBTQ+ youth involved in the school to prison pipeline, particularly youth of color. Rejection in schools and families can contribute to this stress, and Spiers states that 20% of all incarcerated youth identify as LGBTQ+, with 40% of incarcerated girls identifying as LGBTQ+.
Speaking as a trans man, Spiers has unique insight on the varied challenges that different subsections of the LGBTQ+ community face. “Trans folks are four times more likely to have an income lower than $10,000 per year, and experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population. Furthermore, Black trans folks experience unemployment at four times the rate of the general population.” Spiers explains that healthcare, even when it is accessible, can be challenging to navigate because healthcare companies often vary in what they cover, including gender affirming surgeries or gender affirming hormone treatments. Fighting for these procedures to be covered can be costly and timely. “There are additional barriers around documentation”, Spiers adds, “changing names and gender markers can involve lawyers, doctors, courts, judges and fees, depending on where you live. It can be incredibly expensive and confusing. And on top of that, if your documentation doesn’t match up with your gender expression or presentation, that can also become an obstacle for employment.”
As eviction and foreclosure moratoria have been lifted across the region, it has become more evident than ever that housing discrimination is on the rise. This discrimination extends to the LGBTQ+ community, and unlike the recent Supreme Court ruling banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, state and federal protections against gender and sexuality discrimination are still lacking. According to Spiers, “22 states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexuality, and only 20 prohibit discrimination on gender identity.” It is clear that awareness must be raised about the discrimination this community faces with something even as basic as housing, as so many Americans are facing a similar struggle.
With this in mind, Spiers stresses that equality must be sought after in different parts of life, including legislation. “So many of the problems, including financial, that the community faces stem from the discrimination we face.” For advice about better responding to the needs of the community, Spiers emphasized competent, affirming, and knowledgeable training in workplaces, and to create a network of resources for the most marginalized in the community.
If you or a loved one is facing discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, Andrew Spiers has provided the following local organizations that provide services to members of the LGBTQ+ community:
For more information on HFU services, you can contact Andrew at email@example.com.