Members of the LGBTQIA+ community face higher rates of discrimination than the general population in America. Discrimination can range from in-person or online harassment to physical and sexual violence.
Knowing how to respond after experiencing discriminatory behavior can improve your mental and physical well-being. Below, find recommendations to help yourself in these difficult situations.
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Violence and Discrimination Against the LGBTQIA+ Community
LGBTQIA+ people face discrimination and violence at higher levels than straight, cisgender people do. And those rates of discrimination and violence are increasing.
GLAAD’s 2022 Accelerating Acceptance study reported 70% of LGBTQIA+ Americans reported personally experiencing discrimination. That represented a significant jump from 59% in 2021 and 46% in 2020.
The GLAAD study isn’t alone. Multiple other reports show higher statistics of discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ people:
- A 2022 survey from the Center for American Progress reported LGBTQIA+ individuals “experience significantly higher rates of discrimination” than non-LGBTQIA+ individuals. That included higher reported rates of discrimination at work, in school, in health care, and more. LGBTQIA+ individuals were more likely to report that the discrimination affected their physical, mental, financial, and spiritual well-being.
- A 2020 study reported LGBTQIA+ people were almost four times more likely than non-LGBTQIA+ people to become victims of violence. They experienced higher rates of serious violence, including rape or sexual assault and aggravated assault. They were also more likely to face violence from well-known and unknown perpetrators. The study analyzed the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey.
According to these studies and others, the higher rates of discrimination and violence against LGBTQIA+ people hold true across different races and ethnicities.
Tips for Responding to Anti-LGBTQIA+ Discrimination and Violence
When you experience anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination and/or violence, taking the right steps is key for your mental and physical well-being. Below, find tips on what you should do to care for yourself after experiencing discrimination or violence.
1. Get the medical care you need
If you experience violence, it’s important to get the care you need from a medical professional.
If you suffer injuries that are life-threatening, call 911 or visit the nearest emergency department for care. But even if your injuries are not life-threatening, you should still seek care with a primary care physician, urgent care, or another medical professional.
“It’s an important act of self-love to seek out care and support after something like that happens,” says Joy Gero, PsyD, director, Population Health and Improvement, and program manager, LGBTQIA+ Health, UPMC.
Like people in other marginalized communities, LGBTQIA+ people report facing discrimination in health care settings more often than non-LGBTQIA+ people. That may cause them to not seek care, even if they’re injured. But Dr. Gero says it’s crucial to get the care you need in those situations.
“Especially when we’re talking about life-threatening injuries, we would want you to go to the emergency department,” she says. “Even if your patient experience isn’t great, you can give us critical feedback after we make sure you get the help you need. That also allows us the opportunity to step up, apologize, and do better in the future.
“Not seeking care puts you in a much worse situation.”
Dr. Gero says people can search for LGBTQIA+ affirming doctors online.
2. Seek out appropriate resources
Along with getting medical care, you may want or need to take advantage of other important community resources.
For example, people who are victims of domestic violence can seek out resources in their community. Victims of violent crimes may need to seek out organizations in their community that can help them.
If you’re experiencing a mental health crisis as a result of what you’ve experienced, calling a crisis line can save your life. Examples include the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and the Trevor Project.
3. Report what happened
Many cases of anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination, harassment, and violence go unreported. Like other marginalized communities, LGBTQIA+ people fear that reporting discrimination will not solve the problem. Some may worry that the mistreatment will get worse.
It is not always easy to report cases of discrimination, harassment, or violence. Maybe you worry that you won’t be taken seriously or that you’ll be ignored.
But it can still be an important step. And it could have a significant impact on preventing future discrimination and violence against you and others.
In cases of violent crime, you may decide to go to the police. If you experience discrimination at school, work, a business, or in a health care setting, report it to the appropriate authorities.
That may be school leadership, a human resources department, hospital leaders, and so forth. The internet provides another outlet for you to report discrimination.
Many people who experience anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination or violence end up becoming advocates in the LGBTQIA+ community, Dr. Gero says. That can help raise awareness about the problems LGBTQIA+ community members continue to face.
4. Talk to someone
There are different levels of discrimination LGBTQIA+ people can face. These can include bullying, unequal treatment, and violence. But in any situation, talking to someone you trust about what happened and how it made you feel can help.
If you’re experiencing significant emotional distress, talking to a therapist may help. Many LGBTQIA+ people feel most comfortable talking to a therapist who is affirming to the LGBTQIA+ community.
But even if you don’t want to talk to a therapist, there are other people you can talk to about your experience:
- Family members.
- LGBTQIA+ allies.
- Online support communities.
- Other members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Faith/spiritual leaders.
“There are many outlets for support,” Dr. Gero says. “It doesn’t have to be a therapist.”
Talking to someone can help you understand that what happened was wrong and that it’s OK to have feelings about it. Bottling up your emotions can have a significant impact on your long-term mental health. Traumatic experiences can lead to anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health concerns.
Dr. Gero says it’s possible for mental health struggles to develop even if you take all the right steps to avoid them. But seeking care is still important.
“We’re doing the things that we know can help keep ourselves safe post-trauma,” she says. “If we still become injured from a psychological perspective, that doesn’t mean we did anything wrong or we weren’t doing enough.”
5. Practice self-care
Taking care of yourself after going through a traumatic experience like discrimination or violence can be important. Dr. Gero says routine activities like eating can help you take control of your own situation. It’s also important to prioritize sleep.
“Returning to your routine as soon as possible can help people go back to their baseline,” Dr. Gero says.
Dr. Gero recommends avoiding caffeine and alcohol. These substances can worsen symptoms of anxiety or depression. They can also interfere with sleep.
6. Avoid self-blame
Dr. Gero says many LGBTQIA+ people who are the targets of discrimination or violence blame themselves on at least some level.
“I would say that’s the most common response, especially for survivors of sexual or domestic violence,” she says. “I think many people engage in self-blame and talk about what they could or couldn’t have done.”
Many times, people use self-blame as a form of protection, Dr. Gero says. We think if we can change something we did, maybe it won’t happen again. Also, since relationships are co-created, people may think they played a part in what happened.
But it’s important to recognize that the perpetrator is at fault for the discriminatory or violent behavior, not you. Recognizing that may be difficult, which is why talking with a therapist or someone else may be helpful.
7. Have self-compassion
You may be feeling any number of emotions after experiencing discrimination or violence. It’s important to recognize that whatever you’re feeling is OK. Depending on what you’re feeling, you can seek the proper channels for help.
“You’re going to have a range of emotions,” Dr. Gero says. “Allow yourself to have your range of emotions and practice self-compassion. Think through — how do you manage this to get your needs met?”
Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community is still prevalent in the U.S. It’s important to know that help is out there when you need it, and helping yourself is an important act of self-care.
At UPMC, we have affirming and knowledgeable providers as well as integrated clinical services for the LGBTQIA+ community. To find out about resources for LGBTQIA+ patients and caregivers at UPMC, visit our website.
Center for American Progress, Discrimination and Barriers to Well-Being: The State of the LGBTQI+ Community in 2022. Link
Andrew R. Flores, Lynn Langton, Ilan H. Meyer, and Adam P. Romero, Science Advances, Victimization Rates and Traits of Sexual and Gender Minorities in the United States: Results from the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2017. Link
GLAAD, Accelerating Acceptance 2022. Link
U.S. Department of Justice, Violent Victimization by Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, 2017–2020. Link
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