The Kyriarchy Is Killing Us: Survey Says LGBT Women Poorer, Less Healthy Than Everyone Else

Because of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and institutionalized discrimination, LGBT women are less healthy and less wealthy than everyone else in America. This is not a drill. The kyriarchy is killing us.


Recently-released survey results from the Gallup Well-Being Project spotlighted the differences between LGBT and non-LGBT men and women’s physical, social, financial, and community well-being, and they didn’t paint a pretty picture for LGBT women across geographic and demographic lines. The survey, conducted from January 1 to June 23 through interviews with 2,964 LGBT adults and 81,134 non-LGBT adults, asked questions about five broad areas — social and community belonging, finances, physical health, and even life purpose — and then categorized into one of three categories: thriving, struggling, and suffering.  

Almost across the board, LGBT women reported the lowest well-being overall and by category of both their LGBT and non-LGBT counterparts, and they also tended to experience larger gaps in well-being from non-LGBT women than LGBT men did with their non-LGBT counterparts. For lesbian, bisexual, and trans women in America, the hard-won victories of the feminist and queer rights movements haven’t made as large an impact on improving their lives.


A quick review of the data shows that women aren’t thriving at home, at work, or in their social lives in the same way as LGBT men or non-LGBT adults overall. Only 27% of LGBT women reported they were “thriving” financially, only 24% reported thriving physically, less than 40% reported thriving socially or within their communities, and only 32% of LGBT women feel they have a purpose in life. (AUTHOR’S NOTE: 100% of you have a purpose in life.)

Throughout the results, the differences between LGBT women and men are sometimes just as great as those between non-LGBT women and their queer counterparts. That paints a picture I’ve explored before: the lived realities of an existence at the intersections of oppression. For LGBT women, their sex, gender, and/or sexuality may be working against them; as you can imagine, these challenges must be more treacherous for women of color, poor women, and unemployed women who are facing the added factors of race, class, and financial instability as they navigate their everyday lives.

We’ve explored the myriad ways in which LGBT women are f*cked by society pretty regularly at Autostraddle, and as of late, data has shown that there are real consequences for the systemic inequities embedded in the instututions of our lives. Lesbians have consistently higher rates of poverty than heterosexual women, and those numbers persist outside of the recession. Discrimination against trans people has a bonafide statistical impact on their mental and physical health. Because of widespread misinformation about sexual health for LGB women, four out of ten lesbians aren’t being screened for cervical cancer as regularly as they should be,  and because of widespread alienation within and outside of the LGT community for bisexual individuals, they are less likely to seek out help specific to their medical needs. We know that disparities in health care compound for the elderly, that LGBT workers of color suffer the brunt of a lack of protections for sexuality, gender identity, and racial discrimination at work and in the hiring process, and that women suffer the brunt of consequences for America’s dismal minimum wage, which keeps women and their families in poverty. We also know that women aren’t well represented in clinical trials, leaving us more vulnerable to risks associated with FDA-approved medication.

For trans women of color, community belonging may feel impossible in light of endemic levels of targeted violence; for LGBT workers of color who are women, the wage gap can coincide with a lack of nondiscrimination protections to create financial strife; for bisexual and lesbian women, finding health care providers who can effectively treat them with regard to their identities and their budget can often prove impossible. (This report comes on the heels of another Gallup study which found LGBT folks were more likely than their non-LGBT counterparts to be uninsured, mostly because of financial insecurity, and that LGBT women are twice as likely as non-LGBT women to lack a personal doctor.)

“Women [in the study] have this more significant financial disadvantage probably because they’re getting doubly the effects of being LGBT and being women,” Gary Gates, the study’s author, told Take Part. That phenomena, however, isn’t just restricted to financial well-being. It’s something that’s deeply impacting the lives of LGBT women across all the categories measured in the survey, and the results illustrate it starkly.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. While it doesn’t surprise me that LGBT women are disadvantaged in ways that non-LGBT people and men are not, I’m not sure how I feel about statistics drawn from sample group sizes with a difference of 78,170.

  2. Not that I’m disputing the overall results of this study, but what kind of criteria were outlined for “thriving, struggling and suffering”? I mean, hell, I wouldn’t be able to identify with any of those words for my own personal situation.

  3. I didn’t expect there to be such widespread disparities. I was under the impression that as people left adolescence and young adulthood things got better. Though, it makes that barriers to education and familial care are going to long lasting consequences.

  4. I would really like to have seen this broken down further, to take a look at disparity between people of different identities and intersecting groups. Default though the term may be, LGBT encompases a lot of seriously separate groups of people who shouldn’t be conflated with one another.
    I don’t think much of these numbers if they aren’t drawing those types of distinctions.

  5. It is no surprise that lesbians are far from the straight mean of healthy gender success. First America is a sexist society with men ruling. That’s one strike that produces stress for lesbians. Lesbians couples makes them doubly exposed. Men who love men are higher up in vocational and financial status than lesbians and typical males but this doesn’t necessarily play out that they help lesbians ebcause of their sexuality, on the contrary gay men don’t like women very much and lesbians don’t like men very much. Plus the whole world is basically run by men, a feather in the cap of gay men not gay women.

  6. it’s hard to have a purpose in life, given het family emphasis in everything my age group (40s) does. Being strongly hedonist-identified helps somewhat.

    face it, we gay women got screwed over twice, not just by men but also by historically allowing our sexuality to be hijacked for a greater cause while all gay men got involved in was cruising public loos (i’m looking at you George Michael). So strongly ideologically aligning with ‘not liking men’, at the expense of the message of liking women obv was a culture-level mistake. Gay men look down on women, everyone and their dog knows that – but i do admire their common sense in never putting that in writing, nevermind in documents of cultural importance.

      • of course it means that. AT LEAST thrice. That the chain of causes and consequences runs too deep and has too many variables for me to go on about it here and now is only a minor obstacle – the greater obstacle to putting it in direct text is that people’s minds filter incoming info and if the filter is coopted by something… sinister, pertaining to the realm of infosec… plain text would be ineffective and easily stopped.

        So the 70s begin with transsexual women integrated in the greater society on most levels, inc mainstream and gay community. That collapses within an extremely short timespan of 7 years, and for some mysterious reason the mainstream gets the message last – 1979 Hollywood still managing to sneak in a positive and powerful if assimilationist portrayal of a (futuristic) transsexual woman in a triple A film by one of the top 3 blockbuster directors – but you do not know about the fact even if you have watched it probably like 5 times. Riddle me this – what changed over those 7 years?

  7. This is so sad. I would like to see more research on this that was more specific to different group and with the same sample sizes possibly.

  8. Coming from personal experience of elevating my Self from the trenches; I had to grow… grow up, out, every which way and that is something I hadn’t been shown throughout my life. Adding the dynamic of lesbian sexuality, I felt the minority, even among family/chosen family and friends.
    Society seemed to lack compassion, empathy and sense of direction as did people closer to me which, in my opinion, affected my development as a whole. The Intuitive, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual and Physical energies that make up much of who I am weren’t being nurtured well and I stayed in this adolescent stage of development until I began to awaken to these notions.

    At 30, I was very broken in many ways and thus began a surrender to this transformation… growing and stepping into my power which is both painful and blissful in the same moment. Awakening and gaining clarity of purpose from interpretation of the trenches.

    This is for everyone. oneLove

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