With a change in administrations on Jan. 20, Eric R. Wright, a researcher into health problems and disparities facing minority and other vulnerable communities, sees significant challenges as well as critical opportunities for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) Americans and others in the LGBT community in 2017 and beyond, particularly for those living in Georgia and other parts of the U.S. South.

The Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Georgia State University explained:

• Discrimination against lesbians, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals will be more extensive and more overt because of the rapid rise in socially acceptable hate speech.

• Not surprisingly, this new more openly hostile cultural landscape is resulting in increases in episodes of verbal and physical violence against LGBT people, especially those who are also members of other minority communities.

• The new more hostile climate as well as the uptick in violence targeting LGBT people will take a significant toll on the health of the LGBT people and probably magnify the significant health disparities we see among sexual and gender minorities.

• The negative impact on LGBT health we will likely see will only be compounded by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and/or changes in state or federal health policy that limit access to quality healthcare for LGBT people.

Wright pointed out that the dramatic recent surge in anti-LGBT rhetoric, however, is unlikely to be successful in reversing the long term, global social trends toward greater social inclusiveness and social justice for minorities:

• There is a growing awareness in LGBT communities as well as within other minority groups that are being targeted in this backlash that they must ban together to fight against this backlash and be vigilant in their work to expand the protections for all vulnerable communities.

• Now, there is a small, but growing body of research – and real world evidence – that discrimination is truly “bad for business.” Indeed, the negative economic fallout from Indiana and North Carolina have materially benefited Georgia.

• More generally, social science and business research suggest that states and communities that embrace diversity and work harder to be more socially inclusive are more creative and attractive places to people and stimulate longer-term and more robust economic development.

Eric R. Wright is a Professor of Sociology and Public Health and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Georgia State University. He also is a Senior Faculty Research Scholar at the LGBT Institute at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. To reach Wright, email him at [email protected], or call 404-413-6527.

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