Advocacy Reports

Our advocacy reports.


ORION will sponsor and publish a series of advocacy reports that focus on understanding our impoverished population and how we can best solve problems as a community and American society. The audience for our ORION Advocacy reports is the community at large. We hope to influence local and national policy makers, taxpayers, and organizations and people already involved in anti-poverty work. We intend to intend to identify cracks or gaps in system and develop possible solutions to fill those gaps.

A report on Homelessness and the LGBTQ community. LGBT people are more likely to be impacted by poverty • Twenty percent of LGBT people living alone have annual incomes of less than $12,000, compared to 17% of the general population • Transgender people are four times more likely to have annual incomes of less than $10,000 than the general population, despite having higher rates of education • Single LGBT people with children are 3x more likely to live near the poverty line as their non-LGBT peers • Married/partnered LGBT people with children are 2x more likely to live near the poverty line as their non-LGBT peers This is due, in part, to unfair laws • Only twenty-two states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation (this applies to employment, housing, accommodations, medical treatment, etc.) • Only nineteen states (and Washington DC and Puerto Rico) outlaw discrimination based on gender identity/expression • Transgender people are not allowed to serve openly in the military • Transgender people can be legally denied comprehensive healthcare coverage in 42 states LGBT people are more likely to become homeless • 40% of the homeless youth served by agencies identify as LGBT • 43% of clients served at drop-in centers identify as LGBT • 30% of street outreach clients identify as LGBT • 30% of clients utilizing housing programs identify as LGBT • The most frequently cited factor for LGBT homelessness is familial rejection There are many additional struggles homeless LGBT people face • Difficulty finding shelters that will accept them (federally funded institutions are allowed to discriminate against the LGBT community, and many do) • Discrimination in services related to escaping homelessness • This is all particularly true for the transgender homeless population • The LGBT population also has high educational dropout rates as a result of physical and verbal harassment • LGBT homeless people, particularly youth, are more likely to experience physical and sexual exploitation than their non-LGBT peers, yet there are fewer resources for LGBT people in this situation • LGBT homeless youth often experience harassment and abuse, both verbal and physical, at homeless shelters • LGBT homeless youth are 7 times more likely to trade sex for food or shelter than their non-LGBT peers. By Beth Mies.

A Very Brief Summation of the LGBTQ+ Community and Issues for the Orion Project
By Beth Mies

LGBTQ Training given to the Board of ORION.

Part I: The Basics: Sex, Gender, & Sexual Orientation
Part II: Terminology & ‘Political Correctness’
Part III: LGBTQ+ and homelessness/poverty
Glossary: So Much Terminology

Hello, Orion Project! This is Beth Mies, your intern. I’m a person who you have to see in person sometimes and who might ask you if you’ve read this, so you should consider doing so. Also, the information is helpful and whatnot. You will learn things!
This document is intended to educate you about the LGBTQ+ (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, et cetera) community, as well as explain why this information is important to know. I realize we’ve all had our fill of enormous, dense required reading PDFs, so I’ll try to keep this thing concise.
I know that some of you might come in with your own personal beliefs, religion, and politics, and that might conflict with some of what I’m going to say here. That’s okay. I ask only that you treat the matter and the people involved with respect and tolerance.
People who identify as LGBTQ+ are not lying to you. They are not trying to trick you or convert you. They experience their sexual orientations and gender identities as strongly and genuinely as anyone else. Regardless of how you feel about those identities, respect here means treating LGBTQ+ people the way you’d treat anyone else.
The most important thing is to treat all people like people. Although this specific community does have some unique struggles, they are still human beings and should be treated as such first and foremost.

Part I: The Basics: Sex, Gender, & Sexual Orientation

This is the section where I explain to you a basic piece of how people work. It might feel like the most obvious thing you’ve read all week, but it might not. People don’t often talk about these issues the way I’m about to. It’s okay if this is unfamiliar. You can always ask me questions- it’s part of what I’m here for, and ‘dumb questions’ aren’t going to bother me. If you prefer to do research on your own, I’ve included some links at the end of this document, and there are all kinds of resources available online.

Biological sex!
Biological sex refers to the setup of a person’s physical body (when I say ‘sex’ in this portion, I’m referring to biological sex unless I state otherwise). Sex is comprised of a person’s chromosomes, genitals, secondary sex characteristics, and hormones. When a baby escapes a uterus and the doctor says, “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” they’re referring to the baby’s biological sex.
The two most common sexes are male and female. I am not going to explain these ones to you. Ask your mother.
There are biological sex statuses other than male and female, however. Some people are born with XXY chromosomes, or XY chromosomes but female-typical genitals/hormones/secondary sex characteristics, or ambiguous genitalia that cannot be clearly typed as either male-typical or female-typical. These conditions are known as intersex conditions, and these people are known as intersex. (You might think of the word ‘hermaphrodite’ to describe these people, but that term is outdated and considered inappropriate.) There is no single type of intersex body; the term encompasses a variety of conditions. Generally speaking, intersex conditions are not dangerous to have- intersex people are generally just as healthy as anyone else.
Biological sex is about a person’s body.

Gender identity!
Gender identity is how a person identifies. Some people identify as boys/men, some people identify as girls/women, and some people are neither of those or some combination.
Let me back up. Let’s say a baby escapes a uterus and the doctor says, “It’s a boy!” meaning that the child is biologically male. That child then might or might not grow up to be a boy and then a man. That child comightuld identify as having the gender of a man, but might not.
If a person’s sex is female and they identify as a woman, or a person’s sex is male and they identify as a man, that person is ‘cisgender’ which means that their sex and gender match.
However, if a person’s sex and gender do not match up, this is known as ‘transgender.’ A transgender person’s identity doesn’t match the label they were given at birth. A transgender person might identify as a man, a woman, or with a different term or no term at all. Transgender people often feel that they are trapped in the wrong body. If a person tells you that he is a man, then he is a man, regardless of appearance or parts- and the same with any other gender.
Gender identity is about a person’s mind and soul.

Sexual orientation!
Sexual orientation is who a person is attracted to emotionally, romantically and sexually. If a person who identifies as a man is exclusively attracted to women, that person is heterosexual. A person who is attracted exclusively to their own sex is homosexual, or gay (or lesbian, in the case of women). Bisexual people are attracted to both men and women. Asexual people are not sexually attracted to other people at all, but still may be romantically attracted to others.
These are not the only sexual orientations that exist- there are many others, and plenty of people who don’t feel that their sexuality fits with any label at all. More terms can be found in the glossary at the end of this document. If you don’t recognize a term, don’t be afraid to Google. Google knows all.
Sexual orientation is about a person’s heart.

Biological sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation are different factors that make up who a person is, and people can have all kinds of combinations. For example, a transgender person could have any sexual orientation. These are the ingredients that create LGBTQ+ identities.

Part II: Terminology & ‘Political Correctness’

“I don’t believe in political correctness!” you’re probably not declaring to your computer screen, but some of you might hold this position. Okay! Although some of this document will help you be politically correct if that is something you want, it isn’t my goal here. I want to teach you the basics, and give you a little exposure to some issues you might not be familiar with.
Respect is the most important thing. I’m not bothered if you’re not ‘politically correct’ if you’re willing to approach these issues with respect and tolerance.

With that said, let’s talk about the word ‘queer.’
‘Queer’ is a good umbrella word for the whole community. It makes it obvious what we’re talking about and without resulting to incomplete acronyms like LGBT or the even clunkier LGBTQQIAAP (I can’t even say that 10 times fast) or unclear and rarely used terms like Gender and Sexuality Minorities (GSMs) or Sexuality and Gender Acceptance (SAGA). Using ‘queer’ in lieu of all those cuts out a lot of word salad and confusion, while including everyone we want to include. I am using LGBTQ+ in this document, and attempting to use that with the Orion Project in general, but I sometimes use ‘queer’ in this way. Many people who identify with this community, but do not feel comfortable with any specific label, also reclaim the word to describe their own identities.
‘Queer’ is also a slur. It can be, has been, and is used to demean people for their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Many people flinch automatically when they hear the term, and many others are put on edge if it’s said in the wrong environment. In some contexts, usage of the term can be considered bias-motivated harassment, a hate crime.
Like so many things, the acceptability of this term comes down to context. Who’s saying it, where they’re saying it, and what they’re trying to communicate are all vastly important. Many of you will likely never feel comfortable using this term. That’s fine. Better safe than sorry.
Once again, the most important factor is respect. If you keep in mind that the term is loaded, has been used as a weapon, and you use it carefully with respect and in the right kind of conversation, you’re probably fine.

If you do feel that you might want to use this term, here are some context tips:
• Pay attention to your surroundings. Try not to offend some random bystander.
• It’s more appropriate in adjective form than as a noun. For example, it’s less offensive to say, “Some queer people feel that these laws…” rather than “Some queers feel that these laws…” I do not have a good reason why this is, but I promise it’s true.
• Don’t use it to refer to one single person, unless that is their preferred term to describe their identity.
• If someone seems uncomfortable with your use of the term, stop
• Only use it with respect, acceptance and solidarity with the people you’re describing
• Once again, better safe than sorry. If you’re not sure it’s an appropriate time to use this term, don’t.

The following is a list of slurs that should NOT be used: faggot, dyke, tranny, shemale, hermaphrodite, et cetera. Some people who identify as the groups these terms attack may reclaim these terms, but outsiders should not use them.

Another idea to keep in mind is pronouns. Many LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender people, have preferred gender pronouns. Gender pronouns include (but are not limited to!) he/him, she/her, and they/theirs. If someone tells you their preferred pronouns, try to keep that in mind and use them correctly.
If you’re not sure what pronouns to use to refer to someone, it’s okay to ask. It’s much better to ask or to avoid pronouns entirely than it is to get them wrong.

Part III: LGBTQ+ and Homelessness/Poverty

There’s a fact sheet with more information on this topic on our website (also compiled by me) if you want statistics on this, but here are the highlights:
LGBTQ+ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ+ people to be impacted by poverty and homelessness, due in part to unfair laws and lack of protections against housing and employment discrimination.
Youth are especially impacted. Approximately 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT. Often, they are disowned by parents or run away as a result of familial rejection, drop out as a result of bullying and lack of safe school environment, and face discrimination when they try to access resources. LGBTQ+ homeless youth are seven times more likely to engage in survival sex than non-LGBTQ+ homeless youth.
LGBTQ+ people are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ peers to be physically and verbally harassed in a homeless shelter. It is legal for federally-funded homeless shelters and other resources to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in need, citing religious reasons.
At the Orion Project, our non-discrimination policy covers both sexual orientation and gender identity. We have committed to helping people who need help, without prejudice.

There are some factors to take into account when helping this community. For example, since some resources for the homeless do discriminate and/or are often hostile to LGBTQ+ people, we must do our research before giving referrals.
Transgender people might have some difficulties getting appropriate housing, particularly if they have not changed their name and/or the legal sex marker on their ID. In addition, many transgender people have problems receiving adequate healthcare.
Same-sex couples, particularly same-sex couples with children, also face discrimination in trying to access resources such as housing.
At Orion Project, we are dedicated to helping people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but in order to do so effectively, we must be aware of the issues, discrimination, and threats that face this community.

Glossary: So Much Terminology

Firstly, not every single word used in the LGBTQ+ community is in this glossary. You may come across terms that are not in here. Google them or feel free to ask me. Secondly, you do not have to memorize all of these. It’s okay if you don’t know what every one of these means. Most people don’t. This is just here to give you a resource and more of an understanding as to the breadth of variety and diversity in the community. Anyhow, here’s the glossary:

Agender: a person who does not have a gender

Ally: a person who is not in the LGBTQ+ community, but is a supporter and works for LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance

Androgynous: refers to a gender presentation that is neither feminine nor masculine, or is a mix of the two

Aromantic: a person who does not experience romantic attraction

Asexual: a person who does not experience sexual attraction

Bicurious: a person who identifies primarily as heterosexual, but is interested in exploring same-sex experiences or relationships

Binary transgender: A person who is transitioning from female to male or male to female- someone who is transgender but whose identity still falls in the gender binary

Binding: the act of flattening breasts to have a flatter, more masculine-appearing chest. This is often done with a binder.

Biological sex: the collection of genitals, secondary sex characteristics, hormones and chromosomes that denote a person as male, female, or intersex

Biphobia: prejudice against bisexuals. This can include assertions that bisexuals do not really exist, that bisexuals are greedy and more likely to cheat, or that bisexuals need to ‘make up their minds.’

Bisexual: a person who is attracted to both men and women. This attraction does not need to be equal- some bisexuals prefer one gender over the other, or tend to experience attraction to different genders differently.

Bottom surgery: surgery done on a transgender person’s genitals to bring them more in line with that person’s identity and expression. Not all transgender people pursue this.

Cisgender: a person whose biological sex matches their gender identity; a person who is not transgender

Cissexism: the systemic favoring of cisgender people over minorities of gender identity

Closet: a metaphorical term referring to one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity status being hidden (e.g., if one is ‘closeted’ then their identity is still hidden, whereas if one is ‘out of the closet’ than it is known.)

Coming out: the process of revealing one’s minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity to others. Usually a continuous process.

Cross-dresser: a person who enjoys dressing in the other gender’s clothes. Could have any gender identity and sexual orientation, but occurs most commonly with heterosexual men. Also known as a transvestite.

Demisexual: a person who experiences sexual attraction only after an emotional attachment is already formed.

Discrimination: acts done by a person, group, or larger system with power that are unfair/unjust to a person or group with less power

Drag: theatrical gender performance. Does not necessarily indicate the performer’s real-life gender identity or sexual orientation

FTM/F2M: A transgender person who is transitioning from female to male; a transgender man

Gay: a person, especially a man, who is attracted exclusively to their own sex; often used as an umbrella term for the entire LGBTQ+ community (e.g., “gay rights” or “gay marriage”)

Gender binary: the idea that there are only two genders and that all people must fall in one camp or the other

Gender identity: whether a person feels that they are a man, woman, other, or some combination thereof

Gender variant: a person who is neither man nor woman, or whose gender changes over time

Genderqueer: a person who is neither man nor woman, or whose gender changes over time

Heteronormativity: the assumption, either explicit or implicit, that all people are heterosexual (e.g., “How to attract the opposite sex” on a magazine cover)

Heterosexism: the systemic favoring of heterosexual people over minorities of sexual orientation

Heterosexual: a person who is exclusively attracted to the other sex (i.e., a man who is exclusively attracted to women or a woman who is exclusively attracted to men)

Heterosexual privilege: the benefits automatically given to heterosexual people that are denied or more difficult to attain for people with minority sexual orientations

Homophobia: prejudice against homosexuals or others who experience same-sex attraction or are presumed to. This might include the usage of slurs, assertions that homosexuals are unsafe around children, et cetera.

Homosexual: a person who is exclusively attracted to the same sex

In the closet: a person whose minority sexual orientation and/or gender identity status is hidden

Internalized oppression: when a person accepts the stereotypes and expectations of their status and begins conforming to them and/or experiencing self-doubt or self-loathing

Intersex: a person whose biological sex is neither clearly female nor clearly male

Lesbian: a woman who is exclusively attracted to other women

LGBTQQIAAP: lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, ally, pansexual

MTF/M2F: a transgender person who is transitioning from male to female; a transgender woman

Oppression: the systematic subjugation of one group by another group, which results in the subjugated group having fewer access to resources and social status

Outing: the involuntary revealing of one’s status as a sexual orientation and/or gender identity minority

Pansexual: a person who is attracted to others regardless of their biological sex or gender identity

Passing: being consistently read by others as the gender that one identifies as

Polyamory: an honest, mutually agreed-upon relationship style that involves more than two people. Can come in many forms

Preferred pronouns: in the LGBTQ+ community, it’s common to ask for and give ‘preferred pronouns.’ This means asking someone what gender pronouns to use when referring to them. (E.g., my preferred pronouns are she/her, so if you were talking about me, you might say, “Did you read her treatise about the LGBT people?” “Yes, she should give me candy!”) (I’m not giving you candy.)

Prejudice: a conscious or subconscious negative opinion about a group and its individual members

Queer: an umbrella word for all gender identity minorities, sexual orientation minorities, and intersex people; an identity within the community for those who do not identify with any of the other terms; a slur (see Part II)

Sex: (see ‘biological sex.’ For other definitions, consult sources other than me.)

Sexual orientation: who a person is attracted to romantically, sexually, and emotionally

Sexual reassignment surgery: surgical measures undertaken by some transgender people to bring their bodies more in line with that person’s identity and expression. Not all transgender people pursue this. This is also referred to as gender confirmation surgery, gender reconstruction surgery, and others

Sexuality: a person’s exploration of sexual acts, sexual orientation, sexual pleasure, and desire

Stereotype: a generalized belief about a group of people. Can be positive, negative, neutral or mixed

Straight: a person who is exclusively attracted to members of the other sex (i.e., a man who is exclusively attracted to women or a woman who is exclusively attracted to men)

Third-gender: a person who feels that their gender is neither man nor woman

Top surgery: surgery done on a transgender person’s chest to bring it more in line with that person’s identity and expression. Not all transgender people pursue this.

Trans: shortened version of transgender. Some people use trans* with an asterisk or star to emphasize that they refer to all people whose gender identity does not match with their biological sex, rather than just binary transgender people. (I.e., trans* is used to point out that it applies to genderqueer people, third-gender people, et cetera)

Transgender: a person whose gender identity and biological sex do not match up

Transition: the process of a transgender person altering their body to bring it more in line with that person’s identity and expression. This can include things such as clothing, hairstyles, hormone replacement therapy, and surgery.

Transphobia: prejudice against transgender people. This might include the assumption that transgender people using the bathroom that matches their gender are there to prey on others, the assumption that all transgender people are sex workers, et cetera.

Transsexual: a term used to describe a transgender person who is pursuing medical transition such as hormones or surgery. Less common than the term ‘transgender’

Transvestite: a person who enjoys dressing in the other gender’s clothes. Could have any gender identity and sexual orientation, but occurs most commonly with heterosexual men. Also known as a cross-dresser.

Hey, you actually did your required reading. Look at you. Excellent. Hopefully you learned something from this or refreshed your memory.

If you have any questions, let me know- it’s part of what I’m here for. My email is or you can just accost me at a board meeting. I don’t mind ‘stupid questions’ and it’s okay if you’re not sure how to phrase something. Learning is important.

Thank you for reading and learning!

This part is not required reading. These are just places to start if you’re interested in learning more.

These are the links I used for LGBTQ+ and poverty/homelessness:

Here are some other resources:

If you want information on any specific portion of what I’ve talked about above, let me know and I can probably send some information your way.

About Orion Project Epic Advocacy

The ORION Project is a 501c3 Nonprofit agency designed to advocate proactively for our vulnerable populations with a number of different and exciting programs.

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