New Report Highlights Unique LGBTQ Landscape and Advocacy in the U.S. South

Movement Advancement Project
3 min readJul 14, 2020

Despite being home to the most hostile policy landscape in the country for LGBTQ issues, the South is also home to some of the most innovative, resilient, and effective LGBTQ organizing and activism in the country. Today, the Movement Advancement Project released a new report, Telling a New Southern Story: LGBTQ Resilience, Resistance, and Leadership, which explores the unique experiences of LGBTQ Southerners and the innovative ways they build community, provide direct support, and make cultural and political change in the region.

Released in partnership with the Campaign for Southern Equality and Equality Federation, this report examines the experiences and advocacy strategies of LGBTQ people in the U.S. South. Despite the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming employment discrimination protections nationwide, 93% of LGBTQ Southerners live in a state with a low or negative LGBTQ equality score, reflecting laws which impact virtually every aspect of daily life. Additionally, key elements of Southern culture — including religious conservatism, one-party control, and the legacy of slavery — make the South unlike any other region in the country.

Read a USA TODAY exclusive article about the report.

Key findings from the report include the following:

  • Roughly 3.6 million LGBTQ adults live in the South, including over half a million transgender adults — more than in any other region.
  • More than four in 10 LGBTQ people in the South are people of color. More than one in five LGBTQ Southerners are Black, higher than any other region.
  • The legacy of slavery and systemic racism have significant, continuing impacts on the experiences of LGBTQ Southerners who are Black and other people of color.

LGBTQ Southerners experience multiple challenges in economic security, health access and outcomes, as well as in daily life — all of which are often amplified for LGBTQ people of color.

Despite a harsh state-level policy landscape, notable progress has been made across the South in the past ten years, most notably with recent wins in Virginia.

LGBTQ Southerners have responded to the South’s unique cultural and political landscape in innovative and resilient ways, often leading the nation in modeling effective and broad coalition work.

  • LGBTQ people in the South often focus on building community and providing direct support to address community needs without waiting for state legislatures.
  • Examples of direct support include mobile health clinics, food pantries, providing housing, distributing gender affirming clothing, summer camps, and skills-building clinics.
  • Many Southern LGBTQ organizations work on broad-ranging issues including voter suppression, racism, police violence against Black people and other communities of color, immigration reform, and climate change.
  • Advocates are adept at seizing opportunities to educate and change hearts and minds.

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Movement Advancement Project

MAP is an independent, nonprofit think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all.