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Economic Inclusion for the LGBTQ+ Community

By Jennifer Esperanza, Senior Director of Organizational Culture and Strategy

It was hard for me. We never had enough money for anything… We were always without. There was a time where I was eating out of trash cans because I had no money to buy food or food stamps. And I was hungry.”

- “D.”, 51 year old, Latino, lesbian trans woman

Did you know more LGBTQ+ people in the United States live below the poverty level than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts? D’s story is one of thousands from LGBTQ+ individuals who struggle to make ends meet. In order to improve the public’s understanding of financial hardship among lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer individuals, the Williams Institute (sponsored by the UCLA School of Law) created the “Pathways to LGBTQ Poverty” project. The Institute documents stories like D’s, to better understand the myriad of reasons why a significant number of this demographic live at or below the poverty level.

According to the Institute’s 2021 Report on LGBT poverty, one in five LGBT individuals live at or below the poverty line. Moreover, if the data were disaggregated by racial and ethnic composition, we would see that Black, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and Native American/Alaskan LGBTQ+ individuals experience poverty at higher rates than Whites or Asians. Credit unions have the opportunity to improve the financial lives of LGBTQ+ individuals, by paying attention to both quantitative and qualitive data.  

While initiatives surrounding LGBTQ+ issues in the credit union industry include workforce representation and inclusion, credit unions should equally consider if and how they’re making efforts to be more relevant to LGBTQ+ consumers. There are basic needs this demographic shares with most others such as banking services, auto loans, mortgages, personal loans and investment options. These are products that all consumers need throughout their lifetimes. However, the LGBTQ+ community endures unique financial burdens that credit unions should be more attuned to, so that they can serve their members with deeper empathy and understanding. To support the unique economic circumstances for LGBTQ+ members, credit unions can consider offerings such as:


  1. Support for LGBTQ+ individuals to become financially independent and stable: Offer financial planning or debt consolidation loans and other options for those who find themselves without the social support and financial safety net of family. Many LGBTQ+ individuals, especially from older generations, were left without the support of family after coming out, and the financial burdens of supporting oneself have had a significant impact on their economic independence.

  2. Affordable financing for surgical, hormonal and psychological interventions: The costs of attending to the physical and emotional wellness of LGBTQ+ individuals are often not covered by insurance. To the extent that you feel comfortable, ask all your members if they have expenses from personal care costs that can be relieved by a loan.

  3. Options to help pay for the costs of family planning: Many LGBTQ+ families are looking for ways to pay for the expenses related to adopting a child, going through IVF treatments, or other avenues to build a family. Make sure your marketing collateral portrays LGBTQ+ families to demonstrate that your credit union supports their needs.


These are just a few examples of how credit unions can make a world of difference in making financial inclusion and stability a more concrete reality for LGBTQ+ consumers. If you are interested in exploring more ways to support the unique needs of this demographic, contact Coopera Consulting and we can help your credit union take the next steps.

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