Despite the stereotypes of rich white gay men, the reality is that LGBTQ people—as a result of systemic oppression—are more likely than heterosexuals to live in poverty. This is especially true for people of color who face racism in addition to anti-LGBTQ attitudes, the young and the old, transgender people and families. Check out this illuminating post from the Williams Institute at UCLA on Poverty in the LGBTQ Community.
If your congregation has a food bank or meal program, consider reaching out specifically to LGBTQ people to let them know that they are welcome to come and receive the staples they need. Because religious spaces have often historically been hostile ones for LGBTQ people, some may assume that they are not welcome to come and participate. Or they may be concerned that the price of a meal is that they will be condemned or negatively preached at. You want them to know that everyone is welcome and will be treated with respect. Reaching out to the LGBTQ community means reaching some of the people in your area who are most in need.
Some ideas for making it clear to people that your food bank or meal events are open all are:
- Include a non-discrimination statement that explicitly includes sexual orientation and gender identity on posters and brochures. Be sure this is plainly visible when people arrive.
- Contact local LGBTQ community centers or programs and let them know that they are welcome to refer people to your congregation’s food programs. Assure them that you are an affirming group who will treat everyone with dignity.
- If other guests respond negatively to the presence of LGBTQ people, address instances of homophobia or transphobia, and other prejudices, immediately and directly. You can’t control the attitudes of everyone who comes into your space, but you can make your expectations and values clear.
- Place flyers or advertisements about your program in places that LGBTQ people are likely to see them, such as in community centers, gay bars, or LGBTQ newspapers.
- Post about your congregation’s programs and your openness to all on social media, especially in groups where LGBTQ people are likely to read them.
- When possible, engage earned media, including mainstream and LGBTQ newspapers and TV stations, to spread the message of your welcome. People of faith truly treating others as they would want to be treated is still a newsworthy message.
Thank you for the work you are doing to help address hunger and poverty in our world!