LGBTQI+ Individuals and Gender Equality

USAID affirms that the promotion of the rights of gender-diverse individuals—those with a gender identity beyond the binary categories of man or woman—including LGBTQI+ individuals, is integral to the advancement of gender equality.

Regressive gender norms, gender inequalities, and associated power differentials constrain the lives of LGBTQI+ individuals. Discrimination, stigma, criminalization, and violence negatively affect millions of LGBTQI+ individuals around the world and contribute to poverty and social instability. They are often excluded from social benefits systems; lack protections in anti-discrimination legislation; and are not afforded legal recognition of their relationships and families. These factors limit their rights and access to essential services such as education, employment, and health care and prevent their meaningful inclusion in broader development efforts. Moreover, coalitions of anti-democratic, anti-rights actors have sought to further marginalize LGBTQI+ individuals by pursuing campaigns that spread misinformation. 

LGBTQI+ individuals, particularly gender-diverse, transgender, and intersex individuals, must contend with expectations that they comply with gender binary roles, and they are subject to negative repercussions if they do not. Similarly, the presumption that everyone is heterosexual legitimizes social and legal institutions that devalue, marginalize, and discriminate against people with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics (SOGIESC). Rigid norms may create negative restrictions on LGBTQI+ women’s mobility and participation in public life. In addition, intersex individuals—an umbrella term for people whose sex characteristics at birth do not all correspond to a single sex—are also negatively affected by misunderstandings and pathologization of their bodies, resulting in medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex infants and children. This often results in long-lasting trauma, medical complications, and mistrust of medical services. 

The intersection of additional marginalized identities (e.g., ethnicity or disability status) may compound the negative experiences of LGBTQI+ individuals. As USAID seeks to advance gender equality for all people, it is imperative to ensure that Agency programming recognizes and addresses the ways in which gender-based discrimination affects the LGBTQI+ community in all its diversity.