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  • Writer's pictureNBWJI

Black LGBTQ+ women, girls, & gender-expansive people disproportionately impacted by criminal-legal system

As we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride this month, we’re also spotlighting the disproportionate impact that many government systems—including the foster care, juvenile legal, & criminal legal systems—have had on the LGBTQ+ community, especially Black women, girls, and gender-expansive people, for years.

Black LGBTQ+ women, girls, and gender-expansive people are at greater risk for victimization

 We know from too many headlines, which research backs up, that LGBTQ people are disproportionately impacted by violent victimization. 

  • LGBTQ+ youth have been threatened or injured with a weapon at school at almost 3 times the rate of their non-LGBTQ youth peers.  

  • Among adults, of the 280 homicides of transgender individuals in America since January 2017, 62% were Black women.

Foster care to prison pathways

The foster care-to-prison pipeline is well-documented. Children who have been involved in the foster care system are significantly more likely to have contact and involvement with the juvenile legal system and adult incarceration. Youth who are confined in juvenile detention are more likely to be incarcerated as adults.


  • There are 1.4 times more LBQ girls in foster care than in the general population of girls.  

  • The proportion of Black LBQ girls in foster care is 4 times higher than in the general population. 

  • LGBTQ youth are also 3x more likely to have been involved in both the foster care and juvenile legal systems—known as "crossover youth." Among these crossover youth, Black girls make up a significantly larger share compared to white girls and other girls of color: One study found that Black girls represented 41% of girls who were crossover youth compared 28% of girls in foster care generally.  

Black LGBTQ+ women, girls, & gender-expansive people disproportionately incarcerated

LGBTQ+ people are overrepresented across the entire criminal legal system—at the point of arrest, incarceration, and probation & parole. The numbers are staggering, especially for LGBTQ people of color, including Black trans women and gender-expansive people who continue to have extraordinarily disproportionate contact with the criminal-legal system.

  • In the juvenile legal system, approximately 85% of LGBTQ are youth of color.

  • Among LBQ girls, there are 2 times as many Black girls in juvenile detention as there are in the general population.

  • Among incarcerated LBQ women there are 1.7 times as any Black LBQ women incarcerated as there are in the general population.

  • Black transgender women are incarcerated at 10 times the rate of the general American population.

  • Nearly 1 in 2 (47%) Black transgender and gender-expansive people have been incarcerated. 

  • 41% of Black transgender and gender-expansive people have been arrested or held in a cell due to their gender identity/expression alone.

There is a long history of bias, abuse, and profiling of LGBTQ+ people by law enforcement, along with high rates of poverty, homelessness, and discrimination in schools and the workplace—all of which has contributed to disproportionate contact with the legal system and leading to higher levels of incarceration. 

This means that when policies criminalize poverty and homelessness, those policies also disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ people—especially transgender women of color.


Racial and gender inequities have produced and continue to produce unjust barriers and disadvantages that increase the risk of Black women & girls—especially Black LBTQ women & girls—coming in contact with law enforcement, courts, and places of confinement.


And the status quo of criminalization and punishment only causes more trauma and does not heal or increase public safety.


We must continue advocating to dismantle these pathways to criminalization & confinement for Black cis & trans women & girls and gender-expansive people. And we must advocate for expansion of services that support & promote healing and help Black women & girls reclaim their power.


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