I was in college a long time ago, but it feels like we are in the middle of a midterm exam for humanity. So far, the results are nothing to write home about, although there are glimmers of hope that we can come through with flying colors. The colors I want to refer to for a few moments are the ones on the modernized LGBTQ+ rainbow.
People are people
Let’s start with the fundamental truth that LGBTQ+ people are people. We are who we are. It’s not a choice we make to be LGBTQ+. I am not a scientist, geneticist or research expert and don’t know the whys of what makes us who we are. I assume you likely haven’t researched why you are the way you are. But how we are wired, genetically coded, or whatever has made us who we are shouldn’t matter. I’ll say it again. We are who we are.
And, when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, there are quite a few of us. The LGBTQ+ population has jumped to 8 percent of the adult population according to the Human Rights Campaign. Additionally, Gallup reports that 21 percent of Gen Z-ers are LGBTQ+. The younger generations fuel greater acceptance levels and allow so many more to self-identify as part of the community.
Our society is increasingly (and largely) pro-LGBTQ+ with the Public Religion Research Institute (PPRI) recently reporting that 79 percent of all Americans favor laws that would protect the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations and housing. This number has grown from 71 percent in 2015.
Why is there so much hate?
So, why is there constant anger and discrimination directed at us? Is it simply because we are a minority? Is it because much of society acts like immature school kids who pick on others not like them, those who were smaller, heavier, wore glasses or had disabilities?
Our most recent LGBTQ+ Real Estate Report findings show the real estate industry is also struggling on the societal exam. On the one hand, DEI efforts are visible. On the other, we still have far too much discrimination against LGBTQ+ colleagues, home buyers and sellers.
Our member survey found that 72% of LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance members believe their local real estate industry has placed an increased emphasis on DEI over the last three years, while 69% felt the same about their own company. Over the last five years, 60% of Alliance members have also noted an increase in their real estate brand’s marketing targeting the LGBTQ+ community, with 55% reporting similarly for their company.
That’s the good news. And we have to keep at it. But here are some other findings that show we are nowhere nearing acing the test:
- Nearly 20 percent of respondents shared that they experience high levels of unconscious bias within their local real estate industry, almost double the 11 percent who report similarly about their own company.
- While 68 percent of respondents reported that episodes of blatant discrimination against them and other LGBTQ+ colleagues within their company were extremely rare or nonexistent, only 40 percent shared similar sentiments about their local real estate industry.
- 17 percent of respondents also cited having examples from the last three years of industry colleagues not wanting to work with them because they are part of the LGBTQ+ community, while only 6 percent shared the same sentiment about their own company colleagues.
And while the discrimination against industry colleagues is bad enough, we need to reflect on this:
20.7 percent of our members report that real estate agents are the culprit in how housing discrimination occurs against LGBTQ+ real estate home buyers.
We have to do better, and the desire to do so seems to be there. We just came off of our LGBTQ+ Housing Policy Symposium in D.C. with more than 135 people in attendance, including some of the biggest names in our industry and the LGBTQ+ community.
It featured former Realtor Jim Obergefell, who won the historic 2015 Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage and is now running for an Ohio State House seat, along with U.S. Representatives Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). NAR showed up in force, led by CEO Bob Goldberg and various staff members. Scott Reiter, CEO of the D.C. Association of Realtors, also participated.
The member-led Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, chaired by James Cristbrook, also showed up in force with multiple team members in attendance. One contingent member shared that he learned a lot but admitted he struggled to understand the terms associated with the LGBTQ+ community. No problem: we gave him a glossary of terms and explained them.
This was an important moment. Here was a leader in NAR admitting to having questions. That is awesome. We encourage you to also ask questions, learn and engage with the Alliance. You can also participate in our next Alliance Certified Ally program on June 16 at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Society is moving forward
Which way will we go? It appears society is moving forward, led by the more accepting and welcoming younger generations. LGBTQ+ individuals are now able to live more freely and confidently as their authentic selves. We no longer need to hide who we are.
Real estate professionals are leaders in our neighborhoods, communities, cities, counties and states. Together we can make a positive impact, remove discrimination and pave the way for a better and more inclusive world. I hope the real estate industry will continue to support the LGBTQ+ community and the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance.
Let’s work together. We still have time. Let’s pass the exam!
Ryan Weyandt is the CEO of The LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance, a 501(c)6 nonprofit dedicated to empowering the LGBTQ+ community on the path to homeownership through advocacy on behalf of the community on housing issues. The Alliance, founded in June 2020, is an all-inclusive organization that works to improve the professional lives of its members through a public-facing Alliance Referral Community.