Is the Trump administration ignoring the LGBT community?

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in Kaiser Health News, The Atlantic.com, New America Media, AARP.com and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health, Media & Policy at Hunter College in New York City, and co-produces HealthStyles for WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio.

Photo: William Murphy via Flickr

The Trump administration recently announced that it would no longer collect information on LGBT older adults in two key national surveys: The National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, and the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living.

The latter was revised in late March to omit questions on sexual orientation and gender identity. Both reports have been important in tracking services provided to this population, which already faces significant barriers in accessing quality health care, community services, and social support, according to the Center for American Progress.

The two surveys collect information on services that include home-delivered meals, transportation, skills training and home and community support needs of older adults and people with disabilities. The results help ensure that all seniors who need these services get them.

LGBT advocates believe that HHS Secretary Tom Price, who is on record as anti-gay, is the driving force behind the changes. “Rolling back collection on crucial safety net programs is particularly disturbing,” according to this post by Sejal Singh, campaigns and communications manager for the LGBT research and communications project at American Progress.

Singh said that given the systematic discrimination that LGBT people experience in every aspect of their lives it is “particularly important for federal safety net programs meet the needs of the LGBT community.” This Miami Herald story recently highlighted the increased health risks LGBT seniors face. Also recall that Vice President Mike Pence has had a consistently anti-gay record and, while governor of Indiana, signed legislation that allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.

Further fueling concern in the LGBT community is information that apparently has disappeared from a Census Bureau report — eliminating a statement concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, the website FiveThirtyEight reported. Also, not long after Trump took office information about LGBT rights was removed from the official White House website (along with pages on other civil rights, climate change, and those in Spanish).

Such actions work to make “LGBT individuals invisible in the eyes of the federal government, “ Michael Adams wrote in The Advocate. “These excuses are nothing but a smokescreen to keep our LGBT elders from being recognized as part of the larger mosaic of older Americans, and to deprive them of their fair share of federally funded elder services.”

While many alternative and LGBT-focused media covered the story on the surveys, there was limited mention in more mainstream media. The Guardian was one of the few to point out that the LGBT community appears to be suffering a “death by a thousand cuts” under the new administration.

It is more common to see general stories on LGBT rights, such as this Associated Press piece on the patchwork of protections for LGBT individuals across the United States. Editorials and opinion pieces, including this Los Angeles Times op-ed, also keep key LGBT health issues in the forefront.

In what’s been an incredibly busy, non-stop flurry of major news — from Russia and Syria to stalled efforts to repeal Obamacare — it is understandable that quiet rule changes can slip under the radar. However, the aging LGBTQ population is growing. Moreover, while some in Washington, D.C., may try to erase or ignore the data, it’s not a story that’s about to disappear.

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