Apr. 12, 2017

UNCOUNTED MEANS INVISIBLE

 

The Trump administration's plan to remove LGBTQ demographics from the National Survey of Older Americans is a disastrous step backwards. It denies the worth and existence of this group and as David Stacey, head of policy for Human Rights Campaign told the Associated Press, "If you deny the problem exists by not having the data, it certainly makes it easier to pursue the policy you prefer without regards to reality." It also forces people to hide and deny who they are. How so you may ask? According to Meredith Lillie in her article VISIBILITY IS THE KEY TO SUPPORTING INVISBLE DIVERSITY, shares her ideas on how a person in a heterosexual relationship shows it, “…engagement and wedding rings, family photos, conversations about family, weekends and anniversaries, reference to husband or wife and bringing them to work.” This is an open picture. If Trump has his way seniors and younger LGBT people will not have the same freedom. She further states regarding the workplace that fear of finding out will hamper productivity. Taking this idea and expanding on it they and especially seniors may not seek life-saving medical help because they may have HIV. They will have to be circumspect in their relationships to get housing, transportation and even psychiatric help.

            Is this a path to remove other groups? The removal of the LGBTQ demographic was the only one taken off the survey. All seniors need to be counted to receive the necessary services of health, housing, and food however, LGBTQ seniors may have more pressing needs since they may be more isolated. Eliminating this demographic query might leave many without access to adequate help. Serving a lifetime sentence of discrimination has left many in this group at or below the poverty level. Past discrimination affected the ability for advancement or for some any meaningful employment thus leaving LGBTQ with less personal resources. This again diminishes the quality of access to necessary assistance.

            In a letter to the editor to the Advocate Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE also responded to these cuts. He said, “Caring about our LGBT seniors means making sure they have access to publicly-funded senior services, which can literally be life-saving.” Some seniors live isolated lives and that may be on purpose however, many LGBT seniors have been rejected by family so their isolation is that much harder. Where do they turn if not to places which have their best interests at heart? All seniors need not only care but a sense of community. Places like SAGE gives them that. Their dignity remains intact and they’re free to be who they are.

            Removing questions related to LGBT seniors may have a “chilling effect on our community,” (Cooper). How you may ask? “It will force people to hide. To be ashamed. To be fearful.” The closet door that was forcefully opened by all the heroes and heroines will not only be closed but nailed shut. SAGE says, “There are more than 3 million LGBT older Americans who often confront severe challenges.” These elders are more likely to live alone and be single (2x) according to SAGE and 3-4 times “less likely to have children help care for them…” This means our senior population will fall through the cracks with no chance of survival.

            Fighting this planned disaster is the focal point of all LGBT advocates. If the Trump Administration is successful seniors today and in the future, will be invisible. If not seen then they don’t exist. The Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living revised a draft and excluded a question on sexual orientation. Kelly Mack said, “the sample size insufficient to be reliable.” Advocates question Mack’s data claim. She is spokeswoman for the Administration for Community Living a division of HHS overseeing the two surveys. So the administration has decided to delete questions about sexual orientation from both the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the abovementioned survey.

            Interesting that Kathy Greenlee who was HHS’ assistant secretary for aging under President Obama states, “I view this as a policy change, not the end of a pilot,” as Mack claims. It is a direct strike at a segment of the population some wish did not exist or would just disappear. Ms. Greenlee also said, “… the addition of the LGBT question was never envisioned as a temporary entry.” From that I gather the Trump administration has done an about face on protecting the rights of LGBT seniors. My question is what group next?

            Seniors are the reservoir of information of a time when life was different. They hold the keys to the fights that were engaged for all rights. Denying one group will if not destroy it however, it is denying the war fought for inclusion. We are a diverse society and yet inclusion seems to be something sorely lacking here. This is a fight because if one group gets excluded then as I asked above who’s next? It is not about my group being more oppressed but about the dignity of all seniors. The Trump camp has shown it cannot be trusted to keep its promise. Adams states, “Our first indication of where this president’s idle promises were headed came in January.” What they did was remove any mention of LGBT rights from the White House website then followed that despicable act with the deletion of the Office of National AIDS policy page. What the administration is doing is erasing a segment of the American population one heinous act at a time. Each year more people reach the age of sixty which of course means more LGBTQ seniors. Where will they go for help on housing, transportation, medical conditions and other services if not counted?

            One final note, will the newly disenfranchised LGBT seniors be accepted in centers that cater to heterosexuals? Will we be allowed to discuss our lives in group discussions or in personal conversations or will it be we let you be here but don’t care about your struggles? SAGE is an example of openness. It sees people as just that people. One is not told you don’t belong because you’re not like us (LGBTQ). It works to foster an atmosphere of acceptance, love, compassion and encouragement.

References

Adams, Michael. Who Would Go After LGBT Elders? The Trump Administration The Advocate 2017

Lillie, Meredith. VISIBILITY IS THE KEY TO SUPPORTING INVISBLE DIVERSITY January 19, 2017  http://diversityinclusion.com.au/new-blog/2017/1/19/visibility-is-the-key-to-supporting-invisible-diversity

Sedensky, Matt. Federal surveys trim LBGT questions, alarming advocates Associated Press 2017

Originally written Apr. 5, 2017