Scout Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity Reporting from Creating Change 2011 Minneapolis, MN
It’s Easy to Forget How Far We’ve Come
Now I’m a glass half full kinda guy, but I also think we’ll gain more if we keep pointing out places where HHS isn’t doing quite as much as we’d hoped for in LGBT health. Like, CDC calls for data collection on us but funds data collection without us; or how the recent healthcare reform factsheet for LGBTs said there would be new professional training, but recent awards for professional training haven’t included us; or how the disparity arm of NIH hasn’t funded any LGBT proposals… you know, that kind of stuff. If we watch and point out these things they often get fixed. But as I sat there an listened to the panel of Obama appointees present on some of our gains this morning I am newly reminded, this glass is more than half full. Yes, we need to fill it all the way up fast because for too many, these disparities are very urgent issues. But, we really are in a situation where the administration is trying their hardest to change decades of exclusion in many federal agencies, and a lot of progress has been made. Let me run through just a few of the gains listed by Brian Bond from the White House, David Hansell from HHS, and others at this mornings appointees panel.
- Healthcare reform (if it stays!) will provide historic health insurance for the too many uninsured LGBT people.
- The top government health policy documents list LGBT disparities early and in big type.
- The Department of Justice is starting to step in and has even helped prosecute local cases of LGBT school bullying. (remember in much of the country, discrimination in the school system is actually still legal).
- The Department of Education is about to release (or did they say they just did?) strong standards to eradicate LGBT bullying in our schools.
- Every single HHS agency has a senior staffer who is assigned to the HHS interagency coordinating group.
- David Hansell, our hero at the HHS’s megasized Administration for Children and Families has been taking many steps to take apart the legacy of discrimination against LGBT youth in the foster care and adoption system. He says 78% of LGBT youth have had to leave foster care placements because of discrimination. So, you can see how sorely this is needed.
- Administrator Hansell has also stepped up to provide a precedent for how to require LGBT disparity plans in mainstream health funding streams, and others like SAMHSA are following this lead.
- Standards for passports have changed to allow trans people to travel safely. (<- in case you don’t understand how real this is, I was advised not to leave the country until these changes were made).
- And something I didn’t even know until today… rules of parenting have been revised so now anyone who parents a child is eligible for family leave benefits.
- And again healthcare reform, healthcare reform, healthcare reform, not only has this legislation shifted the health discussion from medical care to prevention (like tobacco control!), but LGBT people are being named in the strategic plan documents, in the factsheets, and in much of the ground-level work. This is really amazing!
Thanks to all of the Obama appointees, the policymakers, and the hard working advocates who made every one of these changes real.
But now, the conference is continuing, NGLTF’s State Of The Movement speech is about to start, so let me stop writing and listen.