Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

Study finds LGBT health care improving

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade, health care, improving

(Public domain image)

WASHINGTON — A new report finds that things are improving for LGBT people because of better access to health care, Benefitspro.com, a Summit Professional Network publication, reports.

Citing a new study called “Health and Access to Care and Coverage for LGBT Individuals in the U.S.” from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the site reports findings that say that while LGBT people still tend to have more physical and mental health challenges than their straight counterparts, their needs are being increasingly recognized and met.

Researchers evaluated data from the U.S. Census Bureau, various state agencies, the Institute of Medicine, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Centers for Disease Control and more to issue the report. Recent factors such as the Affordable Care Act’s implementation and the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling were also considered, the article said.

The report credits the Affordable Care Act and the rejection of DOMA with “reshaping the health care and coverage landscape for (LGBT) individuals and their families.”

15
Jan
2014

SPECIAL REPORT: Poverty in the LGBT community

Kadeem Swenson, poverty, LGBT, gay news, Washington Blade

Kadeem Swenson told the Blade in 2010 that his parents kicked him out of the house for being gay. He spent a year living in abandoned buildings in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This week, the Blade kicks off a special yearlong focus on poverty in the LGBT community. The occasional series will examine the problem with special reports from D.C. and around the country. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com.

 

As the 50th anniversary of the U.S. war on poverty launched by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 is commemorated this year, LGBT advocates are pointing to little noticed studies showing that the rate of poverty in the LGBT community is higher than that of the general population.

In a 2013 report analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other data measuring poverty in the United States, the Williams Institute, a research arm at the University of California Law School in Los Angeles that specializes in LGBT issues, concludes that rates of poverty are higher than the general population among gay men and lesbians between the ages of 18-44 and gay men and lesbians living alone.

The report shows that couples – both gay and straight – tend to have a lower rate of poverty than single people and the population as a whole. But it found that the poverty rate for lesbian couples is higher than that of gay male couples and opposite-sex couples and the poverty rate of same-sex African-American couples is higher than it is for opposite-sex African-American couples.

Among the report’s findings that surprised LGBT activists were data showing that bisexual men and women had poverty rates of 25.9 percent and 29.4 percent respectively – higher than gay men (20.5 percent) and lesbians (22.7 percent). The report says the same set of data show that heterosexual men had a poverty rate of 15.3 percent compared to a rate of 21.1 percent for heterosexual women.

“The LGB poverty data help to debunk the persistent stereotype of the affluent gay man or lesbian,” the Williams Institute report says.

“Instead, the poverty data are consistent with the view that LGB people continue to face economic challenges that affect their income and life chances, such as susceptibility to employment discrimination, higher rates of being uninsured, and a lack of access to various tax and other financial benefits via exclusion from the right to marry,” the report says.

The report uses the U.S. Census Bureau definition of poverty for 2012 in its analysis of LGBT poverty levels based on family income. That definition lists the “poverty line” for a single person household as an annual income of $11,815 or less. The poverty line for a two-person household was $15,079, and for a four-person household was $23,684 in 2012.

 

poverty, gay news, Washington Blade

Researchers with the Williams Institute say this graph summarizes their findings of higher poverty rates among samples of mostly LGB and some LGBT people in the U.S. The bar graph on the left represents data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey (ACS). The chart in the center is taken from data from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG). The chart at right is from a 2012 phone survey conducted by the Gallup Poll organization. (Graph courtesy of the Williams Institute)

Trans poverty ‘extraordinarily high’

 

A separate study prepared jointly by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 2011, called “Injustice at Every Turn,” shows dramatically higher rates of poverty and homelessness among transgender Americans in each state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Kylar Broadus, senior policy counsel and director of the Trans Civil Rights Project for The Task Force, called the poverty rate in the transgender community “extraordinarily high.” He said a key factor leading to economic hardship among transgender people is the persistent problem of employment discrimination.

“There’s double the national rate of unemployment,” he said in discussing the trans community of which he said he’s a member. “And once we’re employed 90 percent of those surveyed reported experiencing harassment and discrimination on the job,” he noted in pointing to the NCTE-Task Force study.

“Forty-seven percent said they experienced adverse outcomes such as being fired, not hired or denied promotions because of being transgender or gender non-conforming,” Broadus said.

He said the respondents reported various forms of housing discrimination that are contributing factors to homelessness in the transgender community. According to the study, 19 percent of respondents reported having been refused a home or an apartment to rent and 11 percent reported being evicted because of their gender identity or expression.

“Nineteen percent experienced homelessness at some point in their lives because they were transgender or didn’t conform as well, and then 55 percent were denied access to shelters,” he said.

Another study released by the Williams Institute last week reports that 2.4 million LGBT adults, or 29 percent, “experienced a time in the last year when they did not have enough money to feed themselves or their family.”

The study, written by Williams Institute demographer Gary Gates, found that LGBT people are more likely to rely on the federal food stamp program for assistance than their heterosexual counterparts.

“One in four bisexuals (25 percent) receive food stamps,” the report says, “34 percent of LGBT women were food insecure in the last year; and LGBT African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians experienced food insecurity in the last year at rates of 37 percent, 55 percent, and 78 percent respectively,” the report says.

 

LGBT homeless rate high in San Fran

 

Yet another report released last June found that 29 percent of the homeless population in San Francisco identified as LGBT. The report, which was part of the city’s biennial homeless count, included for the first time a count of the number of homeless people who identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Brian Bassinger, director of the San Francisco-based AIDS Housing Alliance, which provides services to the HIV and LGBT communities, said although the finding to some degree reflects the high LGBT population in San Francisco, which is 15 percent, he believes LGBT people make up a sizable percent of the homeless population in other cities throughout the country.

Bassinger said he also believes the 29 percent figure for San Francisco is most likely an under count and that the actual number is higher.

“LGBT people in the shelter system here are regularly targeted for violence, harassment and hate crimes, which are very well documented,” he said.

Since much of the effort to count homeless people in the city takes place at shelters, large numbers of LGBT homeless people are not counted because they generally avoid the shelters out of fear of harassment and violence, Bassinger said.

He said his group also closely monitors a development in San Francisco threatening to push the city’s older LGBT population into poverty and which may be occurring in other cities – the enormous rise in the cost of housing due to gentrification and a booming real estate market. Those who for years have lived in popular gay neighborhoods as tenants are being displaced by the conversion of rental apartment buildings and houses into upscale condominiums, Bassinger said.

“Long-term San Franciscans who have spent decades building the system to deliver access to equal treatment under the law here in San Francisco are getting displaced by all of these people moving into our community,” he said.

And because they can no longer afford to live in San Francisco many are being forced to move to other parts of the state or other states that are less LGBT friendly and don’t have the support community they came to enjoy for so many years, according to Bassinger.

The Williams Institute’s 2013 report, meanwhile, analyzes data from four surveys of the U.S. population with a demographic breakdown that included mostly gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals as well as a smaller, combined “LGBT” sample.

The four surveys were conducted by these organizations or government agencies:

• The 2010 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau with a sample of more than 500,000 and which included data from same-sex couple households.

• The National Survey of Family Growth conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics from 2006-2010 included a sample of more than 19,000 people throughout the country, including people who identified as LGB, the Williams Institute study says.

• The California Health Interview Survey conducted by UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research in collaboration with California Department of Public Health surveyed more than 50,000 Californians, including LGB adults from 2007 to 2009.

• A Gallup Daily Tracking Poll conducted between June 1 and Sept. 30, 2012 with a sample of more than 120,000 adults from 18 and older, included people who identified themselves as LGBT in all 50 states and D.C. The poll was conducted by phone.

The report includes these additional findings on the subject of poverty in the LGBT community:

• African-American same-sex couples have poverty rates more than twice the rate of different-sex married African Americans.

• One-third of lesbian couples and 20.1 percent of gay male couples who don’t have a high school diploma are in poverty, compared to 18.8 percent of heterosexual couples.

• Lesbian couples living in rural areas are more likely to be poor (14.1 percent) compared to 4.5 percent of lesbian couples in large cities; 10.2 percent of gay male couples who live in small metropolitan areas are poor compared with just 3.3 percent of gay male couples who live in large metropolitan areas.

• Nearly one in four children living with a male same-sex couple and 19.2 percent of children living with a female same-sex couple is in poverty. This compares with 12.1 percent of children living with married heterosexual couples who are in poverty.

• African-American children in gay male households have the highest poverty rate (52.3 percent) of any children in any household type.

• 14 percent of lesbian couples and 7.7 percent of gay male couples received food stamps, compared to 6.5 percent of straight married couples. In addition, 2.2 percent of same-sex female couples received government cash assistance compared to 0.8 percent of women in different-sex couples. And 1.2 percent of men in same-sex couples received cash assistance compared to 0.6 percent of men in different-sex couple relationships who received cash assistance.

The report’s co-author Lee Badgett, a Williams Institute senior fellow and professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said it’s difficult to draw a conclusion from the Williams Institute and other studies as to why there are higher poverty levels in the LGBT community.

“The people that I know who worked with LGBT people in poverty talk about the reasons being very complex,” she said.

“I suspect that there are lots of disadvantages that people face, whether it’s in the labor market or in schools and that maybe somehow they kind of come together, that they are sort of cumulative over time and make people more vulnerable to poverty. But I think we don’t really know exactly why that happens,” Badgett told the Blade.

In the Williams Institute report, she and co-authors Laura Durso and Alyssa Schneebaum call for further studies to explore the factors that contribute both to “poverty and economic resilience” within the LGBT community.

“Our analyses highlight different demographic subpopulations that may be particularly at-risk; however, we are unable to take a more fine-grained approach to identifying factors that contribute to poverty in these different communities,” the report says.

“Identifying the conditions under which individuals and families descend into and escape from poverty will aid service organizations and government agencies in designing interventions to address this significant social problem,” the report concludes.

Broadus of the Task Force said discrimination and bias make up at least some of the conditions that force LGBT people into poverty.

“We are less economically secure as a community due to suffering at the hands of discrimination in employment, marriage, insurance and less familial and societal support,” he said. “The LGBT community as a whole lives at the margins and some at the margins of the margins such as women, people of color and children. When some of our community is vulnerable we are all vulnerable.”

12
Feb
2014

Trans benefits of decriminalizing marijuana

marijuana, U.S. Capitol building, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

By HARPER JEAN TOBIN

Across the country, decriminalizing marijuana is on the agenda of lawmakers. Colorado and Washington State made history by legalizing marijuana, and this month the D.C. Council gave an initial nod to turn marijuana possession from a crime to something more like a parking ticket.

Other states are also considering legislation. Much of the conversation has focused on the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol, and on the fact black people are far more likely to be arrested and charged for marijuana despite using pot at similar rates to white people.

What does this have to do with transgender and transgender people of color? A lot. While we don’t have specific figures on marijuana, we know that trans people—especially trans people of color—are disproportionately affected by our country’s continuing problems of mass incarceration, police profiling and harassment, barriers to jobs and housing that are exacerbated by a criminal record, and other critical problems that are being neglected in favor of spending on drug enforcement and prisons.

While changing marijuana laws will not cure these problems, we believe it is a step in the right direction.

Here’s why NCTE supports decriminalizing marijuana:

• Decriminalization would help reduce disproportionate incarceration of transgender people. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) found that fully 1 in 8 transgender people, more than 1 in 5 transgender women, and nearly half (47 percent) of black transgender people have been incarcerated. Trans people, like their non-trans counterparts, are overwhelmingly arrested and incarcerated for minor, nonviolent offenses—a reality confirmed by the NTDS finding that most formerly incarcerated transgender people have served misdemeanor sentences of less than one year, with a majority serving less than six months. Decriminalization would mean fewer trans people needlessly incarcerated.

• Decriminalization would reduce barriers to employment, housing, education and public services. Having a criminal record for a minor offense like marijuana possession can mean being barred from many jobs, public housing, student loans and other key supports that individuals need to get back on their feet after exiting prison. Even if a person avoids incarceration, a conviction can mean immediate eviction from their home or losing your legal immigration status. And many employers will not even consider hiring someone with any criminal record. For trans people, this means more barriers on top of widespread anti-trans discrimination.

• Decriminalization would send fewer transgender people to dangerous jails and prisons. Prisons and jails are inhumane and traumatizing places for anyone, and they are especially dangerous for transgender people. Transgender women are still routinely housed with men, where they are 13 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other inmates.

• Decriminalization would reduce some of the harms of “stop and frisk.” More than one-third (35 percent) of trans people have been harassed or face discriminatory treatment by police officers—often simply for the crime of “walking while trans.” When stopped and frisked, marijuana is the most common thing people are arrested for. And, suspicion of marijuana is one of the main justifications for stops of youth of color. While much of the police harassment of trans people is based on targeting trans women as suspected or actual sex workers, decriminalizing marijuana would mean one less reason for trans people, especially trans youth of color, to fear harassment or arrest when they walk down the street.

• Decriminalization could free up scarce resources to address the real issues of homelessness, poverty, healthcare and education. Trans people face stark health disparities, are twice as likely to be unemployed, four times more likely to live in extreme poverty, and face violence from their schools to the streets to their own homes. We spend untold billions arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating people for marijuana possession. Though it won’t happen without advocacy, every dollar saved could be redirected by policymakers into addressing real community needs that should benefit trans and other marginalized people.

• Decriminalization would move us closer to addressing drug use as a public health issue. Substance abuse presents real issues for the trans community. More than one quarter (26 percent) of trans people report having used drugs or alcohol to cope with the stress of discrimination, and many studies have found LGBT disparities in substance use and abuse. But voluntary treatment and support for those with problematic drug use is the right response, not criminalization.

NCTE has added its voice to the civil rights, faith, harm reduction, and public health voices supporting decriminalization before the D.C. Council. While NCTE continues to focus on issues where our trans-specific expertise is critical, we will also support common-sense marijuana reform that will benefit our community and other marginalized communities.

Harper Jean Tobin is director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality.

25
Feb
2014

Police chief to release hate crimes report

Cathy Lanier, MPD, Metropolitan Police Department, gay news, Washington Blade

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier is expected to release a report on how the department investigates and reports hate crimes. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier was expected to release this week a report prepared by an independent task force that assessed how the department investigates and reports hate crimes, including anti-LGBT hate crimes.

A statement on Tuesday by a police spokesperson that Lanier planned to release the report this week came less than a week after the local group Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) sent the chief an open letter asking about the status of the report, which was commissioned in June 2012.

“It has now been several months since the research phase of this study was completed, and we would like to inquire on the status of the final report findings,” said GLOV co-chairs Hassan Naveed and Matthew Corso, who signed the letter along with representatives of five other local LGBT groups.

Lanier announced at a June 2012 news conference that she had enlisted the Anti-Defamation League, a national group that fights prejudice and discrimination, to create the task force to conduct an impartial study of police practices and procedures for responding to hate crimes.

She said the effort was aimed at helping the department strengthen its efforts to combat hate crimes.

At the time, ADL Director David Friedman announced he had recruited representatives of the Human Rights Campaign, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and two university professors considered experts on hate violence to join the ADA as members of the task force.

Since its launching, the task force has interviewed more than two-dozen representatives of the LGBT community to obtain their views on how police have responded to anti-LGBT hate crimes in D.C, activists familiar with the task force have said.

“If the report has been completed, we request that it be released as soon as possible,” GLOV said in its Feb. 19 open letter. “We look forward to reviewing the report findings and discussing them with you.”

26
Feb
2014

D.C. requires insurers to cover gender reassignment

Vincent Gray, transgender, gay news, Washington Blade, gender reassignment

‘Treatment of individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria is a covered benefit in all individual and group insurance plans in the District of Columbia, including Medicaid,’ said Mayor Vincent Gray. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced on Thursday that health insurance companies doing business in the District must provide full coverage for medically recognized treatments to help transgender people change their gender, including gender reassignment surgery.

At a news conference in a meeting room outside his office, Gray said the city’s Department of Insurance, Securities, and Banking issued a bulletin directing insurers to recognize a condition known as gender dysphoria, or gender identity disorder, as a medical condition to be covered by insurance plans.

Transgender advocates note that the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association recognize gender dysphoria as a diagnosable condition through which physicians and other health care professional provide a wide range of approved medical treatments to assist people in transitioning from one gender to another.

“Today, the District takes a major step toward leveling the playing field for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria,” Gray said. “These residents should not have to pay exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses for medically necessary treatment when those without gender dysphoria do not,” he said.

“I’m clarifying today that treatment of individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria is a covered benefit in all individual and group insurance plans in the District of Columbia, including Medicaid,” Gray said.

Gray’s remark drew a prolonged, standing ovation from LGBT activists, including transgender advocates, who gathered in the mayor’s ceremonial bill-signing room where Gray held his news conference.

“Those who know me know how proud I am that the District continues to be on the cutting edge and on the forefront when it relates to equality and fairness for its LGBTQ residents,” Gray said.

The bulletin, which the city sent to insurance companies on the day of Gray’s announcement, cites the D.C. Human Rights Act as among the legal grounds being used to require insurers to cover transgender related treatments. The Human Rights Act, among other categories, bans discrimination based on gender identity and expression as well as sexual orientation.

The bulletin cites the D.C. Unfair Insurance Trade Practices Act of 2001 as further grounds for not allowing insurers to exclude coverage of trans-related treatments from their insurance plans.

Among those speaking at the news conference was Mara Keisling, executive director of the D.C.-based National Center for Transgender Equality, which worked with the mayor’s office and insurance department officials to help draft the four-page bulletin.

Keisling said Gray’s action places D.C. among just five states that have adopted similar policies requiring insurers to cover treatments such as gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy to assist an individual’s transition to another gender.

Those states are California, Oregon, Colorado, Vermont and Connecticut.

“This is really significant,” Keisling told the Blade after the news conference. “It means that transgender people in D.C. now can make their health care decisions with their doctor rather than with their insurance companies,” she said.

Mara Keisling, NCTE, National Center for Transgender Equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Asked what treatments are involved in a gender transition, Keisling said experts with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health Standards of Care (WPATH) have developed a wide range of treatments that may vary from person to person depending on individual needs.

“It’s a whole range of transition-related care — everything from diagnostic visits to experts in the field,” Keisling said. “It can mean hormone treatments. It can mean lab tests to make sure your hormones are working correctly and not causing any harm. There are various kinds of surgeries that transgender people may need. So it covers a whole range of things.”

D.C. transgender activist Andy Bowen, who recently joined the staff of the NCTE as a policy associate, called the D.C. initiative announced by Gray the most comprehensive among the states that have adopted similar policies.

“If you look at some of the other states they say they’re not going to cover some treatments,” Bowen said. “D.C. has not done that. It just said that if it’s one of the WPATH treatments we’re going to cover it. And that’s amazing to hear a government be that unequivocal about it.”

Philip Barlow, the city’s Associate Commissioner of Insurance, said after the news conference that requiring health insurance companies to cover the medical treatments for transgender people would likely result in a small increase in premiums over a period of time.

“It will just be incorporated into the general cost and utilization that insurers use in coming up with future rate increases,” he said. “But we don’t really anticipate it to have a significant impact on the rates.”

Michael Silverman, executive director of the New York-based Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, praised Gray for taking action that he said would “end health care discrimination against transgender residents of Washington, D.C.”

The bulletin issued by the city’s Department of Insurance that directs insurers to provide full coverage for medically approved treatments to transgender individuals in D.C. can be obtained here.

28
Feb
2014

SPECIAL REPORT: ‘You can’t let adversity get you down’

Cedric Burgess, poverty, gay news, Washington Blade

Cedric Burgess says he lives ‘check to check’ while relying on government assistance to pay bills. Despite his struggles, he works to give back to the LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part look at how poverty affects elder members of the LGBT community and part of a yearlong Blade focus on poverty. To share your ideas or personal story, visit us on Facebook or email knaff@washblade.com. Click here to read previous installments.

 

“I did my dirt,” said Cedric Burgess, a black gay man and longtime Washington, D.C. resident who grew up in the District. “I was young and full of fun!”

Today, Burgess, 61, is a recovering alcoholic who suffers from depression. He’s been HIV positive for more than 30 years. “I live from check to check,” said Burgess, who receives Social Security disability benefits.

Before undergoing a hip replacement four years ago, he struggled to walk up to his second-story apartment.

“It is a wonder to be able to walk without my cane,” Burgess said. “No matter what pain pills I took, I couldn’t get to sleep. You don’t realize how much pain you’re in. You adapt. I couldn’t cross my legs. Steps weren’t an option.”

At 19, Burgess came out to his family.

“I was accepted by my family. I was taken in,” he said, “that was a blessing!”

For some years, he worked in a series of clerical jobs. In 1982, Burgess, then living and working as an administrative assistant in Atlanta, was hit by a drunk driver. The accident left him with back pain, nerve damage and sciatica. For two years, unable to work, he did physical therapy. In 1984, Burgess returned to work. After returning to D.C., he went back to doing clerical work.

During the AIDS epidemic, his family confronted Burgess.

“They said ‘you gotta get tested,’” he said. “In 1991, after I found out I was positive, I took a two-week vacation. I got HIV through a blood transfusion I received when I had my accident.  They weren’t screening transfusions for HIV then.”

In 2006, his back pain became so severe that Burgess left the workforce. He said he retired from the Green Door, a D.C. organization that helps people with mental challenges, where he worked as a program assistant.

“You can’t let adversity get you down, you have to have a positive attitude,” Burgess added.  Fortunately, he said, social safety net programs help him to make ends meet. In addition to his monthly disability check, Burgess receives food stamps. His health care is covered by Medicare and Medicaid.

“I receive energy assistance from Pepco and two-thirds of my rent, with funding from the Ryan White Act, is subsidized by the Washington, D.C. Housing Coalition,” Burgess said.

These programs are a lifeline for him. “Without the rental assistance and the Medicare and Medicaid, I wouldn’t be able to afford housing and health care,” Burgess said. “I couldn’t pay for my HIV medications and I couldn’t have had my hip replacement.”

Cedric Burgess, poverty, gay news, Washington Blade

Cedric Burgess says many elders don’t know their legal rights when it comes to housing and other issues. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Despite living with economic hardship, Burgess leads an active and full life. Committed to helping others, he has volunteered for groups serving everyone from homeless youth to elders.  “I’m a goodwill ambassador for the DC Center for the LGBT Community and for AARP,” Burgess said. “I help seniors learn about their rights in housing and in nursing homes. Many seniors don’t know their rights.”

“I believe in God’s healing,” he went on, “I go to church. I have no prejudice against any other religion. I’m a spiritually free person.”

Burgess’s situation is far from unique. Many LGBT older adults (aging Baby Boomers over 50) live with economic insecurity.

“Media and marketing stereotypes view the LGBT community as an affluent niche group filled with couples with double incomes,” said Matthew J. Corso, chief communications officer and board member of the DC Center for the LGBT Community. “The poverty rate among LGBT older adults is much higher than people would think from the marketing view. Older adults can often feel isolated.”

The DC Center’s Coffee and Conversation is a safe space where older adults can connect with others in the community and discuss issues related to living with economic insecurity, Corso said.

People rarely look at economic insecurity and aging, said Robert Espinoza, senior director of public policy and communications for Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), “People studying poverty don’t look often enough at poverty among LGBT and older people.  On the other side, people studying LGBT issues aren’t looking often enough at aging and poverty.”

But studies that have been done show that poverty is high among elders and even higher among LGBT older adults, Espinoza said. Among the findings:

• One in six Americans aged 65 and older lives in poverty, according to a 2013 Congressional Research Service report.

• The poverty rate is as high or higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual people than for heterosexual people, and lesbian couples, 65 and older, are twice as likely to be poor as straight married couples, according to a 2009 Williams Institute Report.

• There are an estimated 1.5 million gay, lesbian and bisexual elders in the United States today. The number is expected to increase to nearly 3 million by 2030, according to “Improving the Lives of LGBT Older Adults” from SAGE, the Movement Advancement Program (MAP) and Center for American Progress.

• Because historically LGBT people have not been able to marry, many LGBT older adults face the economic insecurity and health issues that come with aging without the support from families that heterosexual older adults often receive. LGBT elders are twice as likely to be single and three to four times more likely to be without children as their straight peers, according to the MAP report.

• Transgender adults encounter profound discrimination, according to a SAGE and National Center for Transgender Equality 2012 report. They experience “striking disparities in … health care access … employment and more,” the report states, “with a growing older transgender population, there is an urgent need to understand the challenges that can threaten financial security, health and overall well-being.”

Several factors contribute to poverty among LGBT elders. “In the past, many faced employment discrimination because they were LGBT. LGBT people of color and lesbians faced even more severe discrimination,” Espinoza said. “Too many LGBT older adults have little, if any, retirement savings.”

• LGBT older adults face health disparities and 47 percent of LGBT people over 50 have a disability, said Imani Woody, Ph.D., chair of SAGE Metro D.C. “More than one in 10 LGBT people aged 50-plus have been denied health care or provided with inferior health care,” she said. “This can lead to economic insecurity, which can translate to poverty. If you don’t have access to health care, what do you have?”

Even older LGBT adults with moderate incomes, who wouldn’t think of themselves as facing poverty, can become impoverished if they become disabled or need long-term care, Espinoza said. “If you only have savings of, say, $60,000, it will go quickly.”

Lack of affordable housing and housing discrimination are key reasons why many LGBT older adults live in or near poverty. Same-sex older couples encounter discrimination when seeking housing in senior living facilities, according to a report, “Opening Doors: An Investigation of Barriers to Senior Housing for Same-Sex couples,” released last month by the Equal Rights Center, a civil rights organization in partnership with SAGE.

“We saw a number of adverse treatments with a high economic impact,” said Don Kahl, executive director, Equal Rights Center. “Sometimes they were charged for having an ‘extra person.’ At other times, they were told they’d have to take a more expensive two-bedroom apartment when they wanted a one-bedroom,” he said, “In other cases, they were treated in such a manner, that they wouldn’t accept the housing even if it was offered.”

It’s a misperception to think that as people age, they accumulate wealth and live out their days in comfort, said Peter Johnson, director of public relations for the Center on Halsted in Chicago. “It’s even more true for LGBT older adults. Before we began to experience marriage equality, LGBT seniors might have shared finances unevenly with their partners,” he said. “Without marriage, if one partner dies or the relationship ends, a huge financial burden is placed on the remaining partner.”

The Halsted Center is working with the Heartland Alliance to provide LGBT older adults with affordable housing in the LakeView neighborhood of Chicago. “While not exclusively LGBT it will be LGBT focused and friendly,” Johnson said. “It will be 70 units of subsidized housing with the rent being no more than 30 percent of residents’ income.”

LGBT elders live in or near poverty nationwide — from rural to metropolitan areas, Johnson said. “We are fortunate to have Heartland [Alliance] dealing with us on these issues.”

      Next week: Meet elder members of the LGBT community coping with unemployment and economic insecurity.

20
Mar
2014

Justice Department launches transgender training program

Ruby Corado, Casa Ruby, gay news, Washington Blade

Ruby Corado, executive director of Casa Ruby, is among those who took part in a U.S. Justice Department training on Thursday. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

In a conference room at its headquarters in Washington, the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday held a first-of-its-kind training session for law enforcement officials on how they can better serve the transgender community.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, in opening remarks, said Thursday’s session represented the launching of an ongoing nationwide series of similar training sessions designed to educate the nation’s law enforcement establishment about problems and needs of trans people.

“At its most basic level, the new training will provide tools to enhance an officer’s ability to build partnerships with community members and to work with fellow citizens, who share a commitment to public safety,” Cole told the gathering.

Cole and other DOJ officials said the department’s Community Relations Service, which was established under the famed U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, developed the trans training program with input from representatives of the LGBT community.

LGBT community members, including D.C. trans activist Ruby Corado, were among those attending the March 27 session.

“We heard you when you told us that we needed to establish a foundation of trust between those who serve and protect the public and those in the LGBT communities – particularly the transgender community – who are disproportionately the victims of hate violence,” said Cole.

Among those who helped develop the training program and who were scheduled to give a presentation at the session were Major Irene A. Burks of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department; and Diego Miguel Sanchez, a veteran trans advocate, legislative assistant to former U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and current National Director of Policy for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

Also scheduled to give a presentation at the session was Harper Jean Tobin, an attorney and Director of Policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Sgt. Brett Parson of the Metropolitan Police Department of D.C., who formerly headed the division that oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, assisted in developing the trans training program. Parson was scheduled to be one of the instructors at the March 27 training session but had to cancel his appearance due to a scheduling conflict, people familiar with the event said.

Also attending the training were D.C. police Sgt. Matthew Mahl, the current supervisor of the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, and Officer Justin Markiewicz, a member of the unit.

DOJ officials limited news media attendance of the event to the introductory remarks by DOJ officials. DOJ spokesperson Emily Pierce said the training itself was closed to the media because it involved role-playing exercises that could make participants uncomfortable under the glare of the press.

A statement released by the DOJ says the trans training program will become an important component of the DOJ’s Community Relations Service, which, among other things, helps communities develop strategies to prevent and respond to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of a victim’s sexual orientation and gender identity as well as other factors such as race, religion, and national origin.

The trans training program “will hereafter be facilitated around the country by CRS (Community Relations Service) regional personnel and local volunteer experts in communities that are experiencing hate violence and wish to better respond and prevent such incidents against transgender persons,” the statement says.

It says that in addition to its D.C. headquarters, the Community Relations Service has 10 regional offices and four smaller field offices that serve all 50 states and U.S. territories.

“The training resources that CRS (Community Relations Service) has created (with input from law enforcement leaders and transgender advocates) is intended to assist communities across the country and law enforcement agencies wishing to improve their understanding of and work with the transgender communities they serve,” according to the statement.

Trans activists across the country, including those in D.C., have reported widespread incidents of police mistreatment of trans people. D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier has been credited with putting in place policies and procedures for officers to treat transgender residents with respect and sensitivity.

Despite these policies, trans advocates says incidents of insensitivity by officers, while declining, continues to surface.

“We understand when you shared the worst possible – and frankly unacceptable – outcome that the transgender community could face,” said Cole at the training session in Washington. “Based on the community’s fears about law enforcement’s support and perceptions, too many of you in the transgender community simply didn’t report incidents of crime brought to bear against you,” he said.

“This is not a result that can or will be tolerated by the Justice Department, and it runs counter to the very role your community public safety officials want to promote,” said Cole.

Cole acknowledged, however, that the trans training program would likely be utilized mostly by “forward-thinking chiefs of police, sheriffs, and other public safety professionals who opt to participate” in the program.

Tony West, DOJ’s associate attorney general, and Grande H. Lum, national director of the department’s Community Relations Service, also spoke at the training.

28
Mar
2014

Obama renews PR push for health care law

John West, Michael Lappin, gay news, Washington Blade

John West (left) and Michael Lappin are set to save $5,200 a year under Obamacare. (Photo courtesy of Michael Lappin

For Michael Lappin and his spouse John West, the Affordable Care Act offered critical savings — more than $5,200 a year —thanks to the individual insurance policies they purchased on the Obamacare website.

Amid widespread media attention to the technical difficulties with the Healthcare.gov site, cancelled policies and loss of registration information for enrollment, the Atlanta couple represents one positive experience in accessing health care reform.

In a phone interview with the Washington Blade, Lappin said the couple, who co-founded their own business, STELLAR Mortgage Corp., was previously covered by plans that offered decent but expensive coverage.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, we’re getting new plans,” Lappin said. “We’re switching providers, keeping our same doctor, though, as our primary care physician, and between the two of us, we’re going to save over $5,200 a year on our health insurance.”

Even with the lower cost of the insurance, Lappin said the couple will enjoy lower co-pays, lower deductibles and lower out-of-pocket costs — all without help of any subsidies offered by the federal government under Obamacare.

Lappin, 44, and West, 49, married in D.C. in 2012, but applied for individual plans because they have yet to file a joint tax return. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act in June, Lappin said the couple intends to file jointly next year and may revisit the idea of family coverage.

“I believe the rates are the same if we buy individually or together, so it’s just sending two checks versus one check,” Lappin said. “But I will definitely revisit that once we have joint tax returns and make sure.”

The couple enjoys a positive outcome under health care reform as President Obama makes a renewed push for the law, saying problems with the enrollment website are fixed and healthcare.gov is now working for the vast majority of people.

During an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Tuesday, Obama touted his signature legislation in front of 19 people who also had positive experiences under health care reform.

“Now that we are getting the technology fixed — we need you to go back, take a look at what’s actually going on, because it can make a difference in your lives and the lives of your families,” Obama said. “And maybe it won’t make a difference right now if you’re feeling healthy, but I promise you, if somebody in your family — heaven forbid — gets sick, you’ll see the difference.”

As a result of the law, Obama projected that half a million people are poised to gain health care coverage through the health insurance exchanges and the Medicaid expansion beginning on Jan. 1 — some for the very first time.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, expressed solidarity with Obama in a statement the next day, saying his law is a “giant step” toward delivering health care to all Americans.

“We stand with the president in his unshakable commitment to this fundamental component of a transformed society,” Carey said. “We also encourage everyone to fully educate themselves on how to access the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.”

Upon the initial rollout of healthcare.gov, users reportedly faced numerous problems, including loading difficulties and error messages. Lappin said he and his partner initially had difficulties enrolling via the website, but eventually were able to apply.

“When I would get in, it was glitchy, but over the next probably two weeks or so, I continued to get better and I was able to get in, and get it figured out,” Lappin said.

As he’s gone back to healthcare.gov to make payments and obtain confirmation from HUMANA, his new insurance company, Lappin noticed an increase in the website’s functionality.

“I log back in now and the site seems to work,” Lappin said. “It’s much faster, much quicker, the buttons actually work and do things now. As somebody who’s started Oct. 1 through now, I can tell you, huge improvements to the site.”

Lappin said he and his spouse opted to apply for health insurance through healthcare.gov, the website for the federal exchange, because Georgia doesn’t offer its own state insurance exchange and has no website for enrollment.

LGBT advocates — and the Obama administration — have touted that health care reform provides non-discrimination protections for LGBT people in the health care system. Through regulation, the Obama administration has interpreted the gender protections under the law to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Although he’s claiming significant savings under Obamacare, Lappin said he doesn’t think that’s because of discrimination faced under the previous system.

“We had individual plans, so I don’t think there was any way that anybody could have discriminated against us,” Lappin said. “It didn’t even come up in any kind of underwriting, anything that we know about.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, praised the non-discrimination protections as essential for trans people seeking health coverage.

“An important message to get out is that trans people and people living with HIV/AIDS can no longer be denied as having pre-existing conditions,” Keisling said.

Keisling said her own organization has benefited under Obamacare, saving about $250 per staff person per month on health insurance costs, or about $15,000 total.

Despite the push to promote Obamacare, most Republicans remain opposed to the law and continue hammering the administration for problems that have emerged since the rollout.

Also in this camp is the Log Cabin Republicans, which previously joined with conservative groups in signing a letter calling health care reform “tyrannical.”

Gregory Angelo, executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, said he’s heard horror stories from members about their efforts at enrolling in healthcare.gov.

“Premiums are going up, some members have had no luck signing up on the website even after making repeated good faith efforts, people have been unable to change their information after it has been entered and connected with their Social Security number,” Angelo said.

Angelo said he couldn’t find a member willing to speak publicly about the problems.

For his part, Obama said during the White House event he’s open to ideas about changing the law, but won’t go back to the way things were before his health care reform was in place.

“I’ve always said I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively,” Obama said. “If you’ve got good ideas, bring them to me.  Let’s go. But we’re not repealing it as long as I’m president.”

04
Dec
2013

Medicare to examine ban on gender reassignment surgery

transgender, caduceus, medicare, gay news, Washington Blade, health

HHS is set to reconsider the ban on Medicare-provided gender reassignment surgery. (Image public domain)

The Obama administration is set to re-examine the ban that prohibits Medicare from covering gender reassignment surgery, according to a memorandum obtained Tuesday by the Washington Blade.

The document from the Department of Health & Human Services, dated Dec. 2, finds that the reasoning for the ban is “not complete and adequate” to support denying Medicaid coverage for transgender people seeking the procedure.

The HHS Department Appeals Board states the ban — which is codified as National Coverage Determination 140.3 — “fails to account for development in the care and treatment” for transgender people over the course of the last 30 years.

The next step, the memo states, is proceeding into a “discovery” phase for the taking of evidence to determine whether the ban can be justified.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said “there really isn’t that much to say” at this point in the process.

“This is really a preliminary step,” Keisling said. “It’s a good sign, but we have more to go on this.”

Masen Davis, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, was optimistic the ban would be lifted following the discovery process.

“Current Medicare standards are based on science from the 1960s, so it’s about time for a review,” Davis said. “Because the current scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that sex-reassignment surgeries are effective and medically necessary treatments for some transgender individuals, we are hopeful the board will find the exclusion is not supported.”

The DAB initiated the review of the ban on Medicare-provided gender reassignment surgery in response to a request filed in March by a quartet of LGBT advocates: the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders and civil rights attorney Mary Lou Boelcke.

The challenge was filed on behalf of Denee Mallon, a 73-year-old transgender woman in Albuquerque, N.M. A Medicare recipient, Mallon was recommended to have gender reassignment surgery by doctors to treat her gender dysphoria

In a joint statement provided to the Washington Blade in response to the HHS memorandum, the ACLU, NCLR and GLAD expressed optimism that DAB would come to the conclusion after discovery that the ban on Medicare-provided gender reassignment surgery should be lifted.

“Because the current evidence overwhelmingly shows that sex-reassignment surgeries are effective and medically necessary treatments for some individuals with gender dysphoria, we are hopeful the Board will find the exclusion is not supported,” the statement says.

According to the memorandum, the ban was put in place in 1989 as a result of a 1981 report from the National Center for Health Care Technology, an arm of HHS. The report concluded “transsexual surgery not be covered by Medicare at this time” because of the high rate of complications and questions about whether it was effective in treating gender identity disorder.

“Transsexual surgery for sex reassignment of transsexuals is controversial,” the regulation states. “Because of the lack of well controlled, long term studies of the safety and effectiveness of the surgical procedures and attendant therapies for transsexualism, the treatment is considered experimental. Moreover, there is a high rate of serious complications for these surgical procedures. For these reasons, transsexual surgery is not covered.”

Despite the institution of this policy, the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association support gender reassignment surgery for transgender people as a means to treat gender identity disorder.

Notably, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid didn’t put up a fight in response to the request from LGBT advocates to lift the ban. According to the memo, CMS notified the board in June that it wouldn’t submit a response to their request to lift the ban.

Neither HHS nor CMS responded to the Blade’s request for comment on the determination or why it declined to defend the ban.

It’s unclear when the discovery period for reevaluating the ban on Medicare-provided gender reassignment surgery will come to an end. Shawn Jain, a spokesperson f0r the ACLU, said his organization doesn’t know when the process will be complete.

11
Dec
2013

Transgender advocates applaud new Social Security policy

Gay News, Washington Blade, Mara Keisling, Transgender

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Social Security Administration on Friday announced transgender people will be able to update their gender on agency records without having undergone sex-reassignment surgery.

Trans people under the new policy can either submit a passport or birth certificate that notes their gender or a letter from their doctor that confirms they have received transition-related treatment.

The National Center for Transgender Equality, which had sought the policy change for seven years, noted the State Department and the Veterans Health Administration are among the other federal agencies that have implemented similar policies. The Pentagon still requires trans servicemembers and veterans to prove they have undergone sex-reassignment surgery in order to change their gender for military pensions and other beneficiary programs.

“Most people may not see this as a big deal, but transgender people know that this seemingly small technical change will protect their privacy and give them more control over their own lives” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, described the new policy as a “big win for LGBT equality.”

“This new policy is in line with how transgender people live their lives and is in line with the medical community’s consensus on when a person’s gender should be recognized,” she said.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project also worked with NCTE and the Task Force to secure the policy change.

.

14
Jun
2013