Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community
- Posted byon June 20, 2014 at 1:31 PM EST
Each June, the LGBTQ+ community and allies commemorate Pride Month, promoting self-affirmation, dignity, visibility, inclusion and diversity within the community. In July, the disability community and allies commemorate the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, promoting the same principles in response to a similar history of exclusion and discrimination.
These periods of commemoration are clearly connected by a matter of days on the calendar, but as communities we don’t always make the connections around our common experiences and goals. I believe the disability and LGBTQ+ communities can find strength in working together. In fact, it is these commonalities and the opportunities they present that led me to serve as chief of staff in the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
From my earliest thoughts, I knew I was different. I knew because the outside world told me so. When my mom was pregnant with me she thought she was carrying a boy and chose the name Dallas. When I was born with the external indications that I was a girl, she instead named me Lily − as I like to joke, “the most effeminate name in the book.”
As I grew I didn’t feel like a girl or what that seemed to represent. I also thought there was something wrong with me. I felt shame about what I decided would be my little (or big) secret for the rest of my life. I was teased on the playground and questioned by adults as to “what I was,” and essentially told that I did not look or act the way I was “meant” to. And, I felt camaraderie with individuals with disabilities who, like me, were excluded or made fun of for how they looked or acted. So I stuck up for them and befriended them.
It would not be for many years that I would first hear the word transgender and eventually embrace that identity, and find love, community, support and pride. Along the way, I have come to recognize the multiple intersections within our communities – from being labeled by society as “other” or somehow different from what is “normal” mentally or physically, to negotiating disclosure, to facing barriers and disparities in critical areas of life like public accommodations, housing, education, employment, the legal system and medical care. These intersections have influenced me along my academic and professional path, and the disability community has become my community.
This week I was honored to participate in the Forum on LGBT and Disability Issues at the White House, and proud to share how ODEP is building bridges between the disability community and other marginalized populations.
One of the initiatives we are working on is called Add Us In, designed to identify and develop strategies to increase employment within the small businesses for individuals with disabilities, with an emphasis on ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ+ community, women and veterans. ODEP is also working to support the National HIV/AIDS Strategy by improving employment and economic opportunities for people living with HIV, a covered disability under the ADA, which disproportionately impacts the gay, transgender, African American and Latino communities.
Through my work, I am constantly reminded that, although much remains to be done, significant progress has occurred in just the last generation, for both the LGBTQ+ and the disability communities. Going forward, we must draw strength from each other’s lessons − and remind ourselves that when one person or group is marginalized or discriminated against, we all are.
I hope to one day live in a world that truly celebrates the wide variation of the human form, condition and experience. To get there, we all have a part to play. Change does not arise from pity, shame, exclusion or low expectations. It arises from empowerment, celebration of difference, and a willingness to take risks as individuals and communities − to take pride in who we are.
Dylan Orr is chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy.
- Posted byon June 19, 2014 at 1:04 PM EST
Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama's groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.
We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.
The Government of Uganda's enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.
After thorough consideration, the U.S. government is taking a number of actions to underscore the critical importance we place on human rights and fighting against discrimination, protecting vulnerable populations, respecting freedom of expression and association, and advancing inclusive governance.
June is Pride Month, National Homeownership Month: USDA Brings Homeownership Assistance to Rural LGBT CommunitiesPosted byon June 16, 2014 at 3:56 PM EST
June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.
June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.” With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future.
USDA plays a key role in ensuring low- to moderate-income rural residents have access to affordable home loans. Last year alone, USDA Rural Development provided $23.4 billion for the purposes of purchasing, building, and restoring homes in rural communities. These programs make it possible for low-income rural families to achieve the dream of homeownership. Ensuring that programs like these are accessible to the LGBT community is especially important as a recent study by the Williams Institute finds that LGBT adults are 1.7 times more likely than non-LGBT adults to be living in poverty.
- Posted byon May 21, 2014 at 1:07 PM EST
This Thursday, May 22nd, the White House Office of Public Engagement, the United States Postal Service and the Harvey Milk Foundation will host a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp at the White House.
The event will feature remarks by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Tammy Baldwin, Representative John Lewis, Deputy Postmaster General Ronald A. Stroman, and other distinguished guests including the Co-Founders of the Harvey Milk Foundation, Stuart Milk and Anne Kronenberg.
Watch live starting at 3:00 p.m. EST at whitehouse.gov/live. If you’re following on social media, the hashtag is #HarveyMilkStamp.
Harvey Milk was a visionary leader who became one of the first openly gay elected officials in the U.S. when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk’s achievements gave hope and confidence to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in the United States and elsewhere at a time when the community was encountering widespread hostility and discrimination. Milk believed that government should represent all citizens, ensuring equality and providing needed services.
Tragically, his political career was cut short less than a year after he took office in California when he and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978.
In 2009, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And in 2013, the White House Office of Public Engagement honored ten openly LGBT elected and appointed officials as “Harvey Milk Champions of Change.”
For more information on the Harvey Milk Forever Stamp, please visit: http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2014/pr14_026.htm
Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.
- Posted byon April 17, 2014 at 10:33 AM EST
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from HHS.gov
Throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. When we are sick or injured, we depend on health care professionals to treat us with competence, compassion, and the understanding that we are protected against mistreatment.
Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals harms the health and well-being of LGBT individuals and their families in many ways. Like everyone else, LGBT individuals should receive regular health care when and where they need it, without fear of disclosing their sexual history and gender identity to their health care providers, and with the freedom to involve their partners in their care. But they often cannot do so, or believe they cannot do so, based on the threat of discrimination.
HHS has in place a matrix of powerful protections to ensure that LGBT individuals have equal access to health care and freedom from discrimination:
- The Affordable Care Act prevents health insurance companies from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concerns—or because they happen to be LGBT.
- Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone else who has a chronic condition.
- The landmark civil rights provision, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sex, which includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. While implementing regulations are being drafted, HHS is accepting complaints and enforcing the law.
- Insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including against same-sex spouses with respect to an offer of spousal coverage.
All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that prior to the new coverage options provided under the health care law, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication. Information is a powerful tool to equip individuals, friends, family, and community leaders with knowledge to ensure LGBT people have access to quality, affordable health care and freedom from discrimination.
We hope you will continue to join us in this important work.
Matthew Heinz is the Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Juliet K. Choi is the Chief of Staff & Senior Advisor, Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- Posted byon April 4, 2014 at 3:51 PM ESTEd. note: This is cross-posted from AIDS.govDr. Deborah Birx was sworn in today as the new Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to lead all U.S. Government international HIV/AIDS efforts. Ambassador Birx now oversees implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.“I am honored and humbled to lead PEPFAR into a brand new chapter to achieve an AIDS-free generation through shared responsibility, accountability, and impact.” said Ambassador Birx.Ambassador Birx is a renowned medical expert in the field of HIV/AIDS. For over three decades, her career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. Since 2005, she has served as Director of the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leading PEPFAR implementation.Prior to the CDC, Ambassador Birx, a proud Army veteran, having risen to the rank of Colonel in the US Army, served at the Department of Defense as Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In that role, she led development of the Thai vaccine trial which became the first clinical HIV/AIDS research study to show the potential that a vaccine could protect against HIV. She also served as an Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.PEPFAR now directly supports 6.7 million people globally on life-saving antiretroviral treatment. In Fiscal Year 2013, PEPFAR also supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 57.7 million people, providing a critical entry point to prevention, treatment, and care. Of those receiving PEPFAR-supported HIV testing and counseling, more than 12.8 million were pregnant women. For the 780,000 of these women who tested positive for HIV, PEPFAR provided antiretroviral medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Due to PEPFAR support, 95 percent of these babies were born HIV-free (including 240,000 that would otherwise have been infected).
- Posted byon March 26, 2014 at 5:27 PM EST
An important deadline is coming up for all Americans, including the LGBT community: March 31 is the end of the open enrollment period for individuals to sign up for health care in the state and federal Marketplaces. If you miss the deadline, you may not be able to get health insurance again until next year.
The Affordable Care Act has the potential to improve the health and well-being of the LGBT community for generations to come. (Here’s how.) Many LGBT individuals across the country have signed up for coverage — and they’re already seeing the benefits.
- Posted byon March 25, 2014 at 5:20 PM EST
After President Obama announced yesterday that Douglas M. Brooks, MSW, would lead the Office of National AIDS Policy, HIV/AIDS organizations from around the country announced their support. They echoed the President’s words when he said, “Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.” Brooks, an openly gay African American man living with HIV, is a respected expert in the community whose distinct experiences will help further our goals of achieving an AIDS-free generation and improving the health of people living with HIV in the United States.
Here’s what some HIV/AIDS organizations said about the President’s announcement:
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (New York, NY)
“We are eager to see strong leadership carry out the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s renewed focus on evidence-based policy and effective programming, especially with respect to populations hardest hit by AIDS in America, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, and African American and Latino men and women.”
San Francisco AIDS Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
“Douglas is the right person at the right time to step into this role. As new infections increasingly concentrate in the African-American community, and especially among Black gay men, it is more important than ever that our young people see a future for themselves in the face of someone like Douglas so that they can harness their innate resilience to create healthy and successful lives.”
AIDS United (Washington, DC)
“We have the opportunity to finally end the epidemic. I’ve been fortunate to work directly with Douglas, and have great confidence that he knows how to convene the right public and private partners to engage in the right conversations that will result in real progress.”
National Minority AIDS Council (Washington, DC)
“As the most heavily impacted population in the country, it is critical that Black gay men – especially those living with HIV – are represented at the highest levels of our government’s response to the epidemic.”
Lifelong AIDS Alliance (Seattle, WA)
“His tireless work to support the communities most greatly affected by HIV is steeped in compassion and personal commitment supported by epidemiological data. This appointment will help drive our common objective to end AIDS today and subsequently put a dent in HIV incidence within the United States and worldwide.”
The AIDS Institute (Washington, DC)
“Achieving these goals in an environment of constrained budget resources and within the changing landscape of the Affordable Care Act provides unique opportunities and challenges. We are confident Brooks possesses the leadership and passion to guide the White House through the next few years as we together aim to fulfill the President’s desire to realize an AIDS-free generation.”
Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director with the White House Office of Public Engagement.