Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • From the Archives: The End of Don't Ask, Don't Tell


    On this day in 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was finally and formally repealed, allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly in our nation’s armed forces.

    In a statement marking the anniversary, President Obama said that repealing the law "upheld the fundamental American values of fairness and equality."

    "The ability of service members to be open and honest about their families and the people they love honors the integrity of the individuals who serve, strengthens the institutions they serve,” he continued, “and is one of the many reasons why our military remains the finest in the world."      

    President Obama signed repeal into law in December of 2010, and in July of 2011 the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certified that the Department of Defense had taken all the steps needed to prepare the military for repeal. Sixty days after that, at 12:01 a.m. on September 20, 2011, the era of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was over.

  • On the Road in Murray, Kentucky: Empowering & Supporting LGBT Students

    On the Road in Murray, Kentucky

    President Obama has often said that the best ideas don’t just come from Washington. They come from individuals and communities all across the country.  That’s why we – the Office of Public Engagement – are always looking for opportunities to engage the American public in communities all across America.

    Earlier this month, I had the chance to visit Murray State University in Western Kentucky for a series of events focused on the LGBT community.  Murray is a proud institution that has taken important steps to create an inclusive, respectful, and safe environment for LGBT students, staff, and faculty, as well as members of the broader Murray community.  Recently, Murray State has implemented a number of best practices – from hiring an LGBT program coordinator to support the student population to establishing a “Safe Zone” program to ensure that all students are safe to learn and thrive – and they are already seeing the positive results.

    While on campus, I was honored to meet with the President and Provost of Murray State University to hear about their ongoing efforts and thank them for their leadership.  I also participated in an evening conversation where I had the opportunity to share some of the important steps President Obama and his Administration have taken over the last few years to ensure equality, dignity, and justice for LGBT people.  We were joined by students, faculty, and members of the community, as well as several individuals from nearby communities who were eager to talk about their own experiences and learn more about the Obama Administration’s efforts to support the LGBT community.

    Throughout my visit, I was inspired by the important work taking place at Murray State to create a truly inclusive environment for all members of the community.  This kind of work is taking place all across the country – in big towns and small towns, in urban and rural regions – and we can all learn from it.

    Gautam Raghavan is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day: Recognizing the Challenges of Growing Older with HIV/AIDS

    Today marks the fifth observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.  It is a day where we recognize that while the progress made in reducing HIV mortality and morbidity is remarkable, people aging with HIV face multiple, unique challenges. By 2015 over half of all people living with HIV in the US will be over age 50. A major reason for the ‘greying’ of HIV in the US is due to the tremendous success of medications that have dramatically increased the lifespans of people living with HIV.

    About 10% of new HIV infections in the United States occur among persons over 50. HIV prevention among older adults is complicated because clinicians are less likely to consider the possibility of HIV infection in this population. Part of the reason for this is that the overwhelming majority of new HIV infections in the US occur among younger populations. However, decreased testing rates mean that older adults are more likely than younger adults to be diagnosed later in their disease progression (i.e. more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS less than a year after diagnosis).

    Racial and ethnic disparities observed in the US HIV epidemic overall are reflected among older persons living with HIV. The rates of HIV/AIDS among people over 50 are 12 times higher for African-Americans and 5 times higher for Latinos compared with whites, which has implications for life expectancy as well as HIV transmission because black and Latino populations generally are less likely to have access to clinical care. 

    While more people aging with HIV are living healthier, more productive lives than ever before, growing older with HIV may present multiple medical challenges. Because the immune systems of people living with HIV are constantly fighting infection, they are more prone to ongoing inflammation which is associated with co-morbid conditions associated with aging such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Liver disease, often the result of co-infection with hepatitis C, is prevalent. Decreased bone density is also common, potential due to combination of the normal aging process, medication side effects, and the direct effects of the virus itself

  • Empowering Young People to Build a Kinder, Braver World

    Yesterday, Cynthia Germanotta and I had the opportunity to discuss how to empower young people and end bullying at the Third Annual Bullying Prevention Summit in Washington, D.C.  Cynthia and her daughter, Lady Gaga, recently founded the Born This Way Foundation to empower young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world. 

    As moms, both Cynthia and I realize the impact that bullying—and kindness—can have on young people.  We both agreed that we must all stay focused on ending bullying because no young person, or their loved ones, should have to endure the pain, agony, and loss to our families, schools, and communities that can come with bullying.

    We also agreed that we need to reinforce positive behavior and motivate everyone, particularly young people, to get engaged.

    President Obama believes that together, we can end bullying.  The President and his Administration are committed to developing a comprehensive policy, and all of us have a vital role to play: students, parents, and school administrators, as well as political, business, community, and faith leaders. 

  • Dr. Jill Biden Views the AIDS Memorial Quilt

    Dr. Jill Biden views AIDS Memorial Quilt

    Dr. Jill Biden views sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with Julie Rhoad President and CEO of The NAMES Project Foundation, at The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    Yesterday, I had the opportunity to view some panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt with Julie Rhoad, the president and CEO of The Names Project Foundation, at The National Building Museum.

    I was so moved by what I saw.  Every piece of the AIDS Memorial Quilt tells a poignant story – and is a powerful reminder of the many lives lost to this epidemic

    First displayed on the National Mall in 1987, the quilt now contains the names of more than 94,000 of individuals who have died of AIDS on more than 47,000 panels.

    This week, as the 19th International AIDS Conference is in the United States for the first time since 1990, panels of the quilt have been shown on the Mall and at more than 50 locations throughout the D.C. area.

    The quilt is a powerful reminder of how far we have come.  As President Obama said on World AIDS Day, we will win this fight.

  • How Far We've Come on AIDS

    This week, Washington, DC is hosting the International AIDS Conference. To mark the occasion, we asked a group of White House officials to sit down and discuss the impact that HIV/AIDS has had in their own lives and how far we’ve come in the fight against the terrible disease.

    Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy for the National Security Staff, described how she first heard about the disease and how the progress we've made in combating the illness has been built on a foundation of science, collaboration, and human dignity.

    Watch a video on how far we've come on AIDS.

    See additional accounts and testimonials videos from other Obama Administration officials:

    Learn more 

  • You Are Not Alone

    Heather Carter is being honored as a Champion of Change for her work ensuring safety, dignity, and equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, as demonstrated by her inspiring video entry in the LGBT Pride Month Video Challenge.

    Death by suicide is the third-largest cause of death among teens and is a serious problem for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth. It is estimated that 30-40% of LGBT teens will attempt suicide at least once, and unfortunately, some of them will succeed (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health). In 2007 I was asked by the Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSPP) to start an LGBT component for the organization. I created OUTLoud in an attempt to reduce the rate of suicide among LGBT youth in Washington State. OUTLoud is the only organization of its kind operating in Washington.

    Part of the reason I do this work is because I remember all too well my own teen years. I remember the fear of people discovering who I really was, a lesbian, and hiding the most important parts of me. I remember being bullied, and those memories help fuel me through this work.

  • The Ambition to Inspire All

    The Redwood String Ensemble is being honored as a Champion of Change for their work ensuring safety, dignity, and equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, as demonstrated by the organization's inspiring video entry in the LGBT Pride Month Video Challenge.

    Music is an audience member whistling "Maria," years after a performance of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story; it is the heavy and solemn silence after the last chord of Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"; it is the united "Call to Arms" of Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. Insofar as music as an expression of human emotion, it has the unique power to surpass the limits as race, creed, gender, and sexuality. Bernstein, Barber, and Copland are nationally acclaimed for their roles in shaping the "American" sound, and their artistic legacy is still a rich source of inspiration for American compositions of today, from symphonic works to musicals and movie scores. It is an incredible testament to the transcendent power of music that Bernstein, Barber, and Copland's accomplishments were never overshadowed by public speculation regarding their sexual orientation. This transcendent potential of music - the implied belief in music's ability to inspire an audience to unite and overlook differences - serves as the foundation for the ideals of the Redwood String Ensemble.