A new study from the University of Montana found that gay soldiers who continue to remain closeted while serving are much more vulnerable to mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety disorders, drug use, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and attempted suicide. About 20 percent of people in the study were discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Here are some of the findings:
The actual rate of suicide among gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers is 14.7 percent, compared to 0.0003 percent among the entire veteran soldier community.
LGB servicemembers are twice as likely to develop problems with alcohol.
LGB servicemembers are five times as likely to show signs of PTSD.
68.7 percent were constantly trying to conceal their sexual orientation.
Researchers argue that even with the repeal of DADT, harassment and victimization of LGB soldiers will likely continue to be a problem in the military, leading to some of these same consequences. In contrast, past studies have also shown that out employees in any workforce not only succeed more themselves, but improve the productivity of their colleagues.
If Americans thought the “fiscal showdown” was over, they should think again. Tomorrow, a series of automatic across-the-board spending cuts—a process known as “sequestration”—is set to begin. This series of cuts calls for a devastating $85 billion reduction in spending on federal programs by the end of the year.
These broad spending cuts were originally intended to force both parties to agree on an alternative deficit-reduction plan out of a mutual desire to avoid swallowing such a painful pill. Now at the eleventh hour, it seems increasing unlikely that Congress will reach a deficit reduction compromise.
Millions of hardworking Americans, however, once again find themselves at the precipice of a fiscal showdown that, if left unresolved, will impose real and significant financial harm on them and their families. Among those Americans who will be hit hardest by sequestration are LGBT Americans.
As the Center for American Progress and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force outlined last November in the midst of the last fiscal showdown, sequestration would cut federal programs that are vital to the health, wellness, and livelihood of LGBT Americans and their families.
The sequester was a bad idea then. And it’s a bad idea now. Here are six ways sequestration would impose real and significant harm on LGBT Americans:
Sequestration will hurt LGBT workers. LGBT Americans face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination in the workplace and it is still perfectly legal in a majority of states and under federal law to be fired for being LGBT. Sequestration would exacerbate this situation by, for example, reducing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ability to investigate claims of discrimination against LGBT workers.
Sequestration will compromise LGBT health and safety. Sequestration will cut funding to a number of federal programs—like programs suicide and bullying prevention—that are in place to support the physical and mental health of LGBT Americans, a population that disproportionately lack access to health insurance and culturally competent health care services, and suffers from a host of health disparities.
Sequestration will exacerbate homelessness among LGBT youth. Already facing higher rates of homelessness compared to the general population—LGBT youth comprise 5 percent to 7 percent of all youth and 40 percent of all homeless youth—sequestration will exacerbate LGBT youth homelessness by reducing grant funds to community organizations working to addressing the issue and homelessness shelters that house the LGBT homeless.
Sequestration will make higher education less accessible for LGBT students. Furthering inequality gaps in accessing higher education, sequestration will result in significant cuts to federal work-study programs for LGBT students and a reduction in supplemental educational opportunity grants for low-income LGBT students.
Sequestration will limit the ability to prevent violence against LGBT people. Sequestration will reduce the funding that supports the government’s ability to tackle the disproportionate levels of abuse, harassment, and violent crime suffered by LGBT Americans. It will also limit resources available to investigate, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes.
Sequestration will limit U.S. capacity to protect the human rights of LGBT people worldwide. The Department of State has become the world leader in promoting a comprehensive human-rights agenda aimed at protecting all human rights of LGBT people. Sequestration will deal a blow to worldwide LGBT equality by cutting funds to federal agencies and thereby limiting public diplomacy efforts conducted by U.S. embassies
Our guest bloggers are Chris Frost, intern, and Crosby Burns, Research Associate, with the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.
Costa Rica’s Psychologists Association has issued a bold statement today condemning attempts to “cure” homosexuality through ex-gay therapy. The harmful treatment has been on the rise in Latin America, but according to Psychologists Association spokesperson Marisol Fournier, there is no scientific basis for ex-gay therapy:
FOURNIER: Since it is not a disease, it cannot be cured. We do not focus on whether (gays) are born (gay) or (become gay), [but instead focus on who they are]. As psychologists, we must ensure conditions for these people to live a life with emotional integrity, and this means recognizing them as individuals with their own sexual orientation and fully unmark this idea of homosexuality as a disease.
The statement reflects similar guidance issued by the Pan American Health Organization (a subset of the World Health Organization) last May, pointing out that the stigma promoted by ex-gay therapy is the only reason gay people should be tempted by the “unjustifiable practices” in the first place.
By Andrew Cray, Guest Blogger on Feb 20, 2013 at 3:41 pm
Today the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the federal agencies charged with implementing the Affordable Care Act, released final rules on Essential Health Benefits standards, which will benefit millions of Americans who will have increased access to comprehensive insurance coverage.
Starting in 2014, small group and individual market health insurance plans – including plans sold inside and outside of Health Insurance Marketplaces — will be required to cover items and services in 10 “Essential Health Benefit” categories. These categories include vital services needed by many gay and transgender people, including prescription drugs, hospital stays, and mental and behavioral health services.
Standards for Essential Health Benefits will benefit everyone who buys small group or individual insurance plans by guaranteeing a comprehensive level of coverage. In addition, the rules provide key protections for gay and transgender people through the unprecedented protections against discrimination in benefits coverage, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and health condition. This means that insurance companies cannot use limitations or exclusions for benefits that discriminate against gay and transgender patients — potentially ending a long history of discrimination by insurers.
The federal rules will provide much-needed guidance to state policymakers, who are working quickly to establish Essential Health Benefits standards that will apply to insurers next year. These rules, and the protections they give to gay and transgender individuals and their families, are key in achieving the law’s goal of making affordable, comprehensive health care coverage available to all Americans.
Our guest blogger is Andrew Cray, a research associate for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress.
The Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) passed a resolution earlier this month calling for an end to any and all state and federal laws that criminalize or prosecute individuals based on their HIV status. The resolution points out that the laws undermine testing and prevention priorities, further stigmatize HIV-positive individuals, and ignore modern scientific understandings of the virus:
Despite the relatively low risk of transmission and significantly lowered level of harm, thirty-four U.S. states and territories have adopted criminal statutes based on perceived exposure to HIV. Most of these laws were adopted before the availability of effective antiretroviral therapy for HIV, which substantially reduces already low transmission risks and provides a pathway to highly successful HIV treatment.
Clearly the use of HIV-specific criminal laws, of felony laws such as attempted murder and aggravated assault, and of sentence enhancements to prosecute HIV-positive individuals are based on outdated and erroneous beliefs about the routes, risks, and consequences of HIV transmission. Legal standards applied in HIV criminalization cases regarding intent, harm, and proportionality deviate from generally accepted criminal law principles and reflect stigma toward HIV and HIV-positive individuals.
People living with HIV have been charged under aggravated assault, attempted murder, and even bioterrorism statutes, and they face more severe penalties because law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and legislators continue to view and characterize people living with HIV and their bodily fluids as inherently dangerous, even as “deadly weapons.” Punishments imposed for non-disclosure of HIV status, exposure, or HIV transmission are grossly out of proportion to the actual harm inflicted and reinforce the fear and stigma associated with HIV. Public health leaders and global policy makers agree that HIV criminalization is unjust, bad public health policy and is fueling the epidemic rather than reducing it.
Multiplestudies have shown that laws criminalizing HIV are not effective at minimizing transmission rates. In fact, such laws discourage many individuals from getting tested for HIV or discussing the virus with medical professionals. When they do get tested, they prefer to do so anonymously, which prevents public health officials from tracking transmission or helping them contact past sexual partners.
A member of President Reagan’s original commission to investigate AIDS has similarly called for the end to such laws because they “were not evidence-based.” Unfortunately, such laws are not merely an artifact of the past; a new law punishing people for exposing others to any sexually-transmitted infection has been proposed in Arizona.
Just this week, the CDC released new data pointing to the United States’ “ongoing, severe epidemic” of sexually transmitted infections, which incur the country an estimate $16 billion each year in medical costs. That public health crisis is partly fueled by the lack of comprehensive, medically accurate sexual health instruction in classrooms across the country — but some lawmakers are seeking to change that with a sex ed bill that would overhaul the outdated health classes in America’s public schools.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and 32 other Democratic politicians re-introduced the “Real Education for Healthy Youth Act” on Thursday, legislation that would “expand comprehensive sex education programs in schools and ensure that federal funds are spent on effective, age-appropriate, medically accurate programs.”
“The bill does a lot of important things — it’s a big bill,” Sarah Audelo, the Domestic Policy Director for Advocates for Youth, explained to ThinkProgress. “There’s a lot to be covered, and a lot of resources that young people need that they’re not currently getting.” In particular, the legislation would ensure that federal funding is allocated only to the sexual health programs that include inclusive language about LGBT issues, don’t rely on outdated gender stereotypes, and impart accurate information about HIV.
“Ultimately, we have a long way to go when it comes to sex ed,” Audelo pointed out. “The United States has some of the worst sexual health outcomes in the developed world, and we can’t blame young people for their poor decisions when we don’t teach them how to make the right choices for their bodies.”
And there is concrete evidence to back up Audelo’s claims. The states that push abstinence-only education programs in their public schools — which don’t trust teens enough to teach them facts about their bodies — have the highest rates of teen pregnancies, while adolescents who actually receive instruction about prevention methods are 60 percent less likely to get someone else pregnant or get pregnant themselves. Nevertheless, right-wing politicians continue to do exactly what Audelo cautions against — and blame teenagers themselves for failed abstinence-only policies.
The thought of a school banning any conversation about LGBT diversity is disconcerting, but teaching untruths about sexual identities is even worse. That’s exactly what has been taking place in seventh-grade classrooms in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) system, just outside Washington, DC. Health classes have been showing a video called “Acception” that promotes harmful ex-gay therapy under the guise of an anti-bullying message:
The 21-minute anti-bullying video, called “Acception,” at first appears to promote the acceptance of gay children. In the video, four students are assigned a project on homophobic bullying, with the group splitting up to study the issues of bullying and the origins of homosexuality. Two of the students encounter a cavemen parable about the origins of bullying, but the teens researching same-sex attraction soon find themselves in a different kind of scientifically dicey territory. While the video initially explores gay teenagers being bullied and a young man coming out to his parents, it soon features a student talking about how his once-lesbian cousin used therapy to become attracted to men. Then, the students in the video “watch” an interview with a gay-to-straight therapist.
In the following clip from the film, a woman talks about how depressed she was when she was coming to terms with her same-sex orientation because she was too afraid to tell anybody. When she finally admitted to her family, they “helped” her, essentially by forcing her to not be gay if she wanted to be accepted by them. Then magically, her same-sex feelings went away:
Disturbingly, nobody in the school district seems to understand what’s problematic with this message. In fact, the infamous ex-gay therapist Richard Cohen, who was permanently expelled from the American Counseling Association in 2002, sits on the PGCPS Health Council for some inexplicable reason. The district’s recently retired supervisor for health education, Betsy Gallun, thinks students deserve to learn about ex-gay therapy and she “feels very badly that it’s coming under scrutiny.” A district spokesman explained that the district has now pulled the video, but only “because there was too much focus on alternative lifestyles.”
Ex-gay therapy has been roundly condemned by all major medical organizations as being at best ineffective and at worst quite harmful. Encouraging young people to reject their own identities is tantamount to shaming them for being who they are. That proponents of this quackery are making decisions in a school district is inexcusable. Talking openly about LGBT issues has been found to make schools safer for LGBT youth, but educators have to actually be informed about what is valid support for sexual diversity and what is blatant anti-gay propaganda.
A new study confirms that coming out is good for the mental health of gays and lesbians. In fact, owning their identities may help gays and lesbians actually fare better than their heterosexual counterparts, according to Canadian researchers:
The study looked at 87 men and women of varying sexual orientations, all of whom were around 25 years old. Forty-six identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual and 41 were heterosexual. Participants were given psychological tests and provided multiple urine and saliva samples to test for various biomarkers related to stress and general health.
All of the out participants had lower stress hormone levels and fewer symptoms of depression than those who weren’t public about their sexuality. Out gay and bisexual men also had lower stress and depressive symptoms than heterosexual men.
Previous studies have found similar results, but with caveats. People who come out can develop more significant resilience, but only if they receive positive support when they do. Reactions from parents, coworkers, and peers can have a profound impact on whether gays and lesbians benefit or suffer from coming out.
The fifth-ranking House Republican took a shot at the LGBT community at a recent town hall, saying he wanted to use “the power of humiliation” to undermine a program that helps individuals who need substance abuse treatment.
Rep. James Lankford (R-OK), who at the same Oklahoma City meeting earlier this month blamed gun violence on “welfare moms”, took a question from a constituent irate about a program that counseled LGBT individuals with substance abuse problems. The woman accused the Substances and Mental Health Services Administration of “pushing the homosexual agenda” and “indoctrinating our citizens.”
Lankford agreed with the woman’s concern, vowing to open an investigation into the matter. “They love functioning in the dark,” the Oklahoma Republican said of the LGBT program, promising to use “the power of humiliation” to uproot it.
CONSTITUENT: They are going around the nation, they just did this here in Oklahoma, December 7th, and having conferences that are educational. [...] About 2 percent of the conference is dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. 98 percent is doing indoctrination or pushing the homosexual agenda. This is what our president is doing. He has a federal agency doing it. Our state, the Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department, put this conference on and is indoctrinating our citizens who are totally against this. Is there any way you can look into this?
LANKFORD: Oh yes, sure. You know I can absolutely get a chance to take a look at it. We’ll start the process, try to see what we can do to identify it. Some of those things you have the power of humiliation where you can raise it and put in sunlight. They love functioning in the dark. You put some sunlight on it, that does help. But, we’ll see. I’m glad to take that on.
The Susbstance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s efforts have been critical in supporting LGBT people with problems ranging from substance abuse to bullying. Drug abuse factors can be far different for LGBT youth than straight youth, stemming in many cases from family rejection. Cutting the program, as Lankford seems to favor, would be devastating for already-underserved LGBT individuals.
Lankford has already earned an anti-LGBT reputation stemming from his past statements on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ThinkProgress asked the congressman last year whether LGBT workers should be legally protected from workplace discrimination. Lankford shot down the proposal, calling homosexuality “a choice issue.”
The woman questioning Lankford, referred to as “Sally”, appears to be Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (R), who in the past has argued that “gays are an even bigger threat than terrorism.” ThinkProgress called Kern’s office to confirm and will update once we hear back.
Last month, the Oregon Insurance Division of the state’s Department of Consumer and Business Services quietly issued a bulletin that constitutes a monumental new protection for transgender people in the state. In 2007, Oregon passed a law prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people, and the new bulletin dictates that as such, it is illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage to trans people or refuse to cover their medically necessary health care. Here is a list of actions that could constitute discrimination based on gender identity (actual or perceived) for all private insurers in Oregon, via PQ monthly:
Denying, cancelling, limiting, or refusing to renew an insurance policy.
Requiring different rates or premiums.
Classifying “gender identity disorder” or “gender dysphoria” (GI/GD) as a disqualifying pre-existing condition.
Denying coverage for a procedure that is provided for the treatment of other conditions of illness (such as hormone therapy, mastectomy, or vocal training).
Categorically denying coverage of GI/GD.
Denying mental health coverage for GI/GD-related issue in adults.
Denying sex-specific care (such as pap smears and prostate exams).
In a 2010 study, 19 percent of trans people reported being refused medical care, 28 percent postponed medical care due to discrimination, and 48 percent reported that they simply could not afford treatment. Bridging this inequity is essential for helping members of the trans community access the same basic level of health care as the general public.