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This story has been updated below.
Earlier this week, the Trump administration made headlines when it dropped questions about sexual orientation and gender identity from the 2020 census. But just when you thought the current administration couldn’t get any worse, they’ve found an innovative new way to be absolutely despicable: Senior officials have implemented a policy change that will make it harder for queer senior citizens to access food and health care.
Trump Denies the Existence of Queer Elders
At first it might not look like a huge change. The Department of Health and Human services, now led by Trump-apologist Tom Price, removed a question from a survey that determines how various minorities are able to access services. It’s known formally as the “National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants,” and the results help determine how federal money is allocated to best serve elderly populations. Billions of dollars in spending depends on the survey’s findings.
It took years of lobbying to the HHS to include a question about LGBTQ people in the survey in 2014. The data collection had only just begun late in the Obama administration, so there’s still not quite enough information to make policy changes — but a few more years of data would have been invaluable to the aging queer population. So far, the survey had yielded promising initial findings about the 3 million LGBTQ people over the age of 55 in the United States.
But instead, the Trump administration removed the question from the survey, leaving queer elders invisible. Going forward, the government will be unable to determine how their services are reaching gay senior citizens — or failing to reach them. If queer people are having difficulty accessing services, there will be no way to measure the problem or take steps to correct it.
This Move Attacks Vulnerable Populations
Despite officials claiming that the move was not intended to hurt queer seniors, it is the only change they made to the entire survey. It’s a huge problem, since older LGBTQ Americans are more likely to be isolated. Queer elders are twice as likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times more likely to have no children.
What makes the move particularly despicable is the history of discrimination and invisibility that LGBTQ seniors have endured their entire lives. For decades, they’ve fought not just for equality, but simply to survive. And now Donald Trump’s administration is simply leaving them to fend for themselves at the most vulnerable point in their lives.
That’s Not the Only Way Trump Targets Queer Americans
Nevertheless, the administration is continuing with what appears to be a targeted effort to harm queer Americans. They’ve also deleted a similar question in the Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, which determines the efficacy of counseling programs. In addition, a survey on homeless people had an LGBTQ-specific question removed as well. It’s clear evidence of an established policy in the Republican administration.
But it’s entirely consistent for the GOP, which for years has fought to wipe out LGBTQ people. At this point, they’ve realized that they can’t stop queer people from existing. So now they’re going for the next best thing: Implementing policies that refuse to acknowledge we exist.
UPDATE, April 28: A group of 19 senators, led by the bipartisan coalition of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania) have written a two-page letter to the HHS to restore the LGBTQ-related questions to the elder survey. As yet, the HHS has not commented on the letter.
(Featured image by shironosov for iStock)