Archive for the ‘LGBTQ’ Category

Today, President Barack Obama stated in a televised interview that he believes that same-sex marriage should be legal:

“At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” Mr. Obama told ABC News in an interview that came after the president faced mounting pressure to clarify his position.

This is a historic moment – it is the first time that a sitting U.S. president has stated a position in favor of marriage equality.

So how does this affect the lived reality of LGBTQ Latin@s? Well not too much, yet. Though this affirmation does not have any legal effect just yet – neither the Supreme Court nor Congress seem in a rush to overturn DOMA – this “evolving” of the president’s position does indicate the increasing visibility of LGBT advocacy in the last few years, and places the President in a position to do something about making that change.

When same-sex marriage does become a reality at a national level, there will surely be benefits for LGBTQ Latin@ communities. For one, LGBTQ immigrants with U.S.-citizen partners will have the option to be petitioned for permanent residency and citizenship, in the same way that straight people are able to do currently. This would be huge for the vast number of bi-national couples who face separation or having to leave the U.S. to be together. The Uniting America Families Act – a proposed measure that would allow U.S. citizens to petition same-sex partners for citizenship – also addresses this issue for bi-national same-sex couples and has been part of NLIRH’s policy priorities, but federal marriage equality would solve this issue altogether.

Although this is a step in the right direction, legalizing same-sex marriage does not even begin to scratch the surface of the social justice issues that LGBTQ Latin@s face today. LGBTQ immigrants face numerous barriers that marriage simply does not touch, and strategies that require immigrants to couple with U.S.-nationals for citizenship will only affect a small portion of the LGBTQ immigrant community. And though legalizing same-sex marriage may mean that some LGBTQ Latin@s will be able to share their partners’ health benefits, it will not create health benefits for couples in which neither party is insured. We envision a world in which everyone has access to care and in which everyone has the right to live and work in the communities they choose, regardless of marital status. Marriage equality will create these conditions for some, but will leave many LGBTQ Latin@s with these problems unresolved.

It is a good day for LGBTQ people today, but we must not envision marriage equality as the end. Only an end to inequity can bring reproductive justice for all!

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For day 3 of the Health Equity Can’t Wait! blog carnival, we’ve teamed up with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to write about LGBTQ and Latin@ health, making clear the importance of an intersectional analysis and advocacy:

We will never fully understand the struggle of someone trying to access an abortion if we do not also know how being a transgender man of color has affected his experience. We cannot know an immigrant’s struggle to access culturally competent and affordable health care if we do not think about how being queer has affected where she feels safe. If we do not look at the intersections, we paint an incomplete picture and we fail to see the very real ways that multiple marginalized identities play out in people’s lives.

Check out the whole piece over at the Task Force blog!

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After a few weeks of back and forth about the Violence Against Women Act later, the Senate seems finally ready to finish work on it and vote today. But why so much debate?

The Violence Against Women Act first passed in 1994, and has since been reauthorized twice – in 2000 and 2005. It is up for reauthorization once again, and though historically VAWA has had broad bipartisan support, a few provisions that address the needs of marginalized populations in the United States – in this case, Native Americans, immigrants, and LGBTQ folks – have been singled out and targeted for opposition. Namely, these provisions would:

  • Provides tribes jurisdiction to prosecute non-Native persons accused of IPV against Native partners within their territories
  • Include LGBT persons in its definition of “underserved populations,” and make funds obtained through VAWA subject to non-discrimination provisions including sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Include support programs specifically for immigrant communities, such as increasing the number of U-Visas (visas available through VAWA for immigrants abused by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents), expanding U Visa qualifying crimes, allowing anyone at a law enforcement agency to provide certifications for U visas, and providing a possibility for people who can’t get law enforcement certifications to still apply for U visas if they have enough evidence.

The fact that these are sticking points is absolutely absurd. Approximately 1.5 million women from all walks of life experience intimate partner violence (IPV), and the impact of IPV on communities of color and LGBT communities should not be understated. Though no studies demonstrate that IPV is higher in immigrant communities than the community at large, Latina and Asian immigrant women are overrepresented among IPV-related homicide victims. IPV among LGBTQ people occurs, but is often ignored and even turned away from services. And in their lifetimes, 24% of American Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped, and 39% will be subjected to domestic violence.

That members of Congress have taken issue with provisions that would increase the safety of these populations ignores reality and is an affront to justice. Each year, the lives of thousands of women, children, and others who survive intimate partner violence are made safer by VAWA and the programs it has created. On their behalf, it is imperative that these provisions stay in the bill, and that VAWA grows along with the times.

Urge your Senators to pass VAWA with these provisions today. We cannot afford to ignore our communities’ realities. Please take action!

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NLIRH is so excited to be part of the CLPP conference again this year! Hampshire College’s Civil Liberty and Public Policy program puts on a fabulous reproductive justice conference every year – From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom – and it is a very important space for us in social justice organizing:

More than 150 speakers and 75 conference workshops will highlight successful examples of activism and discuss how struggles for reproductive and sexual rights are intricately linked to movements for economic, social, and environmental justice. Topics of workshops and strategic action sessions include abortion access in the U.S. and internationally, climate justice, anti-foreclosure activism, media making and storytelling, the politics of population control, and organizing around the 2012 elections.

NLIRH is presenting on three panels this year, and we hope that you can come stop by and say hi! I’m  presenting on two panels:

  • Queering Reproductive Justice – Saturday at 3:15 pm, and
  • Our Lives, Our Voices: Reproductive Justice and Immigrant Communities – Saturday at 5:15 pm

And Isa is presenting on another:

  • Building a Cross-Class and Multi-Racial Movement for True Economic Recovery

We hope you can join us!



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Throughout 20 Days of ACA, we have discussed many ways the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or health reform) prioritizes the prevention of disease and illness. We have discussed the creation of the National Prevention Council and National Prevention Strategy as well as no co-pays for a wide range preventive care services including cervical cancer screening, pregnancy-related care, STI/HIV testing, and maternity and newborn coverage in the state insurance “exchanges.”

Today, we discuss another preventive health service that will be offered with no co-pay: domestic violence screening.

Starting on August 1, 2012 new health insurance plans must begin to cover this important service at no additional cost to patients. This important provision was included thanks to the Women’s Health Amendment (WHA).

How does domestic violence or inter-partner violence (IPV) impact Latinas?

According to year 2000 estimates, nearly 1 in 4 (23.4%) Latinas face domestic violence over the course of their lifetime. This violence comes in many forms including but not limited to verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual assault. Abusive partners also cut off access to support systems and money (even partners’ earned wages.) Increasingly,  reproductive coercion – including sabotaging birth control methods, threatening to leave a women if she does not become pregnant, forcing contraception or abortion, and forcing partners to use recreational drugs to enhance arousal - is being used a form of violence against partners.

And while more data is needed, we know that immigrant Latinas are  overrepresented among IVP-related homicide victims and they face more barriers to leaving abusers due to lesser developed support systems, ineligibility for public benefits, and limited English proficiency among others. We also know a pregnant woman has a 35% increased chance of experiencing IPV compared to non-pregnant women and that IPV in LGBTQ communities occurs, but is often ignored.

To add to the challenges, states like Arizona and Alabama have enacted a series of dangerous immigration policies that only  decrease Latinas’ confidence in law enforcement, break apart families through incarceration, detention and deportation, and create an “anti-immigrant” culture.  Despite the creation of the U-Visa in 2000 to protect immigrants who assist law enforcement, these egregious state immigration policies threaten public safety and health by making it more difficult for Latina immigrants of IPV to leave their abusers.

Why is no co-pay for domestic violence screening and counseling important for Latinas?

Much needs to be done in this country to end domestic violence, address domestic violence in LGBTQ communities, and elevate the status of those who identify as women. For starters, NLIRH called for comprehensive immigration reform and condemned Arizona-like immigration policies.

The Affordable Care Act make a small but necessary contribution to the health of women who face domestic violence. By requiring no co-pays for domestic violence screening, the health care law removes a barrier for women whose wages and access to money have been cut off by abusers.

Health reform recognizes that women face unique barriers to health care that men do not face. From no co-pays for women’s-specific preventive care to non-discrimination protection, the ACA hopes to reduce health disparities faced by women, and particularly women of color by improving women’s access to health care insurance and public health services. And as Latinas have disproportionately been excluded from health services, they stand poised to gain from the reforms under the ACA.

There are only a few more posts in 20 Days of ACA — stay tuned throughout this week!

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It’s LGBT health awareness week, and today we’d like to spend some time talking about a few of the ways the Affordable Care Act will affect LGBTQ Latin@s. Shall we?

Medicaid expansion: We’ve already talked about this some before, but it’s important to mention here that the ACA will expand Medicaid eligibility dramatically, and will cover U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants up to 133% of the federal poverty line. This is absolutely crucial to LGBTQ Latin@s. People of color are disproportionately poor, and most available data suggests that LGBTQ folks are disproportionately poor as well. The data that we have that looks at both, such as the data from the Latin@ subset of the Trans Discrimination Survey, suggest extreme levels of poverty. What this means is that LGBTQ Latin@s and people of color stand to benefit greatly from a Medicaid expansion, and that it will bring health care to many LGBTQ folks that did not have it before. Not included in this expansion, unfortunately, are undocumented immigrants and legal permanent residents who have had that status for less than five years, many of whom are undoubtedly LGBTQ-identified. We’ve gotta keep fighting the good fight to get these folks covered.

Data Collection: One of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act is geared toward improving data collection, and we were incredibly pleased to see that last year, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a plan to expand data collection on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender populations. The plan calls for the integration of sexual orientation and  gender identity questions into national health data collection surveys, and will not only bring to light important issues on LGBT health and health disparities, but having these numbers also will facilitate the funding needed to create and implement relevant public health interventions.

The end of pre-existing conditions exclusions: Again, this is something we’ve already talked about, but it is worth mentioning again here. This obviously applies to any LGBTQ-identified person who may be diabetic, has had a c-section, or any number of common health issues (i.e. lots of people), but this is especially important for transgender Latin@s. Under many private plans, simply being transgender is a “pre-existing condition” and reason for exclusion. This means that folks could get denied insurance on these grounds, or that if they were insured that any ongoing care relating to gender re-alignment (including every day care such as hormones) would not be covered. This is clearly unacceptable, and we’re really glad to see it go.

We were also excited to hear that the exchanges may not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in their activities, and insurance plans offered within them must include a list of essential health benefits including preventive and mental health services.

Stay tuned for more on how our communities stand to benefit from the Affordable Care act in 20 Days of ACA!

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This blog is part of the #HERVotes blog carnival to support VAWA reauthorization.

In 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed Congress with bipartisan support, providing funding for studies of intimate partner violence (IPV), the creation of necessary trainings and other materials responding to the issue, and the development of resources that help individuals exit dangerous and abusive situations. VAWA has been reauthorized twice—in 2000 and 2005—and is currently up for reauthorization again. This time, though, the bill faces challenges in getting through Congress, and proposed adjustments the Act’s funding threaten VAWA’s integrity. Ensuring that VAWA passes should be on everyone’s minds, since IPV occurs in all of our communities. But immigrant communities—especially immigrant women—may be particularly affected by any changes to VAWA.

IPV is a wide-reaching issue, with over two million injuries from IPV per year. But while male-on-female violence in heterosexual relationships is the stereotypical image of an abusive relationship, it is important to recognize that IPV also occurs in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community and that men and women alike may be subject to IPV.


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It’s hard to ignore the numerous ways in which our system of immigration incarceration harms our communities: on a daily basis, tens of thousands of people are warehoused in jails, many of them far from their families, separated from children and other loved ones, and unable to access legal assistance. To our horror, immigration detention produces story after story of even more extreme abuse, including denial of adequate healthcare, refusal of appropriate housing facilities, and unpunished sexual abuse of immigration detainees. We hope that shedding more light on the reality of abuse in immigration detention will help improve the transparency of the system; force recognition of its over-expansion, under-regulation, and general inefficacy for addressing immigration infractions; and, ultimately, bring about the end of our reliance on incarcerating immigrants. (more…)

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The National Center for Transgender Equality has put up a blog for Cervical Health month, recognizing the importance of this issue for trans, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people:

Anyone with a cervix can contract cervical cancer, so this means that lots of trans men and genderqueer/gender nonconforming people are at risk. But because trans people face widespread discrimination from health care providers and insurance plans, they often avoid seeking or cannot access preventive care.

The post lists ways to prevent cervical cancer among trans men and gender non-conforming people, including tips to keep your own cervix healthy and advocacy items to ensure access to care. Check it out!

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When talking about bringing the number of cervical cancer deaths to zero, it is crucial not to forget about LGBTQ people’s distinct experiences accessing health care. We know cervical cancer is completely preventable, and that regular pap smears are designed to catch any changes in the cervix that may lead to cancer later on. Just as with many other Latinas, however, preventing cervical cancer for LGBTQ Latin@s becomes a matter of access – to affordable exams, to providers who are culturally competent, and to providers who are trained to deal with LGBTQ patients. Unfortunately, for many LGBTQ Latin@s, affordable preventive care with properly trained clinicians is simply not accessible.

One of the most pressing issues for LGBTQ access to care is discrimination and bias. Homophobia at the doctor’s office is unfortunately common, and a great detractor to queer women seeking care. This then affects access to preventive care – women who have sex with women are at risk for cervical cancer, and research suggests that queer women who report positive attitudes about their providers are more likely to have had a recent pap. Transphobia is also a concern, and especially for highly gendered health services such as Pap smears, a huge barrier to access. In fact, in a recent survey about the experiences of transgender people with discrimination, nearly a quarter of trans Latin@s reported having been denied medical services due to their gender identity, and 36% reported delaying needed medicals services for fear of bias.

Discrimination at the doctor’s office is only part of the problem, however. While person-to-person discrimination is an issue, the systematic oppression and marginalization of LGBTQ communities plays a role in LGBTQ Latin@s’ ability to afford care, research and knowledge about LGBTQ health, and clinicians’ training on treating LGBTQ patients. Existing research suggests that LGBTQ communities are disproportionately poor, and the Latin@ respondents of the Transgender Discrimination Survey reported high rates of both unemployment and harassment at work due to gender identity. This means that health care is often out of reach for these communities, especially non-emergency and preventive care such as Pap smears. But even if LGBTQ people are able to afford care, most physicians are woefully unprepared to treat LGBTQ patients due to a lack of training on relevant issues.

We are seeing progress, however. Reproductive justice activism is incorporating the needs of LGBTQ communities, and the LGBTQ advocates are beginning to consider reproductive rights issues as ones that are relevant to their base. Every day we are seeing research on LGBTQ health grow. And last November, in a historic move, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement urging their members to be prepared to treat transgender patients. It’s a long road ahead, but as long as we don’t forget our LGBTQ herman@s in the fight to bring down cervical cancer deaths to zero, we are moving forward.

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