Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Policy Matters- October 4th, 2011

Front Page Headlines

Social Security Ends Gender “No-Match” Letters, White House “Welcomes This Move”: The National Center for Transgender Equality announced: “The Social Security Administration has confirmed that it has ended the practice of allowing gender to be matched in its Social Security Number Verification System. This will result in the immediate cessation of SSA sending notifications that alert employers when the gender marker on an employee’s W-2 does not match Social Security records.” This decision will alleviate stress from transgender employees, who will no longer have to fear termination based on discovery of their gender status through Social Security Number checks. [Metro Weekly]

Transgender Kids: Painful Quest to be Who They Are: CNN covers the stories of several families with transgender children. The article discusses the impact of these discoveries on the children’s families, and several parents share stories about their children’s journeys. [CNN]

Study Finds Fewer LGB Characters on Network TV: The number of lesbian, gay and bisexual characters on scripted broadcast network TV has dropped this season to 19 out of 650 roles, according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD). [NY Times]

With NY Teen’s Death by Suicide Comes Caution: Taunted since grade school for hanging out with girls, 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer told his parents things were finally getting better now that high school had started. However, unbeknownst to his parents, he was writing a blog on which he was sharing his anxiety about suicide and bullying. Rodemeyer’s death by suicide several days later led to a very public homage from Lady Gaga during a concert and heavy news coverage. However, there is a need to tread carefully when dealing with bullying, youth suicide, and LGBT individuals in particular. [NY Times]

For more information on how to talk about suicide and the LGBT community, click here.

Policy Watch

New Legislation Shines Light on the Criminalization of HIV: Spit as a deadly weapon? As crazy as it sounds, in some states that is the reality that people living with HIV face. On Friday afternoon, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced legislation in Congress that will bring some much needed attention to the issue of criminalization of HIV. Rep. Lee’s legislation- the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act- would provide states with incentives and support to reform outdated criminal laws that target people living with HIV. [ACLU] Check out Rep. Barbara Lee’s fact sheet on the bill here.

Revised “Standards of Care” for Transgender, Transsexual, and Gender Nonconforming Individuals: The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has released a newly-revised edition of the Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming people. The newly revised “SOC” will help health professionals better understand how they can offer the most effective care to these individuals. The “SOC” focuses on primary care, gynecologic and urologic care, reproductive options, voice and communication therapy, mental health, and hormonal and surgical treatment. [WPATH]

A Question from the Field

Dear Policy Matters,

I saw this news report from the U.S. Census about same-sex couples and households with children. It was a little confusing, and I’m not sure what the numbers really mean. If you could break down the report I would really appreciate it.


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Dear Damian,

We’re happy to help. Understanding the current census report and figuring out how the findings are important can be tricky.This report was done by the American Community Survey which is part of the U.S. Census Bureau. Before we start discussing the findings, keep in mind that transgender people were not included in this survey specifically. The report discusses households with same-sex couples. It does not account for same-sex individuals without a partner, or without a partner in their household.Let’s break it down into fact-points:

Fact #1- 131,729 same-sex couples reported being married.

This number is based on individuals who checked the “husband” or “wife” boxes on the census forms. Couples who identify as married may choose to check the “husband” or “wife” boxes even if they’re not legally married. Also, 514,000 couples used the phrase “unmarried partner.” 4% of the couples who did this are probably married legally according to an additional survey question. It is believed that couples reported this status because they thought the census wouldn’t recognize same-sex marriage due to federal law (Defense of Marriage Act).

Fact #2- More same-sex couples reported their relationship statusthan during the 2000 census.

In 2000 358,390 same-sex couples reported being together. That number has increased by 80% in 2011. This most likely doesn’t mean there are more lesbian, gay and bisexual couples in existence but rather that more individuals chose to disclose their status. Many researchers think there are even more same-sex couples, but that they aren’t reporting their status due to social stigma and discrimination toward LGB people.

Fact #3- More same-sex couples are living in lesser-populated states.

West Virginia, Montana, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Kentucky saw a 150% rise in same-sex couples from 2000. The larger, more traditionally LGBT populated places, including California, New York, and the District of Columbia, saw small increases of 60% or less. This number is eye-opening to those who believe only big cities have high same-sex couple populations. However, this number does not account for single LGBT people because there is no sexual orientation question on the census.

Fact #4- About 20% of same-sex couples report having children.

On average, 1 out of 5 same-sex couples was raising children in 2010. 115,064 households with same-sex couples reported having children. 73% couples had only biological children while 21% had either step-children or adopted children.

The ways in which our federal census collects data are complicated. These statistics all have margins for error because of the different ways people see their own relationships, how they report their relationships, and the exclusion of transgender people, single LGB people, those who may be living with another couple, or are in a relationship but live in separate households.

For now, we are happy to have the information which is available to us at this time. In short, the 2010 census shows an increase in LGB couples who feel comfortable enough to report their relationship statuses, shows us that there are more same-sex couples in less-metropolitan cities than people may have thought, and gives us an idea of the number of same-sex couples with children. It also shows the importance placed on being married, even if the same-sex couples’ relationships are not legally recognized.

We hope this helps demystify the 2010 Census American Community Survey Brief on Same-Sex Households! For NPR’s news report and breakdown, read their news report titled “Census, 131,729 Gay Couples Report They’re Married.”

Thank you for moving equality forward,

Policy Matters

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P.S. Have you downloaded our new edition of Bringing the Message Home yet? Get your 2011 version of the how-to guide to PFLAG advocacy now and share it with your chapter. Visit PFLAG nationals' website for more information now!

If you would like to have a policy-related question featured in our next edition, please e-mail rperry@pflag.org with your question no later than October 14th, 2011.

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