U.S. Healthcare Database Will Not Specify LGBT

by Kilian Melloy
Wednesday Aug 5, 2009

The U.S. government has announced that a new health care database will only specify the genders of individuals, and not contain information about sexual orientation.

The Canadian News Service noted in an Aug. 4 article posted at that a spokesperson for Kathleen Sebelius, the Health and Human Services Secretary, had announced that the new database will track gender only in terms of "male" and "female" and will not reference the sexual orientation of individuals whose medical information is kept in the database.

The new database is meant to "to detect and monitor trends in health disparities" in the United States, the article said.

The CNS site quoted HHS spokesman Nicholas Papas as saying, "The purpose of this section is to determine the best way to collect data on health outcomes, broken down amongst women and men, not to define gender."

Added Pappas, "Collecting this type of information helps us to more fully and accurately measure the health status of different populations and identify any disparities."

The article noted that the new database is meant to track health trend information according to "race, ethnicity, geographic location, socioeconomic status, health literacy, primary language and any other indicator of disparity."

If indeed the new database fails to track health data according to GLBT citizens' health issues, the result may entail less effective health care for the gay and lesbian community.

The missed opportunity to track health trends among the nation's GLBT population is reminiscent of an announcement that had previously been made by the U.S. Census Bureau that gay and lesbian families would not be counted in 2010 because of DOMA, the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act from 1996, which bars any federal recognition of gay and lesbian households.

GLBT leaders decried that announcement, worrying that funding for GLBT populations would be affected. A similar official invisibility might be the outcome of the decision not to track gays and lesbians in the new health care database.

The Obama administration subsequently instructed the census bureau to include gay and lesbian families in the 2010 census.

Unclear is whether the Candian News Service's use of the word "gender" when asking Pappas about sexual orientation may have mistakenly created an impression that the database will deliberately exclude gays and lesbians.

Anti-gay pundits, however, took the new announcement as evidence of the "White House back[ing] off [the so-called] gay agenda in health care," as the right-wing Web site Culture Campaign headlined an Aug. 4 story on the new database.

Read text at the Culture Campaign site, "We'll see if this sets off another storm front against Obama from the homosexualists..."

The term "homosexualists" is often used by anti-gay pundits when referring to gays and lesbians. The meaning of the word can either be taken to mean homosexuals who purportedly promote a political and cultural primacy on the part of gays, or else can indicate a belief, embraced by some religious and social conservatives, that gays "choose" their sexuality, opting to be attracted sexually to members of their own gender rather than of the opposite gender.

The text makes reference to recent concerns among GLBT leaders that despite campaign rhetoric indicating President Obama's concern for social and political equity for gays and lesbians, the new administration has been slow to enact any concrete legal protections for America's GLBT citizens.

To date, there are no federal protections for gays and lesbians, though several bills--such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and a federal hate crimes bill--have been repeatedly set before Congress.

As a candidate, President Obama spoke out against the military's anti-gay policy of requiring gay and lesbian troops to keep quiet about their true sexuality under pain of discharge, as well as saying that DOMA should be repealed.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


  • synergi, 2009-08-05 22:16:59

    Another case of sloppy headline writing. Kilian! What were you smoking?

  • strange rob, 2009-08-06 13:35:14 should actually be ; The site in question is the Cybercast News Service not The Canadian News Service.

  • JHill, 2009-08-07 12:11:53

    Do you folks EVER read a story before coming up with some off-the-wall headline?! It seems simple enough for anybody who is even semi-literate.

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