On Tuesday, GLAAD joined 170 national, state and local LGBTQ and allied organizations in releasing a second open letter to health and policy leaders highlighting the importance of implementing measures to prohibit discrimination in COVID-19 treatment and prevention, and clear communication of those measures and policies to better serve the health needs of marginalized communities who have been historically discriminated against within medical and public health systems. The letter was initiated by a coalition of six organizations: The Whitman-Walker Institute; the National LGBT Cancer Network; GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; SAGE; New York Transgender Advocacy Group; and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
For the full letter and the list of signatories, click here.
The letter also urges medical providers and public health authorities to properly document and report the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities by collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data for COVID-19 cases. The letter also states how data should be also collected on race, ethnicity, age, sex, and disability in order to document and address the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on minority communities.
The signatories of the letter also highlight the disproportionate economic effects of the pandemic on LGBTQ people, specifically those who are lower-income or work in the service industry. Studies have documented that on the national level, 22% of LGBTQ community members live in poverty, as compared to 16% of non-LGBTQ people. For some subsets of LGBTQ community, this gap is even more profound; nearly one in three (29.4%) transgender people and cisgender bisexual women live in poverty.
The letter calls on federal, state and local public health authorities, health care institutions, and government officials to:
- Take a clear, strong, and public stand against any discrimination in this pandemic, whether based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, religion, or disability. This includes adding language prohibiting discrimination on all COVID-19 response legislation. It is particularly important to include explicit safeguards to prevent discrimination against residents of long-term care facilities, residential treatment facilities, halfway houses, youth in foster care systems, and other particularly vulnerable persons.
- Reach out to national, state and local LGBTQ+ organizations in order to listen to community concerns and to clearly convey the commitment to nondiscriminatory, culturally competent, and welcoming care for all.
- Ensure all COVID-19 data collection and reporting include SOGI demographic measures.
- Ensure government aid programs respond to the disproportionately distributed economic harms resulting from this pandemic and protect against discrimination on any of the factors noted above. There is an urgent and growing need for expanded income, medical benefits, housing and nutrition assistance for unemployed people and those whose wages have been suspended; job protection; inclusive paid sick leave and family leave; protections against evictions and utility cutoffs; and government-mandated safety precautions for health care workers, employees at grocery stores, delivery workers, sanitation workers, and others who are less able to protect themselves through social distancing.
In March, GLAAD joined over 100 LGBTQ organizations in releasing the first open letter to media and public health officials outlining how certain LGBTQ people could be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, which was initiated by the same coalition of six organizations: the National LGBT Cancer Network; GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; Whitman-Walker Health; SAGE; New York Transgender Advocacy Group; and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. The letter highlights how media and public health officials working with COVID-19 must understand how LGBTQ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus. The letter also provides different ways to ensure that LGBTQ communities are adequately served during this outbreak
For more information about the open letters, as well as information on organizational resources and things that LGBTQ communities need to know about COVID-19, visit the National LGBT Cancer Network’s website.