Visibility is power. Conversely, invisibility is oppression — and that’s just what the Trump administration is seeking to do to LGBT Americans.
In recent years, data collection on LGBT people began gaining steam — from the U.S. Census to research on LGBT youth and seniors. Government officials and social scientists, largely pushed by LGBT advocates, increasingly began appreciating that the needs of the community couldn’t be met until more was understood about who LGBT Americans are to begin with. The more solid data that defines a community, the more accessible funding and other resources become.
However, the new administration either doesn’t want to understand the nation’s LGBT populations, or doesn’t believe the community is valid enough to warrant data collection. Whichever the reason, the exclusion of LGBT people from data collection is a significant cause for concern.
The administration recently removed LGBT-related questions in the proposed language for this year’s National Survey of Older Americans Act and Annual Program Performance Report for Centers for Independent Living, documents that collect information on aging and disabled populations, respectively. Such efforts document access to health care, levels of family involvement, roles of community organizations and much more about the lives of people who are already often marginalized.
Intentionally ignoring these populations will further marginalize and deprive these communities of needed support. The administration’s move also signals that LGBT invisibility could be a trend that continues across other federal data-collection efforts.
Though the fronts on which our community is now fighting are varied and diverse, data collection deserves to be among the priorities. Research has proven to be a significant predictor of past successes for the community; from surveys to public polls, reliable information about the role of LGBT people in our country has formed the basis for everything from grant applications to the launch of programs to the enactment of laws.
Our lives deserve to be counted, to be researched and to be documented. No matter what the Trump administration thinks, LGBT Americans are and always have been an integral part of the fabric of America. Scrubbing us from data collection won’t change that fact; it will only put the most at-risk populations at further peril.