LGBT+ Health Awareness Week: Voting

In October 2019, the UCLA’s Williams Institute released a study detailing the preferences and characteristics of LGBT+ voters in relation to the 2020 General Election. The study indicated that, at the time, 1 in 5 LGBT+ adults (~21%) was not registered to vote and almost 9 million LGBT+ adults were eligible registered and eligible to vote.

2020 saw the nation grappling with a pandemic, a chaotic administration, and a wild election cycle. When November 3, 2020 rolled around, the nation was ready to move forward into a new chapter of the American story.

Early exit polls of the 2020 General Election showed that LGBT+ voters turned out in record high numbers, representing about 7% of the 2020 electorate. In previous years, LGBT+ voters represented 6% (2018) and 5% (2016).

So, what does voting have to do with LGBT+ health awareness? Everything.

Simply put, the people we vote for can have direct impacts on LGBT+ health and wellness issues such as access to care, the fight against HIV/AIDS, discrimination, justice and equality, transgender rights, assault and harassment, and civil rights. The people we elect into office carry the responsibilities of representing us and affecting change in the issues affecting us, the LGBT+ people.

What can you do to participate in LGBT+ Health Awareness Week?

First off, if you haven’t done so yet, you can register to vote or, if you are registered, you can find out how you can update your voter registration so you are prepared for when Election Day comes around again. Click the graphic to the right to head over to Vote.gov.

Second, it helps to be informed as to why your vote matters for issues affecting the LGBT+ community. This also applies to LGBT+ Veterans who receive care from the VA for specific care needs unique to LGBT+ people. In fact, who we elect can help move issues within the VA to the forefront to be addressed. Additionally, our elected officials must know we will hold them accountable for what is and what isn’t done to help LGBT+ people.

Below are some reasons why your vote matters, the information is summarized from the National Coalition of LGBT Health, the lead for National LGBT+ Health Awareness Week.

ACCESS TO CARE
LGBT+ people are mostly to be uninsured. About 15% of LGBT+ are uninsured, over twice as that of non-LGBT+ people. The numbers are higher when it comes to our transgender brothers and sisters with nearly one in four (~25%) uninsured compared to 8% in the cisgendered. Broken down, bisexuals+ are 19% uninsured, gay men 6%, and lesbian women 4%. If you are uninsured and live in California, check out Covered California for more information on how you can applying for coverage. If you are a Veteran and have not enrolled in VA health care, click here.

THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS
In the United States, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV and about 1 in 7 (14%) don’t know it and need testing. HIV also has a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities and gay and bisexual men. In 2018, there were an estimated 36,400 new HIV infections in the U.S. The U.S. reportedly spends $20 billion in direct health expenditures for HIV prevention and care and Medicaid is the biggest source of coverage for Persons Living with HIV (PLH) with roughly 42% of all PLHs in care. The Ryan White Program also provides help with HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medications for low-income PLHs who are uninsured and underserved. For more information on the VA’s HIV outreach, click here.

DISCRIMINATION
It’s no surprise that LGBT+ adults report they’ve experienced discrimination. In 2020, the electorate turned the Senate blue adding to the influence of progressive officials. The Equality Act was introduced in the House of Representatives and passed in the House wholly along party lines. The Equality Act would reduce discrimination by ensuring federal protections are consistent and, if passed through the Senate and Congress as a whole, the executive branch would be responsible for enforcing it.

JUSTICE & EQUALITY
The pre-Biden Administration saw the appointment of several anti-LGBT+ judges including Supreme Court Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett. The latter reportedly gave speeches to the Alliance Defending Freedom group, an anti-LGBTQ hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Barrett is also opposed to a woman’s right to choose and has alluded to wanting to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade. When Biden was elected President, he promised to appoint a diverse selection of judges to reflect the diversity of America. This is a direct result of LGBT+ voters turning out to push back on injustice and inequality.

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
Whomever we vote into office have profound impacts on the creation and enforcement of policies to protect transgender rights and to prevent discrimination. The transgender community is disproportionately discriminated against; in fact, the majority of LGBT+ homicide victims are transgender women. What’s more, transgender people face high unemployment rates (2x the general population rate); high levels (90% of transgender people) of harassment, mistreatment, and discrimination on the job; and high instances (53%) of harassment or disrespect in a place of public accomodation.

ASSAULT, HARASSMENT & CIVIL RIGHTS
The Biden/Harris ticket before the 2020 General Election stated support for the proposed Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019 that contains protections for LGBT+ people including incarcerated transgender individuals and reaffirmation of the Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.