If they don't count us, we don't count

I wrote a diary with a very similar title back inSeptember of 2015 about government data collection agencies not counting transgender citizens.

It should not be a surprise that the Trump administration wants to double down on that trend. If they don't count us, they can pretend we don't exist.

Trump goons have eliminated asking for people's gender identity on the annual National Survey of Older Americans, which is used to measure the needs of seniors and establish the appropriate services for them.

The biggest problem we face as older transgender people is that we’re so unknown.

--Barbara Satin, 83

The question’s removal has many LGBT activists worried that it will become harder for the aging Stonewall generation to access the services provided under the Older Americans Act -- things like home aides, meal-delivery and transportation services -- which advocates say transgender seniors badly need, given their unique health issues and risk for discrimination.

A spokeswoman for the Administration for Community Living, which administers the survey and is part of HHS, blames the Paperwork Reduction Act.

Unfortunately, because extremely few people identified themselves as LGBT, there were not enough respondents for the data to be statistically reliable or reportable. Under the Paperwork Reduction Act, we are required to do everything we can to minimize the burden of information gathering.

Various researchers have found that there are approximately 220,000 transgender people over the age of 65 (I am one of them) and more than 2 million LGBT seniors.

Population data can help trigger government action, activists say. When an earlier survey by the Center for Disease Control showed that LGBT people were smoking cigarettes at higher rates than other individuals, for instance, anti-tobacco campaigns targeting LGBT people took off and the CDC ran advertisements encouraging LGBT people to quit smoking. And under the Obama administration, the Justice Department used data that showed transgender students endure high levels of bullying to issue guidance to schools around the country, including tolerant bathroom policies.

A population that has unique needs like the LGBT elders is more likely to have those needs met if there is some form of quantification of what those needs are.

--Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin Republicans

It’s un-American. I can vote, but I can’t be on a survey?

--Eva Skye, 65

Transgender seniors face the same challenges that other older people face, but often to a sharper degree, Skye says. Isolation is one common problem: When she came out, for example, her family stopped talking to her. Many of the other transgender seniors she lives with also lost friends and family members when they came out, she says.

Transgender people are more likely to be unemployed, and to be living in poverty, researchers have found. Some employers are still hesitant to hire a transgender person, Skye says -- let alone one with wrinkles or a cane.

When this year's survey was first released in March, for instance, it lacked questions on both sexual orientation and gender identity -- although the sexual orientation question was reinstated after some 100 organizations and 14,000 people wrote letters to the Administration for Community Living.

A government survey of people with disabilities recently eliminated its questions on both sexual orientation and gender identity; and the U.S. Census Bureau has reversed course on adding questions on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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