Missing Persons Report

Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs releases first health report on gay residents, omits trans people

The Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs on June 30 released ”A Report of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Health in the District of Columbia,” based on data collected during the city’s annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey.

The report, the first of its kind, is based on data collected in 2005 and 2007, the first years in which D.C. asked participants about their sexual orientation.

The data in the BRFSS comes from phone calls made to a total of 6,218 D.C. residents in those years and addresses questions about general health, access to care, mental health, HIV testing, physical health and drug use. Participants were asked if they identify as homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual or other.

Of the respondents, 90 percent identified as heterosexual, 4.5 percent identified as homosexual, and 2.3 percent identified as bisexual or other.

While locals might find concern with the report’s findings that gays and lesbians demonstrate greater health disparities in certain categories – such as higher rates of smoking, binge drinking, and engaging in risky behavior for contracting HIV — when compared to their straight counterparts, some are more concerned that the report excludes the District’s transgender community.

”I’m pretty disappointed,” says Sadie-Ryanne Baker, a transgender lesbian activist and a member of the DC Trans Coalition.

”There’s really no reason why we shouldn’t be included,” Baker says. The DC Trans Coalition penned its concerns in an open letter to Mayor Fenty on Monday, July 6.

”We call on him to make certain commitments to including ‘T’ in the future.”

Baker says the DCTC is planning to conduct its own needs-assessment survey and would welcome any funding from the local government to do so.

David Mariner, executive director of The Center, the metro area’s LGBT community center, says the report is ”historic” and a welcome acknowledgment of greater health disparities among lesbian, gay and bisexual people, relative to their heterosexual counterparts. But while Mariner shares Baker’s concern about the absence of trans-specific data, he’s also concerned about the survey’s methodology.

”It’s an identity-based question, rather than a behavior-based question,” he says of how the survey identified LGB respondents. ”The overall percentage of people who report they are LGB is relatively small. I suspect that’s because there are some folks in D.C. who are men who have sex with men, or women who have sex with women, but won’t readily say ‘I’m gay’ or ‘I’m lesbian.”’

Regarding the exclusion of transgender people, Christopher Dyer, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, says he cannot comment on why it wasn’t originally included as he came on board with the mayor’s office in 2007.

”It’s certainly something that we can look into possibly including in 2010.”

To read the full report on LGB health, visit glbt.dc.gov.

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