The grand erasure of older LGBTQIA America
Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Elders check-in counter. | SAGE USA

With the stroke of his pen, the Republican president has already done an incredible amount of damage to America’s most vulnerable people – from working families without health insurance, to older adults and people living with disabilities.

But beneath the already worrisome rhetoric of exclusion embraced by the Trump administration and its white-supremacist cohorts, there are more insidious attacks on groups who face special barriers to access simple things like health care or in-home services.

Take for example the very quiet, bureaucratic tactic recently used by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which has removed any mention or classification of older adults who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. These questions were made part of the ACL’s survey in 2014 and have been very useful to Area Planners and Health and Human Services policymakers ever since. Unfortunately, the survey never included Intersex or Asexual individuals, but the LGBT questions were essential to better serving an underrepresented portion of the older population.

To understand the severity of this undercover attack on the health and welfare of LGBTQIA older adults, we need to understand that the ACL oversees the Administration on Aging’s programs and conducts the National Survey of Older Americans Act (OAA) Participants, which is used to prioritize approximately $2 billion for programs on aging funded by Title III of the Older Americans Act.

More importantly, to a president whose administration claims that critical services such as Meals on Wheels “don’t work,” the results of this survey help ACL to show the President and the Congress how well programs are achieving their legislative goals.

No LGBTQIA needs will be mentioned, no effectiveness is necessary. But worse, lives will be lost in a community which already suffers significant barriers to essential services, as well as higher levels of economic insecurity, social isolation, and discrimination than their straight peers.

The survey, which is taken by phone call from a randomly selected group of 312 Area Agencies on Aging around the country, helps line agencies determine the effectiveness of ongoing Case Management, Congregate Meals, Family Caregiver Support, Home-Delivered Meals, Homemaker, and Transportation for older adults.

These results in turn allow Area Planners to ensure that individual and social barriers to economic and personal independence for older adults are removed. This is one of the many mandates given in the Older Americans Act of 1965 as amended. (Public Law 89-73).

By removing the sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) questions in the survey, the administration will erase essential data on thousands of older LGBTQIA adults. This is not only another example of the brutishness of an amateur executive, but a direct violation of the letter and spirit of the law, which intended all older Americans to be included in all aspects of its community programs.


You can help Area Agencies on Aging to advocate for reinstating the SOGI questions.

Please submit your comment to HHS about the importance of retaining SOGI survey questions by May 12, 2017. Submit comments to, or by mail to:

Heather Menne
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Administration for Community Living
Washington, DC 20201

Please tell HHS to:

  1. Restore SOGI questions to the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants and the Annual Program Performance Report for the Centers for Independent Living.
  2. Continue efforts to make elder services and disability services more culturally competent to serve LGBT people.
  3. Analyze and publish the results of these surveys on a regular basis.

You may also comment on the Centers for Independent Living program report by April 7, 2017.

For more information, please see this report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Services & Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE).



Donald Donato
Donald Donato

Donald Donato is a writer appearing in People’s World, Britain's Morning Star and the social science journal International Critical Thought (Routledge). For nearly 30 years, he has written about social and economic development as a planner, field researcher, development project manager, an adviser for research, publications, and communications, and a freelance journalist. Donato is a member of the National Writers Union-UAW Local 1981.