Make your voice heard at White House meetings with LGBT community

By  Task Force Director of Aging and Economic Security Laurie Young

Earlier this year, the White House announced a series of community events focusing on LGBT issues to be held around the country. On Feb. 16, I had the opportunity to attend the first of these events in Philadelphia focusing on health issues.

Task Force Director of Aging and Economic Security Laurie Young

Before I go any further, let me just say how important it is for as many of us as possible to go to events like this if given the opportunity. The government hears from people like me all the time. And whenever LGBT advocates talk about the need for policy change, we’re always asked: “Do you have any stories from real people?”

Putting aside the fact that I’m a real person, they are trying to learn the real needs of the LGBT community. So when federal government representatives come to your community, invite you to tell your story and let them what you need, go. Grab your family, your friends, and go speak your mind.

Back to the event in Philadelphia. The White House and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) teamed up to educate the community about what HHS is doing to help address LGBT health disparities and get input from members of the community for what else needs to be done.

In one positive exchange, an audience member admonished HHS for not talking about our addressing issues important to the intersex community — and the panelists thanked the audience member for pointing it out and asked for more information so they could do a better job. Just like that, the voice of the community was heard.

Issues discussed during the daylong event with more than 300 people from 22 states ranged from the impact of the Affordable Care Act on LGBT people and families, how to better fight HIV/AIDS, and how to ensure the safety of LGBT older adults in long-term care. The program switched back-and-forth between auditorium style panels to breakout sessions discussing specific issues and needs.

The experience was worth the trip to Philadelphia from my home in Arlington, Va. I came back energized and excited after spending a day with activists, government officials, people who consider themselves nothing more than interested citizens, and other advocates like myself. As I said before, the White House will have a number of these events around the country over the next few months. Each will focus on a different issue.

The next LGBT community event will address housing and homelessness in Detroit, Mich., on March 9. The event will be keynoted by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Click here to RSVP for the event. Just last month, Donovan spoke at the Task Force’s National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, where he announced groundbreaking protections for LGBT people and their families in HUD-funded programs.

If you can go, please do. It’s so important for us to show up and have our voices heard. We can let the government know that we appreciate what it has done for the community thus far, but that much more needs to be done to help our communities.