LGBT people, families in disaster situations often face higher risk of trauma
WASHINGTON – Today the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released a guide for local, state, federal and community organizations, as to how best work with LGBT people and families during disasters or forced evacuations. In an emergency or disaster situation, vulnerable populations like LGBT people are at a heightened risk for trauma and may be less likely to have access to emergency services.
“Many LGBT individuals and families fear discrimination in shelters or when seeking other emergency services during natural disasters or other forced evacuations,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Emergency responders and volunteers need to be aware of the needs many in our community have, and should be sympathetic to the fact that families come in all shapes and sizes. Our families deserve to be treated with respect and should never be separated due to a lack of legal recognition.”
HRC Legislative Counsel Robin Maril added, “LGBT families seeking assistance may experience unnecessary, intrusive questions from shelter volunteers and workers. After a disaster or evacuation, many people enter a shelter with very little personal identification or documentation. For LGBT families, who often rely on a number of documents to prove their relationships to each other, or their children, this increases their vulnerability to discrimination.”
Housing and access to proper medical care can be especially challenging for transgender people after a disaster. “Transgender people are often denied access to gender appropriate restroom and housing facilities, continued Griffin. “This denial is not only humiliating, but can also be dangerous.”
For years HRC has advocated for protections for LGBT people and their families in accessing disaster relief services. For example, as part of the Blueprint for Positive Change – a list of LGBT-specific non-legislative policy recommendations made to then President-elect Obama during his transition to the White House – HRC urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to take steps to ensure that same-sex couples and their families are eligible for, and do not face discrimination in obtaining, federal disaster assistance. HRC continues to urge FEMA and other federal agencies involved in disaster relief to make their programs as welcoming and inclusive of LGBT people as possible.
The competency guide comes in the middle of an already-busy Atlantic hurricane season, with thirteen named storms to date and experts predicting a busy second half. In the Western United States, record-setting wild fires are displacing thousands of residents from their homes.
To view the guide online, visit http://hrc-assets.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com//files/assets/resources/EmergencyResponders_-_LGBT_Competency.pdf
The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.