On September 3, 2019, Los Angeles County became the first jurisdiction in the country to pass a motion that ensures medical examiners and coroners will be trained to investigate violent deaths in the LGBTQ community — including suicide, hate crimes, and homicide — and to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data.
Throughout the country, it is not mandatory for death records to currently track information about sexual orientation or gender identity; in the municipalities where it does take place, there is no uniform training or established set of best practices. In many cases this can lead to inaccurate data collection — data which could be used to inform policies to save LGBTQ lives.
The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, hopes other municipalities and states will follow shortly:
“At The Trevor Project, we know that too many LGBTQ people die by suicide every year, but because of gaps in the data collection process, we don’t actually know how many, and that lack of information limits our ability to prevent future suicides,” said Sam Brinton, Head of Advocacy & Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “We are grateful to Los Angeles County for taking action to ensure that LA County medical examiners and coroners will have the training and resources they need to accurately and respectfully account for a deceased individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Only through routine, systematic, evidence-based data collection can we learn the lessons we need in order to save LGBTQ lives.”
“Across the country, there are dedicated public servants who want to ensure that LGBTQ people’s data is accurately collected, and who are doing their best despite outdated or overburdened infrastructure,” said Casey Pick, Esq., Senior Fellow for Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “Legislative action like this motion by Los Angeles County provides the systemic support medical examiners and other death investigators need to make collecting data about sexual orientation or gender identity a routine and valued part of their vital work.”
To quote the motion, “Many Medical Examiner and Coroner’s offices, including our own, do not currently collect and aggregate data pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. In the absence of this data, it is impossible to detect the presence of disparities in mortality rates of the LGBTQ community. By tracking this data, it will allow us to better understand these disparities and develop policies that seek to address them at the County level.”
In California, The Trevor Project’s crisis services supported nearly 11,500 crisis contacts just this year. As shocking as that is, that’s less than 6% of the number of California’s LGBTQ youth who seriously consider suicide and could benefit from The Trevor Project’s services. In the U.S., more than 1.8 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 seriously consider suicide each year.