Los Angeles becomes first jurisdiction in US to record LGBT suicides and hate crime murders
Los Angeles County is believed to have become the first jurisdiction in the US to monitor the unnatural deaths of LGBT+ people in the area.
Campaigners said the move will help them to track where the LGBT+ community are disproportionately affected by certain causes of death, including suicide and hate-motivated murders, when compared to the general population.
The motion, passed by Los Angeles County on Tuesday (September 3), means that coroners will gather data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of the deceased.
This information will then be included in medical examiners’ annual reports, with a “focus on LGBTQ suicide rates, violent deaths, and hate crime incidents.”
The Trevor Project, a non-profit LGBT+ suicide prevention organisation, praised the county for passing the measure.
“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 and 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.”
Coroners will record LGBT+ suicides and hate-motivated killings
Tuesday’s motion was put forward by Republican Kathryn Barger and Democrat Sheila Kuehl, who are both members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In the US, it is not a requirement for death records to monitor information concerning sexuality or gender identity.
However, research has shown that LGBT+ individuals suffer from higher rates of suicidal ideations than their straight peers.
A 2016 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that LGBT+ youth seriously contemplate suicide at nearly three times the rate of heterosexual young people.
Some campaigners also believe that LGBT+ people face higher murder rates. So far this year, at least 17 trans people have been killed.
Only through routine, systematic, evidence-based data collection can we learn the lessons we need in order to save LGBTQ lives.
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The murder of gay student Matthew Shepard in 1998, widely believed to have been a hate-motivated killing, paved the way for legislators to extend hate crime laws in the US to include gender identity and sexuality.
Casey Pick, senior fellow for advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, told PinkNews: “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.
“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.”
Research suggests LGBT+ young people have higher rates of suicidal thoughts
The Trevor Project said it has so far supported 11,500 crisis contacts in California alone so far this year.
A 2019 report by the organisation found that nearly four in 10 (39 percent) of LGBT+ youth had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, with more than half of trans and non-binary young people saying this was the case.
It estimates that 1.8 million LGBT+ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider taking their own life each year.
If you are in the US and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255. If you are in the UK, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123.