Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | March 11, 2012

New hot trend: “Asking”

You will be relieved to know that the University of California system is looking to join pioneering Elmhurst College of Elmhurst, Illinois in asking students to state whether they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) on school administrative forms.  The self-identification will be voluntary, but policy advocates have big plans for the resulting data.

Lest you think the UC system thought this up all by itself, be assured that the idea of a public requirement for this data was approved by the state assembly.  In October 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 620, which seeks to have the higher-education systems in California

… collect aggregate demographic information regarding sexual orientation and gender identity of staff and students within other aggregate demographic data collected, and … require annual transmittal of any report to the Legislature, as specified, and posting of the information on the Internet Web site of each respective institution.

The idea has been around for a while, of course, and the leaders of higher education in the Golden State have been discussing it.  The California Post-Secondary Education Commission (CPEC) in June 2009 adopted an official posture urging institutions to “collect and report LGBT data to CPEC in the same manner as gender, race, ethnicity, and disability data.”  According to CPEC, “Sexual orientation and gender identity should be considered its own demographic.”  Page 3 of the CPEC document makes a fleeting reference to pushing for student health insurance to cover gender-reassignment surgery, and we’ll come back to that.

(We should also note, for completeness, that California has mandated a survey inquiring into state judges’ sexual orientation.  According to Democratic State Senator Ellen Corbett of San Leandro, who authored the 2011 legislation, “It’s essential that a state as diverse as California has judges that reflect that diversity.” H/t: Ed Whelan at NRO.)

In the spring of 2011, the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC), citing the CPEC document, resolved to support collecting sexual-orientation and gender-identity data on students.  In February 2012, the chairman of the UC Academic Senate communicated via letter the approval of the Senate’s Academic Council for collecting LGBT data on college students. The groups recommending this were the University Committee on Affirmative Action and Diversity (UCAAD) and the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS).  The original UCAAD and BOARS letters urging approval are included in the PDF file with the chairman’s letter; all three cite AB 620.  BOARS forwards the following statement:

BOARS is sympathetic to the view that students should have the right to identify themselves as LGBT…

I suppose it would be tiresome and pedantic to point out that students have that right today, and in fact have never lacked it.  At any rate, these proposals never spring unmidwifed from the brow of Zeus; there is always something else at work, and in this case, one of the things appears to be national and state health policy.

You may or may not be aware that the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has an initiative called Healthy People 2020, which has its own website and all kinds of opinions, programs, and plans relating to your health.   (Here are the Vision, Mission, and Goals of Healthy People 2020.)  You might not have known that the Affordable Care Act of 2010, better known as ObamaCare, provides funding to collect data for the study of health care disparities (Section 4302).  (You may not have been aware that the United States has an Office of Minority Health, when it comes to that.)  As part of the effort to flesh out disparities, HHS has a plan to improve federal data collection on the LGBT community, by asking people via national health surveys to self-identify as to sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Citing “health disparities in insurance coverage” – a phrase whose meaning is not clear, even though it appears in a federal policy document – HHS outlines its LGBT data collection program here.  While “health disparities in insurance coverage” may not have an intelligible meaning, the words forming the expression appear together in other places, like this Center for American Progress (CAP) article and an LGBT activist document entitled “Healthy People 2020 Transgender Fact Sheet.”  (See also the same activist group’s comments on sexual orientation and gender identity as “health disparity” factors in 2009.)  In these documents, as in the CPEC document above, one of the key issues cited is that health insurance doesn’t routinely cover gender-reassignment surgery or the other health needs of the transgendered.

California comes by the LGBT data-collection approach honestly, of course.  Besides the 2011 law requiring a sexual-orientation inquiry into the state’s judges, California has pioneered LGBT data collection with its California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), which is another thing you may not have known existed.  As the CAP article points out, CHIS is the only operation in the United States that has collected this kind of information in its health surveys.  In 2011, the congressionally chartered Institute of Medicine published a study, The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People, based on data from the CHIS survey of 2009.

So, to recap: the pedigree of LGBT data collection is extensive in California, but as the HHS initiative indicates, the US federal government is also on the hunt for ways to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Its pretext for doing so is that the LGBT demographic is associated with minority health disparities – and HHS isn’t the only agency that has thought of that.

Back at Elmhurst College, the dean of admissions points out the following incentives for having students identify themselves as members of the LGBT community:

Those who answer “yes” may be eligible for a scholarship worth up to one-third of tuition, not unusual because about 60 percent of incoming students receive some type of scholarship aid, Rold said. More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life.

Q***r Alliance Board member Luis Roman puts it a little differently, referring to the UC system proposal:

Roman … believes it will bring badly needed services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

Some members of that community believe it would show that there are many more LGBT students than university officials realize.

“I think the numbers are way bigger than we really imagine or know,” Roman said.

The “badly needed services” do not, of course, refer to dry-cleaning or bicycle maintenance.  The CPEC document specifies, along with an itemized list of necessities (page 4), the following:

Meet needs of LGBT students in student housing, health insurance coverage for gender reassignment surgery, and recordkeeping when students or staff change gender.

The theme of health insurance coverage for LGBT issues recurs often.  The Healthy People 2020 Transgender Health Fact Sheet points out these discrepancies:

Health insurance coverage for … transgender-specific health services continues to be commonly excluded by most U.S. health care insurers. These blanket exclusions in health insurance policies present barriers to access to all types of health care. While many transgender people cannot afford the expensive out-of-pocket costs of the transgender-specific services, coverage denials can extend to even basic health care services unrelated to sex reassignment. For example, transgender men who have a lifelong need for ongoing gynecological care find their insurance policies will not cover it after they transition to male.

It would be one thing if these various comments and appeals about insurance coverage were sentiments expressed in a private – that is to say, non-governmental – context.  All things being equal, we can rejoice that other people’s gender-reassignment surgery is none of our business.  But all things are not equal, and the boundary on our rejoicing is drawn right where public policy may require that the surgery be made available to 18-year-olds at third-party expense (e.g., through insurance).  Clearly, the policy on insurance coverage at a state university is public policy.

With ObamaCare, meanwhile, it is increasingly possible – in the absence of an originalist Supreme Court ruling at some future date – that even in the realm of private institutions’ policies, the era of privately-contracted, elective insurance coverage is entirely behind us.  Never again will it be possible to say that people can pick and choose insurance based on a company’s coverage policies, and that no one is forced to cover anyone else’s gender-reassignment surgery or gynecological services for transgendered males.  As the HHS contraception mandate has made clear, that is no longer our choice.  With ObamaCare’s mandates, we have passed from the basis of tolerance, as regards what other people choose to do with their bodies, to a basis of enforced subsidy.

So when a state university system proposes to collect data on the LGBT student population, while proposals for special health “services” for those students are published, and HHS wants, coincidentally, to collect the same data on the population at large to redress “health disparities” – it matters.  Questions about why this is being done are worth asking.  There is no credit remaining in the big-government Left’s “benefit of the doubt” reserve; if it looks like another end-run on health insurance, mandates, and conscience, it’s a good bet that that’s what it is.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.


  1. I trust the form has a block for NOYGDB. With the incentives you mention, and perhaps out of an ideological motiviation to artificially boost the number of GBLTs, as well, a lot of students are going to check boxes claiming a disposition for activities that in reality would make them puke.

  2. “With ObamaCare’s mandates, we have passed from the basis of tolerance, as regards what other people choose to do with their bodies, to a basis of enforced subsidy.”

    That’s what it’s all about.

    Several areas appear to be logically inconsistent. What ‘disparity’ in health coverage do lesbians experience? What ‘special’ needs of LGBT students in student housing would be addressed?

    “many transgender people cannot afford the expensive out-of-pocket costs of the transgender-specific services”

    So the public should pay for it. Just a logical extension of the entitlement, I have a ‘right’ crowd. Just covert Marxism, disguised as progressivism.

    “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” a slogan popularized by Karl Marx in his 1875 “Critique of the Gotha Program”

    • In practice, it is “From each according to his ability, to each according to his perceived need.” In some ways it’s worse than theoretical Marxism. It is hard to establish a real “need” for fully subsidized contraceptive medications or devices. (LIke most people who wanted them weren’t already using them.)

      And (before Rafa chimes in) it is possible because of the force of numbers that can be mobilized for a democratic vote, and the ability of politicians to barter government subsidies for votes and campaign cash.

      • Yes, get to the heart of the matter and the left is incrementally moving toward the goal of the nationalization of all assets and income with distribution of all services and monetary compensation determined by the government. They’ll determine what you need and where and how you may best contribute to the collective.

        Since “the trouble with socialism is that, sooner or later you run out of other people’s money” bankruptcy or taking ever more are the only choices. But eventually there is no more and the tyranny of Marxism has arrived.

        America’s “useful idiots” think that there will come a time and point where enough will be enough and something similar to Europe’s heyday will arrive; a balance between social needs and individual reward met.

        Conveniently, the economic bankruptcy of today’s Europe is ignored because that would require deep examination of their entire utopian world-view. Tragically, the vast majority lack the moral and intellectual courage to do that, so we shall collectively reap what they have sown.

        In the long run of historical perspective, the left’s schemes are doomed to failure, as they defy both human nature and natural economic law.

        The only question is how many shall they kill and how many lives shall they destroy, before rebellion sweeps them away.

        Liberalism’s premises are flawed because those premises rest upon the divorcement of compassion from reason.

    • saying bad things only about the left and saying good things only about the right is unconstitutional, not merely inconsistent with constitutional vice-principals.

      you’re just like Aaron Neville Chamberlain or Joba.

  3. Huh. And you call yourself an OPTIMISTIC conservative?

    • Optimism can only be based on realism, RB. I don’t know why your comment here went to the spam queue, and must apologize for the time it took to rescue it. Had a rare day off from the computer yesterday.

      • “A ‘pessimist’ is what an optimist calls a realist.” —George Bernard Shaw

        • 🙂

          George Bernard Shaw is what a conservative optimist would call a premise-burying gadfly.

          I wrote very early in launching this blog about what “optimistic conservatism” means. (See February 2009, one of the first few posts.)

          It doesn’t mean putting unwarrantedly cheerful constructions on current events. It means being optimistic that greater liberty in a context of responsibility and self-discipline does, in fact, create opportunity, give everyone the power to pull himself out of poverty, generate the resources to assist and care for those who can’t do things for themselves, and make happier all those who enjoy liberty based on responsibility and the rewards of work and initiative.

          Optimistic conservatism rectifies the error in the famous National Review metaphor: “standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!'” Optimistic conservatism stands athwart collectivism and regulatory prophylaxis and yells “Get out of the way!”

          • And, you forgot:- To create opportunity for people to generate the wealth that can be taxed to pay your fat pension.

  4. At what point does CA collapse from its own regulatory and progressive weight? The day can’t be far off. I saw that LA is in the process of regulating the pornography industry (mandatory condoms) to the point that the industry cannot tolerate. Now this is just Los Angeles and not all of CA (the vast majority of the industry is in CA). Not that I want to focus on this particular industry, but If you own a porn company that’s based in LA and you’re going to have to leave LA because of this regulation, aren’t you compelled to leave the state for fear of this law eventually becoming a statewide law? It’s a billion dollar industry. It’s as if CA is actually trying to run businesses out of the state.

    • is that some kind of dig at the hostess?

  5. We should all be grateful to JED for alerting us to the threat to our liberty posed by medical statistics. The statistics office is another government agency that should be abolished. Statistics, along with evolution, global warming and college degrees are snobbish and anti-American. I’m agin’ them all.

  6. Might as well admit it, I’m into plants, trees specifically. The term for the condition is “silviality”. It’s comforting to know that she (I think it’s a she, but does it really matter?) will probably outlive me by many years, unless some kind of weird bugs or a psycho with a chain saw get to her. When it looks like my time is done I’ll try to find some one else to take my place in her heart or wherever the center of her emotions lies. My question is, “How many of us silvialists do there have to be before we’re recognized by the Dept. of Health and Human Services and statistics are kept and regulations written? Or is the job going to be kicked over to the Forest Service?

    • best of luck, chuck and may every year bring you a new wooden ring

    • Bringing greater meaning to “getting a woodie”.

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