Long Beach pushes LGBTQ community back into the closet

Long Beach Health Department

Long Beach Public Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis speaks April 22 during a COVID-19 press briefing. Photo: Screen Grab.

Update: Sen. Scott Wiener has introduced a bill requiring LGBTQ COVID-19 data collection.


LONG BEACH — The Long Beach Health Department is pushing the LGBTQ community back into the closet and treating us like we are invisible.

Mayor Robert Garcia, who identifies as gay, isn’t bothered by this behavior because he hasn’t done anything to stop it.

This problem isn’t isolated to Long Beach. In California and across the nation, public health officials are pushing us into the closet.

LGBTQ community ignored

For more than 30 days, Long Beach’s health department has been collecting and tracking a variety of demographic data on numerous communities to see how the COVID-19 virus has impacted them. In the city’s own data, the Long Beach coronavirus cases are broken down by gender, zip codes, Latino, black, Asian, white, and Pacific Islander.

One glaring omission — The LGBTQ community is missing. They are absent from all demographic charts.

How does that happen? We hear so much pontificating from numerous city officials about how important and loved the LGBTQ is in Long Beach. Yet here is a striking example of how the city has failed the LGBTQ community. It’s not as if it’s a secret that the city has a large LGBTQ community. Long Beach Pride has hosted a parade and festival more than 30 years, and many public servants are happy to ride our coat tales in the parade.

Here is a real chance to support the community, and they failed.

Somebody has been asleep at the switch.

Here’s why 2020 Census is important to the LGBTQ community

Health disparities

In recent weeks, data analysis across the nation related to COVID-19 has exposed health inequities in Latino and black communities, which has spawned conversations on how to address these problems.

However, we don’t know what disparities exist in the LGBTQ community because Long Beach is not collecting it.

It’s not as if Long Beach doesn’t know how to collect this vital information. The health department does include the LGBTQ community in its HIV surveillance report.

‘Not the standard’

At a press briefing Monday, Dr. Anissa Davis, Long Beach’s health officer, was asked why the department doesn’t collect this essential information.

“It’s not the standard throughout the country or the state to collect that information with a reportable disease,” Davis said.

That’s all she had to say. Her response was shocking. It showed how out of touch Davis is with the LGBTQ community and the issues impacting us. She obviously doesn’t understand how crucial the data is for the community. Instead of going above and beyond the “standard” and fixing the problem, Davis prefers to enable the problem.

So much for, first do no harm.

Mayor Robert Garcia

For his part, Mayor Robert Garcia, who was seated about 6-feet from Davis, parroted what Davis said.

Garcia was first asked Friday why the health department wasn’t collecting the data on the LGBTQ community. He had no answer and was unaware of the problem.

It’s very disappointing to see Long Beach’s mayor being out of touch with the needs and issues facing the LGBTQ community.

Do the right thing

Long Beach plans to increase COVID-19 testing this week. It’s the perfect opportunity for the city to go above and beyond “the standard.”

Stop pushing us back into the closet and treating us like we are invisible. Do the right thing.

Anything less is a failure.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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