- Felicia Matlosz
SACRAMENTO, CA — Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) announced today the introduction of the LGBTQ Violent Death Data Collection Pilot Program (AB 1094), which would equip coroners and medical examiners in six participating counties across California with the training necessary to identify and collect data on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) in cases of violent death, including homicide and suicide. The legislation would provide California with much-needed data to track violent deaths among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) community and to help deploy resources and shape policies that may reduce the number of these preventable deaths in the future.
Said Assemblymember Arambula: “I believe AB 1094 is an important and humane step in ultimately preventing these deaths. Data may sound like a scientific subject, but, at its core, it leads us to better help and serve all our communities with compassion and empathy. We must have better data to understand the scope of what’s happening in our LGTBQ community – especially among the youth – when it comes to violent deaths, including homicide and suicide. This information will be a crucial guidepost to prevention efforts and saving lives.”
The bill is endorsed by The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. Nationwide, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10–24, and according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data, LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their straight/cisgender peers. According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 40% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered it. Despite these disparities, it is unknown how many LGBTQ youth actually die by suicide (or homicide) each year because SOGI data is not collected nationwide as part of violent death investigations.
“We need LGBTQ-inclusive data collection in life and in death to better understand the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth and to respond with effective solutions. The Trevor Project is proud to partner with Assemblymember Arambula on this first-of-its-kind, which will hopefully lead California to adopt these practices permanently and encourage states across the country to follow suit,” said Sam Brinton (they/them pronouns), Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs for The Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project is the largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, yet we don’t know how many LGBTQ youth die by suicide each year because that data is simply not collected. It is imperative to collect this data if we want to develop effective policies and allocate necessary resources to save young LGBTQ lives.”
According to recent polling conducted by The Trevor Project and Morning Consult, more than four in five adults (84%) feel it is important to include sexual orientation and gender identity when evaluating suicide and other violent death statistics, including 91% of Democrats, 80% of independents and 77% of Republicans.
“We know LGBTQ+ people are being killed in violent incidents because of advocates like the Trevor Project and others who tirelessly track and report this data,” said Assemblymember Evan Low (D-San Jose), Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. “But it should not be up to advocates alone to keep these vital records. It’s time for the state of California and local agencies to take responsibility and collect this data so we can make informed decisions to decrease violence against LBGTQ+ people. Too often we have wondered what could have been done to prevent an LGBTQ+ person’s death. Well, AB 1904 is a real commitment to change that will save lives.”
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) maintains statewide vital statistics data, including records of births, deaths, and marriages, and administers California’s Electronic Death Registration System, in which local registrars in each county enter data. Currently, Los Angeles County is the only jurisdiction in the entire nation that is legally required to collect information about individuals’ SOGI at the time of death. Unlike veteran status or ethnicity, data collection around sexual orientation is not required to be recorded and gender identity is only captured in special circumstances.
AB 1094 would create a three-year CDPH pilot program for the collection of SOGI data in violent death investigations by coroners and medical examiners in up to six other participating counties across the state. Participants would be trained in cultural competency and best practices on how to properly identify a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity before being required to do so — and the bill explicitly requires respect for confidentiality. All personally identifiable information, including names, addresses, and dates of birth, would be removed before being reported.
According to the CDC, more than seven people per hour die a violent death in the United States. More than 18,800 people were victims of homicide and over 48,000 people died by suicide in 2018 alone.
About The Trevor Project
The Trevor Project is the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people. The Trevor Project offers a suite of 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, including TrevorLifeline, TrevorText, and TrevorChat as well as the world’s largest safe space social networking site for LGBTQ youth, TrevorSpace. Trevor also operates an education program with resources for youth-serving adults and organizations, an advocacy department fighting for pro-LGBTQ legislation and against anti-LGBTQ rhetoric/policy positions, and a research team to discover the most effective means to help young LGBTQ people in crisis and end suicide.