by Becca Hill (they/them)
This Pride Month and every month, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon is proud to honor the diversity, strength, resilience and joy of the LGBTQ+ movement. And we are committed to advocating for the entire community, ensuring everyone can access the care they need and deserve — not just during National Pride Month in June, and not just during Eugene’s Pride in August, but all year.
The history of the LGBTQ+ community shows the power of resistance. This resistance has been ever-present in our daily survival, long before and after the 1969 Stonewall Riots — in which transgender women of color like Marsha P. Johnson and Zazu Nova, and a courageous group of LGBTQ+ people pushed back against state-sanctioned violence by police, sparking the modern LGBTQ+ movement and demonstrating that deep, long-lasting social change comes from solidarity and protest.
The struggles for LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights and racial justice are inextricably linked. As I have deepened my own understanding of my own transness, queerness and our community’s powerful history, I am proud to be part of an organization that works in solidarity with LGBTQ+ people from the Black, Indigenous and AAPI communities as they organize against the systemic racism that permeates every American institution and violence against their bodies, livelihoods and lives. And PPAO is committed to building a world where no one experiences discrimination or violence because of who they are.
To do this, we must examine and work to address the systemic barriers, oppression and discrimination that continue to impact the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, especially LGBTQ+ people of color.
This year PPAO is advocating for several bills before the Oregon Legislature that will support the health of LGBTQ+ Oregonians: allowing pharmacists to prescribe and dispense PrEP to prevent HIV; increasing access to menstrual products; and implementing a statewide education plan for LGBTQ2SIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, plus) students that aims to address negative physical and mental health outcomes for our youth. Both the Menstrual Dignity Act and the LGBTQ2SIA+ Student Success Plan are in the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education, and the PrEP bill is waiting for a vote in the Senate — we need our legislators to act on these bills now before the session ends June 27.
Post-Donald Trump, LGBTQ+ people’s ability to access health care, raise their families and live their most authentic lives is still under attack. This is even more true for Black, Latinx, AAPI and Indigenous LGBTQ+ people as well as immigrants, people with disabilities and those living at the intersections of these identities who continue to face oppression and violence. The Trump administration was a product of larger systems of oppression that existed long before 2016: Racism, transphobia, homophobia, misogyny and ableism are all baked into every single aspect of our country’s history and present.
These systems of oppression lead to violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2020 was the worst year on record for violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people, the majority of whom were Black and Latina trans women. This year, transgender and nonbinary youth have been targeted in state legislatures across the country, with the aim of criminalizing and disappearing our community by cutting off access to lifesaving gender-affirming care.
These systems of oppression also lead to bad health outcomes. People of color who are LGBTQ+ are being disproportionately hurt by COVID-19, amid existing inequities in health care because of systemic racism and oppression. Trump’s Title X gag rule blocked patients nationwide from going to Planned Parenthood for critical preventive care including birth control and HIV, STI and cancer screenings, which otherwise may be inaccessible to members of the LGBTQ+ community. In Oregon, we worked closely with state officials to create critical backstops and protect access to care for all people who need it, but the Title X program still needs a permanent fix. The process of undoing this gag rule is slow-moving, and nothing can undo the harm inflicted on people already denied care.
Deep, structural changes must be made to ensure long-term safety and health for our community. Federal civil rights laws do not explicitly protect LGBTQ+ people, leaving us vulnerable to discrimination in health care, employment, housing, credit, education and more. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley is championing the Equality Act in Congress — landmark legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ+ people. The House passed it in February, and the Senate should act immediately to send it to President Joe Biden for his signature. This necessary step is the floor, not the ceiling, when it comes to federal policy changes to support LGBTQ+ people.
This community is so much more than the disheartening statistics collected and disseminated about our lives. We are beautiful, creative survivors. We deserve human dignity. We deserve to be celebrated.
As LGBTQ+ people continue to be resilient in the face of oppression, PPAO will keep working with our coalition partners to protect the safety, health and rights of this community. We won’t stop fighting until all people are liberated from oppression, have the right to make their own decisions about their bodies and can live joyful, restful and healthy lives.
Becca Hill (they/them) of Eugene serves as field organizer for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. For more information visit PPAOregon.org.