Lawmakers Are Attacking LGBTQIA+ People. Here’s What We’re Doing About It, And What You Can Do, Too.

Different LGBTQ flags hold by people on a protest

Reactionary lawmakers around the country are taking discriminatory action against the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly children and adolescents. These actions exacerbate the public health emergency experienced by LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse children, adolescents, and adults who are unable to access culturally responsive care that meets their primary, preventive, and specialty health care needs. Due to the racist implementation of most laws and regulatory orders, BIPOC children, adolescents, and adults are at much higher risk for harm to health than their White peers.

Three recent actions stand out for their malevolence and potential to cause harm:

  • On March 28, 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that prohibits instruction that includes mention of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms from kindergarten through third grade. It includes a provision that will allow parents to sue districts that violate the law. This legislation will punish children of same-sex parents who talk about their families and make it unsafe for LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse children to dress, speak, and present themselves to their teachers and classmates in authentic ways.
  • On March 26, 2022, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill into law that will require middle and high school students to provide proof of their sex at birth in order to participate in school athletics. The law will prevent transgender student-athletes from playing sports.
  • On February 22, 2022, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Children and Family Services to investigate parents who seek standard-of-care medical treatment for their transgender children. The order has resulted in a flurry of state investigations of parents with transgender children, and it violates every principle that governs the work of child welfare professionals.

 

These provisions, and the many others like them that have been filed in legislative bodies around the country, serve no purpose other than to consolidate political power among minority, right-wing factions. But the laws, and even the bills that are merely discussed but never enacted, harm the health of LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse children, adolescents, and adults in serious and significant ways.

We want you to know what Fenway Health is doing to mitigate this public health emergency which comports with our values, mission, strategic plan, and Racial Equity Action Plan.

First and foremost, we strive to deliver innovative, equitable, accessible health care and supportive services to LGBTQIA+ people, BIPOC individuals, and other underserved communities. This includes the provision of care for more than 34,000 patients in 38 states, including patients directly affected by these discriminatory bills and laws.

We engage in original research and public education and awareness efforts that contribute new knowledge about clinical care and the health of LGBTQIA+ people. Recent highlights of these efforts include:

  • Publication of Transgender and Gender Diverse Health Care: The Fenway Guide. Written by Fenway Health clinicians, researchers, staff members and other national experts, Transgender and Gender Diverse Health Care is the first case-based textbook written for clinicians. The book will be formally launched to the public on International Transgender Day of Visibility at Fenway’s event at the Boston Public Library on March 31, 2022.
  • Creating and sharing a communications toolkit with facts, talking points, and social media graphics that can be used by organizations and individuals advocating against anti-LGBTQIA+ bills. All of the data and information in the toolkit is derived from a policy brief Fenway Health published late last year that documents the potential harms to health of anti-LGBTQIA+ bills and laws. The toolkit has been proactively shared with advocacy organizations and other LGBTQIA+-focused health care centers around the country, including those based in Texas and Florida.
  • Organizing Advancing Excellence in Sexual and Gender Minority Health Education: A Train-The-Trainer Course For All Healthcare Professionals. The first of its kind “train-the trainer” conference, which was held March 25, 26, and 27, showed attendees how to deliver sexual and gender minority health education to colleagues and trainees in their healthcare organizations.
  • Conducting research published in PLOS One on January 12, 2022 finding that access to gender-affirming hormones during adolescence is associated with better mental health outcomes among transgender adults. This was the first large-scale controlled study of gender-affirming hormone initiation during adolescence, the first study to compare access to gender-affirming hormones during adolescence versus adulthood, and adds important new knowledge to the evolving field of transgender health care.
  • Sharing best practices and proven methods of encouraging HIV prevention for at-risk populations via publication of an article on March 28, 2022 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Creating and sharing a roadmap for clinicians trying to navigate complicated federal regulations governing nondiscrimination provisions in health care that affect LGBTQIA+ people via publication of an article in the JAMA Health Forum on February 28, 2022.

 

Finally, Fenway Health advocates for legislation and budget priorities that align with our mission to deliver innovative, equitable, accessible health care and supportive services. Health care inequity is a social justice issue that impacts BIPOC communities, people who are LGBTQIA+, people who inject drugs, people experiencing homelessness, and other underserved communities. As part of this work, we also engage in regular conversations and collaborations with our peer organizations around the country to find ways to scale our impact by sharing knowledge and learning new best practices.

What can you do?

  • We encourage you to share our social media graphics, as appropriate, to your own networks in order to share knowledge and dispel myths about healthcare for LGBTQIA+ people.
  • We encourage you to learn more by following our blog and our social media platforms.
  • Most important, we encourage you to take care of your physical and behavioral health to best of your ability by working with providers who are skilled in delivering high quality, culturally competent care.

 

Thank you for joining us in the fight to preserve and protect LGBTQIA+ rights.

Carl Sciortino
Executive Vice President of External Relations
Fenway Health

 

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