Despite the fact that the country is widely regarded as one of the most homophobic places in the world, committed LGBTI advocates in Jamaica are finalizing details for the country’s first Pride festival – due to coincide with the nation’s annual Emancipation and Independence celebrations in the first week of August.
Pride Jamaica will run from 1-8 August and is being promoted with the hashtag #prideja2015.
Because of fears over security, Latoya Nugent, the associate director of the Jamaica Forum of Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), has told local newspaper Jamaica Gleaner that there will be no parade. However, “a parade is not the only way we can celebrate our pride and freedom as LGBT Jamaicans.” A flash mob is planned for Saturday.
“Almost 50 years ago, a couple tried to purchase a home in suburban New Jersey in a neighborhood they loved, but found their efforts thwarted when the house they wanted was inexplicably pulled off the market. The couple later learned from fair housing advocates who had investigated on their behalf that the home was made unavailable to them because of their skin color. The couple’s names were Cary and Carolyn Booker. They were my parents.
“You’d think this problem is relegated to the history books. But in 2015 — today — a couple can try to purchase a home and in 31 states be told it is not available to them on the basis of their sexual orientation. More than half a century after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government has yet to pass a large-scale law that protects Americans from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s time for that to change.”
- Sen. Cory Booker, writing in support of the Equality Act.
The religious right’s war on women has continued the past week, with Planned Parenthood coming under heavy fire. Two heavily edited videos were released by fringe groups that purported to be “evidence” that the organization was selling fetal tissue to the highest bidder. Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards described the current smear campaign as “a three-year, well-funded effort by the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement in this country to try to entrap doctors.”
Allegedly more videos will be released soon, but in the meantime a bill to defund Planned Parenthood has been fast-tracked. Approximately 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from the government, including Medicaid. If the bill passes, the future of the organization would be uncertain, and women’s health in this country would decline. Here are six reasons why we queer women should care enough to call our congresspeople and/or sign the petition (I did both. Marco Rubio is going to love that voicemail).
1) Wide range of services. Abortions only account for 3% of Planned Parenthood’s health services. Among many other services they provide are STI testing for all genders, cancer screening and prevention, birth control, and sex education. Last year, they performed 3.7 million STI tests on men and women, nearly 400,000 Pap smears, and nearly 500,000 breast exams.
2) Sometimes we do seek abortions. Part of LGBT is the ‘B.’ There are women in the queer community who have relationships and sex with men, and not every pregnancy involves a researched donor. Additionally, not every intended pregnancy goes according to plan. Those of us who watched Wendy Davis’ epic filibuster in Texas two years ago heard story after story of women who welcomed and celebrated their pregnancies until a tragic discovery at the doctor’s office led them to the painful decision to terminate. As more and more of us go through the process of starting families, our right to choose, and to have access to proper care, becomes more precious.
3) Inclusive, comprehensive sex education. Planned Parenthood’s sex education curriculum is refreshing in a world full of abstinence-only and heteronormative rhetoric. I remember going through my sex ed program and thinking “this is great and all, but when will they say something that applies to me?” Planned Parenthood emphasizes teaching comprehensive sex education, including sexual orientation and gender identity 101, as well as lessons on how to stop homophobia and transphobia. Teenage me could definitely have benefitted from my peers learning those lessons.
4) Hormonal treatments for trans* clients. Many (though not all) Planned Parenthood clinics offer hormone treatment for individuals seeking to transition from one gender to another. They also make referrals for trans* patients who seek other types of care. A few clinics also explicitly state that they do not require their trans* patients to go through therapy in order to receive HRT because they “believe our transgender patients — really, this goes for all of our patients whether they are seeking birth control, abortion or hormone therapy - are able to decide what is best for themselves and their bodies.”
5) Accepting, nonjudgmental doctors. Raise your hand if you’ve had a doctor act confused when you tell them that yes, you are sexually active, but no, there is no chance you could be pregnant. Queer women face health disparities that straight women do not, and multiple studies cite “Shortage of health care providers who are knowledgeable and culturally competent in LGBT health“ as a social determinant that affects our health. A 2006 study (that probably needs to be updated) found that when doctors demonstrated the most basic level of LGBT competence, their lesbian patients were more likely to schedule regular checkups.
6) Affordable care. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that “compared with women in different-sex relationships, women in same-sex relationships were significantly less likely to have health insurance coverage” Trans* people are even less likely than the cis-LGB population to have health insurance. Planned Parenthood offers their services to everyone who walks in the door, and implements a sliding scale for patients paying out of pocket to ensure that their patients can afford their care.