By Austin Lea, PQ Guest Ink
The past few years have seen extraordinary progress on LGBTQ rights in this country. This progress is rooted in the same principles that underlie reproductive rights: that politicians should not get to decide what you do with your body or what your family looks like, and that rights should not depend on the state you live in.
Despite the recent progress, however, in the past year we’ve seen truly appalling bills and rhetoric targeting the LGBTQ community, especially transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Planned Parenthood believes that these senseless laws invent a nonexistent issue and lead only to discrimination and harassment — and that everyone should be able to use the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
At Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, we believe that reproductive rights are deeply connected to civil rights for all Americans. We stand with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the struggle for full equality — many of whom turn to Planned Parenthood for health care, information and education. This Pride Month, Planned Parenthood is proud to reaffirm our commitment to the rights and health of LGBTQ people. We stand with LGBTQ people, and our doors are open to everyone.
The LGBTQ community faces greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than non-LGBTQ people. In addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination — which has been shown to affect physical and mental health — LGBTQ people face low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and high rates of discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color face even higher risks.
This is why each of our seven health centers throughout Oregon and Southwest Washington welcome LGBTQ patients. To further our commitment to the communities we serve, we recently started offering transgender hormone provision for people 18 and older, in addition to the preventive care we’ve always offered. Hormone provision appointments initially are being offered at our Northeast Portland Health Center, with hopes of future expansion to our other health centers in Vancouver, Milwaukie-Oak Grove, Beaverton, Salem, and Bend.
Planned Parenthood has always provided preventive health services to people who are transgender, and we’re committed to continually improving care. People get yeast infections, need birth control and need testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases — no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. We work with every type of body. No exclusions.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette also delivers sex education that covers the full range of topics affecting sexual health, and we provide sensitive and accurate information, education and resources on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to nearly 11,000 youth, parents and men and women of all ages every year. Here in the metro region, the recently launched Adolescents and Communities Together Project brings together community organizations to implement evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs for populations at greatest need. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, Native American Youth and Family Center, Self Enhancement Inc., Latino Network, Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area, Multnomah County Health Department, and schools will equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to make healthy decisions about their sexual health; to be comfortable talking about sexuality with partners, families and peers; and to actualize full engagement as responsible citizens.
We realize that our incredible patients and supporters don’t comprise any one identity, and we’re grateful for the many volunteers, staff, and supporters of all genders and identities who work every day to ensure that people in Oregon and Southwest Washington get the health care and information they need.
Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette will continue to support any future legislative efforts that will allow for greater access to health care and resources for the LGBTQ community in our region. We see you. We care about you. We stand with you — no matter where you live, no matter what.
Austin Lea serves Clark County as the Community Education and Outreach Coordinator for Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, the largest nonprofit provider of sexual and reproductive health care and youth sex education programs in Oregon and Southwest Washington. For more information visit PPCW.org.