February 7 marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and with it a strengthened
resolve to rise up against the broad attacks on reproductive health, rights and justice by Congress and the current Trump Administration.
The HIV epidemic’s disproportionate toll on the Black community in the U.S. endures in spite of significant biomedical advances. Today, treatment methods exist that can reduce transmission rates to almost zero. Yet for many in the Black community – and particularly Black LGBTQ people – access to those methods remains out of reach. Black transgender women are disproportionately vulnerable to HIV, and Black women overall are 16 times more likely to acquire HIV than white women – and five times more likely than Latina women. Last year the CDC released the startling statistic that Black gay and bisexual men in the US are estimated to have a 1 in 2 risk of acquiring HIV in their lifetimes, and the numbers of new diagnoses are increasing among young people. The disproportionate
effect of this epidemic is unsettlingly clear, and the cause is structural: systemic racism prevents people from accessing sexual and reproductive healthcare, including HIV care.
Unequal access to HIV prevention, treatment, and the holistic wrap-around care, services and education/information necessary to maintain sexual and physical health are the drivers of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. This is a country where the infrastructure exists to roll out effective preventative measures, but social constructs like stigma, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and classism keep us from progressing past this epidemic. The fact that HIV/AIDS persists predominantly among historically marginalized and disenfranchised communities is an indicator of the deep-seated structural inequality facing people of color in the U.S. today.
Black AIDS Day is a day to remember and center the leadership of people of color in the struggle against HIV/AIDS – and that all of us need to keep fighting like hell against efforts by Congress and the new administration to limit access to basic necessities and constitutional protections even further.
The 115th Congress is on a path to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and in doing so leave 18 million people without health insurance in the first year – eventually increasing to 32 million uninsured Americans. The ACA was an incredible breakthrough for people living with and affected by HIV: it prohibits insurance providers from refusing insurance to people with pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS; it disallowed lifetime caps or annual limits on insurance benefits, something that people living with HIV (PLHIV) and people with other chronic conditions would quickly surpass; Section 1557 of the ACA put forth a number of non-discrimination protections on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender identity and against sex stereotyping, providing a way to seek remedy when a healthcare or insurance provider does implement discriminatory practices; and, the ACA ensures folks have access to preventative care, including HIV testing, at no co-pay cost. Most importantly, under the ACA, 32 states expanded eligibility for Medicaid, allowing previously uninsured low-income people to gain access to quality healthcare, reducing vulnerability to a number of health related issues including HIV. The Medicaid expansion also permits those with an HIV diagnosis to receive care earlier. Before the ACA, PLHIV would have to wait until they received an AIDS diagnosis before they were eligible for Medicaid.
Though some members of Congress have promised us that there will be no repeal of the ACA without a replacement, there has been no assurance that the ACA’s protections for people affected by HIV will meaningfully remain in place. Furthermore, rightwing members of Congress and the new administration’s mission to defund Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide reproductive and sexual health services will further reduce healthcare options, and likely lead to devastating health consequences.
Planned Parenthood clinics provide testing for HIV, as well as for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can increase a person’s vulnerability to HIV if left untreated. Many Planned Parenthood clinics also provide access to or information about the HIV prevention medication PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), and Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of transgender healthcare in the country. We need to support providers that recognize the linkages between HIV care and reproductive health services, since access to contraceptives, in-vitro fertilization, cancer screenings and abortion care are likewise integral to many people’s overall health, wellbeing, and reproductive future, including many LGBTQ people. Stripping away these services will leave low-income communities–and predominantly Black, Brown and LGBTQ people, including immigrants and undocumented persons–limited in their family planning choices and vulnerable to a variety of sexual and reproductive health concerns.
We are experiencing a political trend toward taking away necessary health-related services in an effort to control people’s bodies, restricting our right to self-determination, and criminalizing people for being who they are. It’s evident in attempted 6-week abortion bans (and successful 20-week bans), efforts to ban transgender folks from using the restroom aligned with their gender identity, and Trump’s outrageous Muslim ban fueled by Islamophobia, racism, and a disregard for the plight of refugees—particularly those who are LGBTQ and may be escaping life-threatening persecution. It is imperative right now to center marginalized communities and collectively speak out against political activity that disregards the needs of people of color, PLHIV, and LGBTQ people, and folks living at the intersections.
To learn more about barriers to healthcare as a form of structural violence keep an eye out for a webinar hosted by the National LGBTQ Task Force and Positive Women’s Network-USA for Women and Girls’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in March!
You can learn about the National LGBTQ Task Force’s health advocacy work by reading our fact sheet “10 Key LGBTQ Health Advocacy Priorities” here!
By Sabrina Rewald, If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow
The Racial Justice Institute at Creating Change in Philadelphia took place Wednesday, January 18th. This day long Institute of learning, storytelling and skill building allows queer, allies, people of color, and white folks to build awareness against racism and explore ways to apply this within the LGBTQ movement and beyond.
While LGBTQ people continue facing barriers to full equality, our discussions around discrimination should include dialogue around racial justice, economic justice, gun control, transgender justice, Islamophobia, and more. Some of the breakout sessions included confronting internalized oppression and self care for people of color, engaging race for multiracial people, white privilege, and creating organizational change.
“It was heavy. It allowed me to open up. For the longest time, I have never accepted the feeling of being angry because I was always told by white people that I am angry. And being in a space with people of color allowed me to reflect and finally accept this anger. So as a Latino gay man, I finally felt a sense of relief,” said Luis Berrios of GALEI.
The National LGBTQ Task Force in partnership with other racial justice organizations, host the Racial Justice Institute annually during the Creating Change Conference to build an anti-racist LGBTQ movement. Each year, the Racial Justice Institute becomes more popular among conference attendees. New and old LGBTQ and ally leaders attend Creating Change experiencing the institute’s deep and important programming to ensure their commitment for racial justice. But what veterans and new comers all have in common is that they’re looking for tools, support and community. It’s no easy task to create an institute that intentionally and thoughtfully facilitates conversations about race and increases people’s capacity to address racism in their everyday lives.
We are thankful for once again hosting a successful and instrumental institute that aims to shape discussion and fight for racial injustice. To learn more about the Racial Justice Institute, visit creatingchange.org.
by the National LGBTQ Task Force staff
Welcome to the 29th Creating Change Conference. Where diversity meets action and identity means cause. It’s truly an honor to be here this week in Philadelphia, the City of Queerly Love. Where thousands of LGBTQ activists gather to share in thought, discussion, curiosity, and strategy in forming our movement. As we start this new year, we are presented with the opportunity to build family and form friendships to last a long time.
In this crucial time, we must continue to stand next to each other. When many are still fighting for their homes, their jobs, their lives; the need to continue to create change is by all means the most important reason to continue to be an activist. For thousands of people will be coming together to learn, empower, and strategize about the coming year in LGBTQ rights and social justice.
Creating Change is the stage for the nation and the world to gather LGBTQ leaders and shape this new year and the next four years to ensure our livelihoods and our rights. So like everyone coming for the first time or the 29th time at Creating Change, expect something new that will help you in your journey to make a difference in the LGBTQ movement.
Visit creatingchange.org to learn more about Creating Change.
by the National LGBTQ Task Force staff
Let us share with you how The Wellness Hub (TWH) made its way to Creating Change and welcome you to Philadelphia. TWH is a space dedicated to being here for you!
A few years ago, staff members of the Leadership Academy at the National LGBTQ Task Force asked a vital question to their leadership academy members: does trauma affect and influence their daily lives and/or their activism? An overwhelming number of 1,200+ people responded YES! So in 2014, and breathe.,llc began training on embodied leadership in the academy sessions, and then in 2015 and 2016, applied their skills in the full day institutes. Embodied Leadership supports people in learning the hard science regarding the impact of trauma experienced by oppression on the individual, group, and community level. The workshops and institutes were overflowing with standing room numbers. The bottom line, people were ready to hear about the impact of activism and oppression on the body, the mind, the heart, the emotional body. Importantly, people wanted to learn ways to cultivate and practice “showing up for themselves”.
At the 2017 Creating Change Conference, the National LGBTQ Task Force has made a commitment to you to have a space where you can practice taking a time out, push pause, regroup, rest, be fully expressed, chill out and experience moving from states of dis.ease to states of refreshed and ready to jump back into conference activities.
The space provides:
Each and breathe. team member has a longstanding dedication and is committed to social change, just like you. Our dynamic team is grateful for the opportunity to serve the Creating Change 2017 Community. We welcome your arrival, we are prepared to hold space for you, and we look forward to connecting with you. To learn more about the team click here and to learn more about and-breathe.com click here. We are wishing you safe journeys to Philly and we’ll see you soon!
By Shannyn Vicente, LCSW, guest blogger
Never Forget. Those are the words I have carried with me every day since I woke up to the brutal murder of 49 mostly LGBTQ Latinx people at Pulse Nightclub 6 months ago. Never forget the lives lost. Never forget the hearts broken. Never forget the survivors. Never forget the trauma. Never forget the self-hatred and internalized homophobia of the killer. Never forget the impact of religious narratives on culture and on people’s lived lives. Never forget. Never. Forget. And, don’t let others forget either. This has been my mantra. This has been my way to honor their lives while working towards a world where this tragedy would never be repeated.
It should not have taken the worst massacre in modern US history to make people realize the dignity inherent in all human life — including LGBTQ lives. Yet, it did. Clergy across the country opened their eyes on June 12th to the harm caused by the words they preached from their pulpits, mosques, synagogues, and temples. Pulse transformed them. They realized that the neighbors they were called to love included LGBTQ people and families. They realized their words created an environment that caused parents to kick their children out to live on the streets, youth to commit suicide before they even began to truly live, and caused a man to commit mass murder on people celebrating pride in who they are at a nightclub. I’ve been working with several of these clergy over the past 6 months to provide support in transforming their ministries and their congregations. They are sincere in their commitment to create affirming and safe faith communities for LGBTQ people and to compel their parishioners to understand what it means to love ones neighbor as oneself.
I know that these transformations are not just happening in Orlando. Reactions like these are happening across the country — perhaps even the world. If any good is possible to be made — it may be the outpouring of love and apology towards LGBTQ people from the very same communities of faith that once exiled us.
Less than two weeks ago I cried with members of the National LGBTQ Task Force’s National Religious Leadership Roundtable and local faith leaders at Pulse Nightclub as we recited their names and silently read the items left at the memorial in honor of those taken from us too soon. We apologized for any way that our religion had been used to cause harm and committed to take action individually and collectively to not let their deaths be in vain. I recommit to that vow every day. I will never forget…and I won’t let anyone I know forget either. #ForThe49
by Victoria Kirby York, National LGBTQ Task Force, National Campaigns Director, Religious Exemptions and Welcoming Movements
This blog post originally appeared on Victoria Kirby York’s blog at: https://medium.com/@VictoriaKYork/never-forget-the-49-87af2f0a6944#.ldso5w36s
Access to medically-sound abortion care matters to all of us. Bans on reproductive health services undermine our bodily autonomy and compromise our progress in the struggle for liberation and equal dignity. We in the reproductive justice, LGBTQ, and faith communities are all working for the right to choose how we live, love, and use our bodies without harmful government intrusion.
We must act now to stop Ohio Governor John Kasich from signing the anti-abortion amendment to HB493—the most extreme abortion restriction in the country—into law. Please call Governor Kasich’s office at (614) 466-3555. Or, if you’re in Ohio, please go here to send him an email
On Tuesday, December 6, the Republican-led Ohio legislature passed a dangerous amendment, to an unrelated child abuse measure, that would ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as soon as only six weeks after conception. This is unfathomable. Many people do not even know that they are pregnant this soon after conception.
Make no mistake, this measure does not protect women’s health. Quite the opposite, if Gov. Kasich signs this measure into law, many of us, cisgender women, transgender men, intersex, gender nonconforming people, and many others will effectually not have the right to abortion. This is unconstitutional. Further, this regulation directly targets abortion providers. If a provider detects a heartbeat and performs an abortion, they may face imprisonment for one year. We must show our opposition to allowing such an extreme measure become law.
Proponents of making abortion increasingly difficult to access claim moral reasoning for their position, but faith leaders from diverse traditions are committed to justice and dignity for people seeking abortion care. Any law attempting to override an individual’s conscience and personal-decision making by forcing them to carry a pregnancy to term without regard for their health, life circumstances, or faith tradition is a violation of core American principles and is a form of moral violence. HB493 would insert politics into important medical decisions and would deny an individual the ability to decide what is right for them in consultation with their faith, family, and doctor.
This abortion ban has an exception for the life endangerment of the pregnant person, but does not include an exception for rape or incest. This provision goes against Governor Kasich’s previous voting record of only supporting anti-abortion provisions that include the exceptions of rape and incest. We must convince him to veto this piece of legislation, and to oppose similarly discriminatory efforts to ban abortion at 20 weeks.
Please urge Governor Kasich to veto the abortion restrictions in HB493 by calling his office at (614) 466-3555. If you’re in Ohio, please use this link to send him an email
Thank you for taking action.
by Stacey Long Simmons, National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs
White queers! White allies, family members, teachers, lovers, neighbors, leaders, and all WHITE PEOPLE! We must be more courageous and more vulnerable than ever before. We must FEEL and STILL ACT. We must RISK EVERYTHING COMFORTABLE to us. The only way to survive this hideous act of violence is to make different choices. Several months ago, after a long and hard spring (what I thought of then as long and hard) I said to myself, “self, let’s stir some work with white people at Creating Change 2017.”
At the Creating Change Conference set to take place in Philadelphia on January 18-22, 2017, I will facilitate a Day Long Institute, which I felt audacious naming the “White People’s Institute for Ending Racism.” I thought to myself, “IF WE CANNOT SAY IT, WE CANNOT DO IT.” I envisioned facilitating something magical and transformative: creating space for 100 or more white LGBTQ people to come together and reflect, learn, and share our white/ness/privilege/ internalized dominance journey stories, have some of our pervasive tears, and make commitments to take action!
So now. Post Election Day. I am sitting with my pain and anger over the results, with the knowledge that an inexperienced and unqualified white cis-gender man who ran a campaign based in racist, misogynist, transphobic hate and fear has won. What do I make of that and the fact that so many white people voted for him?
About the institute’s agenda:
The institute will be comprised of three parts: The Past, The Present, and The Future. In each part we will examine the stories, people, and rules that maintain white supremacy. We will address internalized dominance, the importance of working with other whites on racial justice activities and what organizing across race and supporting the leadership of people of color looks like. Lastly, the institute will support attendees to dive deeply into what a white anti-racist identity means to us individually and collectively.
I know I can deliver a space full of needed challenge and necessary love. I believe that everyone teaches and everyone learns. Join me and 4,000 other activists and leaders for the 29th annual Creating Change Conference. And please, if you are white, join many other brave and heart-centered white attendees and I on Thursday, January 19, 2017 for the “White People’s Institute for Ending Racism.”
By Evangeline Weiss, Leadership Programs Director, National LGBTQ Task Force