In Texas last week, in an effort to pass the state budget, extreme politicians dropped an amendment that would have prohibited transgender Texans from using the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity while keeping an amendment that would block people from getting health care at Planned Parenthood.
In the media and in the Texas capitol, this backroom deal is being treated as a compromise — as if the ability of transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity is preserved for now. That is nowhere near the truth. A bill modeled after North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which has already passed the state Senate, could still be passed by the Texas House.
Texas politicians’ budget bill “compromise” is a distraction — so that they can feel free to further limit Texans’ access to birth control, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment.
And make no mistake: Any attack on Planned Parenthood is an attack on the health and well-being of people of all gender identities, including transgender and gender-nonconforming people.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, nearly a quarter of transgender adults say they have avoided getting health care because of fear of being mistreated, and 33 percent avoided getting health care because they could not afford it.
In a world that is far too often hostile and unsafe for trans people, Planned Parenthood strives to be a safe place for people of all identities to get the care and information they need to stay healthy and live the lives they want. In many communities, a Planned Parenthood health center may be one of the few spaces where someone’s gender identity is acknowledged, respected, and understood. We are proud to be a source of health care, information, and education to people of all gender identities.
That’s why 30 organizations devoted to protecting the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people wrote a letter to congressional leaders urging them not to block access to sexual and reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood. We not only provide quality, nonjudgmental care to LGBTQ people, we are also expanding access to the hormone replacement therapy that many transgender people need. Planned Parenthood health centers in 16 states currently provide HRT, including the most recently launched program at Planned Parenthood Greater Texas’s Austin health center.
When politicians attack access to health care, the people who suffer most are those who already have a hard time finding care — including people in rural areas, people with low incomes, people of color, and LGBTQ people. These are communities that have been ignored or pushed aside by the health care system for generations, and any efforts to block access are reversing hard-won progress. As states where extremists run the legislature pass more discriminatory laws, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are put even more at risk.
When millions of people marched in the streets of Washington, D.C., and cities around the world for women’s rights back in January, the crowds were not just made up of women. There were girls, boys, women, men, and gender-nonconforming individuals. They were all ages, from all backgrounds, of all identities and orientations.
What they had in common is that they recognized our struggles to live freely and with dignity are tied together. Our resistance against attacks on women, on health care, on LGBTQ people, is about more than bathrooms or birth control — it is about all of us being able to live free from discrimination, harm, and shame, no matter who we are or what we look like.
Planned Parenthood will always oppose legislation that targets LGBTQ communities — including Texas’s proposed “bathroom bill.” Laws like these attempt to create an issue that doesn’t exist and lead only to more discrimination and harassment. The bottom line is that everyone should be able to use the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
Members of the far right seem to think that if they just divide up our rights, they can knock them down one by one. They’re right that we cannot afford to be divided. They’re wrong to think that we will abandon one another when the health and safety of our communities is at stake. We will not.
DAWN LAGUENS is executive vice president and chief brand officer of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.