One of my pet peeves in gay activism is when people fail to understand that the fight for reproductive rights/health and the fight for LGBT equality are the same damned fight. It’s about people who are not straight, white, Christian men having access to full freedom and equality in this country, over our bodies, our sex lives, our access to the same Constitutional rights as everyone else — in short, it’s about all of our lives. When one fight suffers, the other fight suffers.
Here’s a real life example of that! The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center has offered a pioneering HIV testing program for several years, which is open to all, regardless of sexual orientation. Until tonight, that is:
Memphis, TN, February 8, 2012: Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) will be unable to offer Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) testing tonight and for the foreseeable future. For more than three years, MGLCC has collaborated with Planned Parenthood to provide the only regularly-scheduled, after-hours HIV testing in the Mid-South. This afternoon, Planned Parenthood representatives informed MGLCC that they do not have the funds necessary to provide the HIV testing for the foreseeable future because the State of Tennessee has denied Planned Parenthood access to grants for HIV prevention. The cut in funding for Planned Parenthood has put MGLCC’s model HIV testing program in jeopardy.
Despite MGLCC’s core mission to focus on the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, the HIV testing program offered at MGLCC has always been open to anyone needing a test. MGLCC does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. MGLCC believes that helping clients find out their HIV status and find access to appropriate HIV care is an essential service not only for the individual, but for the health and well-being of our entire city. More than 500 individuals have been tested by the HIV testing program offered by MGLCC since the program’s inception in 2008. Will Batts, Executive Director of MGLCC, says “Our strong collaboration with Planned Parenthood to provide HIV testing has improved the lives of hundreds of people every year. Losing this vital program will put the health and well-being of many Memphians at risk. MGLCC considers the setback to our HIV testing program a great tragedy, but we hope the setback will be only a temporary one.”
You see, organizations like Planned Parenthood, as well as local LGBT community centers, offer programs and services that benefit entire communities. Planned Parenthood does a hell of a lot more than just “abortion,” though that is one important thing they do. The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center offers programs that benefit people far beyond the local LGBT community. And now the jihad against Planned Parenthood is directly affecting the center’s ability to serve people.
Wake up, people. If you’re not involved in both of these fights, you’re missing the big picture.