Southern neighbors Georgia and Alabama both passed bills that restrict abortion access this month. Activists say these laws will negatively impact access to healthcare in North Carolina - not just access to abortions for women.
About 35 percent of the LGBTQ population in the U.S. lives in the South. And that includes more than 500,000 transgender people. Ivy Gibson-Hill is with The Campaign for Southern Equality, and helped put together their Trans In The South guide, which highlights healthcare and other service providers friendly to LGTBQ people in the region.
“Experiencing this type of discrimination is not new. But what this does is adds a legal stamp of approval that we can guess or I can assume that is going to make that an even bigger issue for people who are dealing with that everyday,” says Gibson-Hill, also referring to the new religious refusal law issued by the Department of Health and Human Service.
Gibson-Hill identifies as nonbinary:
“I use the pronouns ‘they/them/theirs’ OR ‘ze/hir/hirs.’ ‘Ze’ replaces ‘he or she,’ ‘hir’ replaces ‘him or her’ and ‘hirs’ replaces ‘his or hers.’
Here’s how ze explains what nonbinary gender means:
“I say that some people are men. Some people are women. Some people are in between and some people fall off the scale,” says Gibson-Hill.
About 4 million LBGTQ people in the U.S. live in rural regions like Western North Carolina - places where access to healthcare is often few and far between. That means any law restricting access to healthcare narrows an already small field of options, says Gibson-Hill. In the Trans in the South guide, there were only four services in North Carolina listed west of Asheville. Gibson-Hill says that at every doctor’s visit ze has to explain hir gender identity.
“Everytime that you go, you are having to think, ‘Am I in a stable enough mental place, to be able to put up with this and to have my identity called into question and be disrespected in the doctor’s office or have my pronouns laughed off - which an experienced that I have almost every time that I go to the doctor,'” says Gibson-Hill.
Ze says that if gender can be removed from conversations about healthcare that would make services more accessible.
“Everyone who has a uterus needs to get it checked out,” explains ze.
Planned Parenthood in Asheville is one of the only clinics that offers abortion services in the region. It’s also one of the few places trans people can receive their hormone treatments.
Gibson-Hill is concerned that restrictive laws in other states will push even more people to come to Asheville for care. This could put a strain on the local clinics.
“If these laws are putting these clinics in jeopardy - where are these folk who are receiving services going to go to get that?”
The Campaign for Southern Equality also hosts trainings for medical professionals who want to learn more about the LGBTQ community.