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GLBTQ Meeting Considers Ups, Downs Of Now

Johnathan Reeves

About thirty people attended a meeting at the Jonesboro Public Library’s Round Room Wednesday evening to discuss the issues and challenges facing the gay and transgender populations in Arkansas under the new Trump administration.

“So we really do see that the transgender community is very marginalized.  We see that within health care.  We see that within protections,” said James Rector, field organizer with the Human Rights Campaign of Arkansas.

Some in the audience voiced worry about what may happen with the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Specifically, transgender patients may have a harder time accessing gender reassignment surgery, hormonal treatments or even just general healthcare from doctors who think that they should be referred to a psychiatrist for gender dysphoria.  One transgender individual in the audience Wednesday night declined to comment.

Despite the uncertainty about Obamacare, Rector said progress has been made in protecting rights.

“We have seen a lot of change over the last few years, and we have seen a lot of good change,” he said.  Last year, the Human Rights Campaign praised Arkansas State University for adding inclusive language about gender identity in its Equal Opportunity policy.

Both organizers and participants at the Jonesboro gathering agreed that same-sex marriage is largely settled. Last year a Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans approve of it. A year before that, the  U.S. Supreme Court decision recognized the right of gay and lesbian people to marry.  The audience seemed to roundly agree that the decision would be nearly impossible to change now or at any point in the future.

“It’s the law of the land,” sand Rector.

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team. Her stories can be found on the airwaves, and social media.
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