As we go into Saturday’s Democratic Primary, the eyes of the nation are fixed on South Carolina, and it’s important to me that people understand what it means to be LGBTQ in our state right now.
In recent weeks, two bills targeting transgender youth have been filed in the South Carolina legislature. Within the last year, we know of two transgender women of color who have been murdered. And in a recent study the Alliance For Full Acceptance (AFFA) conducted of LGBTQ adults in Charleston, Berkeley, and Dorchester counties, we found that many local LGBTQ people are targets of discrimination in their workplace, have difficulty accessing quality and informed healthcare, and experience rates of depression and suicidal ideation that are much higher than the general population.
While Charleston is a place I have come to love and call home, being LGBTQ here is complicated.
We lift our city up as a progressive beacon in our state — and it is in many ways — but our LGBTQ community is still struggling. We still face discrimination in our day to day lives, many do not feel safe in public spaces, and we often lack basic support socially and in our families.
The Williams Institute estimates that there are 177,000 LGBTQ adults in South Carolina, with nearly 25,000 in the Charleston area alone. As political campaigns have woven in and out of our communities, holding rallies and roundtables, town halls and coffee klatches, many of the same issues and priorities are raised at each event. Whether it’s ensuring access to quality health care, increasing opportunities for employment, protecting our citizens from gun violence, or defending reproductive rights, these are justice issues that often negatively impact marginalized communities including those who are LGBTQ.
When we talk about health care, I can’t help but think about how so many LGBTQ people experience discrimination that makes receiving medical and mental care a challenge. When we talk about employment insecurity and fair wages, I can’t help but think about the trans folk I know who struggle to keep jobs while they transition. When we talk about gun violence, I can’t help but think of the number of LGBTQ people who have been targets of hate crimes. And when we talk about reproductive justice, I can’t help but think about how all people should have freedom and self-determination over their own body, health, and life — and how we live in a state where politicians seem hell-bent to try and take that away.
This is my home. This is where my wife and I have chosen to dig in, create community, and raise a family. I find hope in the fact that polling shows us that the majority of South Carolinians support equality for LGBTQ people. The majority of South Carolinians support anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBTQ folk. And the majority of South Carolinians support the passage of a hate crime law that would include provisions for those who are targets of violence because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The citizens of South Carolina get it— It’s past time for our state’s politicians to catch up.
So I’m asking you to join me and make this known— have the conversation, speak up when the subject comes up, and make clear that South Carolina is ready for equality.
Chase Glenn is the executive director of the Alliance For Full Acceptance.