WITH LESS THAN TWO WEEKS LEFT until Donald J. Trump assumes the U.S. presidency, we still don’t know exactly what the future will hold for marginalized people in America and abroad. Thankfully, more than a few activist souls have already announced plans to go toe-to-toe with an incoming administration that, by all accounts, intends to strip as many non-white, non-cishet, non-male people of their rights as possible. Among them are indie-rock twin goddesses Tegan and Sara, whose new foundation will fight Trump’s backward policies by advocating “for economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.”
One of the most repressive pieces of legislation that the LGBTQ community faces under Trump is the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) intend to reintroduce during the 115th U.S. Congress. That bill would prevent the federal government from punishing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals and their families, if said discrimination is part of “a religious belief or moral conviction.” Language in the bill would also permit discrimination against unmarried couples of any orientation and would exacerbate existing discrimination against polyamorous families.
Recent years have seen numerous state-level bills that would allow health care professionals — including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and therapists — to “opt out” of providing life-saving treatment to LGBTQIA individuals and their families, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of professional health care associations encourage or require providers to educate themselves on issues facing queer communities.
American Medical Association ethics guidelines prohibit providers from “declin[ing] to accept patients because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis that would constitute invidious discrimination.” The American Psychological Association has “professionally binding” clauses that require psychologists to educate themselves and combat their own biases toward LGBTQIA individuals and communities, which allows it to “censure member psychologists who violate the rules.”
Those guidelines and others have prompted small groups of health care providers to form their own professional associations in opposition to same-sex adoption, transitioning procedures, and counseling, among other issues. Their refusal to provide adequate treatment for LGBTQ individuals and families is part of the reason why the Tegan and Sara Foundation (TSF) is so important. From TSF:
LGBTQ women have higher rates of obesity, gynecological cancer, depression, suicide and tobacco/alcohol abuse. Discriminatory laws, provider bias, insurance exclusions and inadequate reproductive health coverage leave 29% of LGBTQ women struggling to pay for health insurance.
Compounding the health care issue are legal loopholes that allow housing discrimination against LGBTQIA individuals and their families. Contrary to popular belief, the Fair Housing Act does not explicitly prohibit housing authorities from refusing to provide shelter to people on the basis of sexual identity and orientation, although it does protect people living with HIV/AIDS. Only 22 states have laws prohibiting housing providers from discriminating against LGBTQ individuals and their families, which means that 60 percent of LGBTQ individuals in the U.S. live in areas where they may be refused housing on the basis of their sexual identity and orientation.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a person may pursue legal action against a housing provider who “refuses to rent to [them] because he believes [they act] in a manner that does not conform to his notion of how a person of a particular sex should act.” LGBTQ people file housing discrimination complaints about as often as ethnic and racial minorities and women, according to data collected from 18 of the 22 aforementioned states that prohibit sexual identity and orientation-based discrimination. Nearly half of all LGBTQ seniors report trouble finding safe housing, “including fewer housing options, higher fees and rents and more extensive application requirements than heterosexuals,” according to Forbes.
The Tegan and Sara Foundation cannot achieve “economic justice, health, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women” alone. To that end, the twins’ non-profit will “work in partnership and solidarity with other organizations,” including GLAAD, the Audre Lorde Project, the Astraea Foundation, and the Williams Institute — groups which have been fighting for LGBTQIA justice and representation for decades. Rather than being directly involved with LGBTQ women and girls’ ongoing legal battles, then, the Tegan and Sara Foundation will use the Quin sisters’ “public status to speak out about the struggles of the LGBTQ community.”
With the duo’s popularity remaining strong for more than 20 years, Tegan and Sara’s new project is poised to become a hub for communities and allies to connect with one another in the fight for equality. I know that doesn’t sound particularly original, and it isn’t. But, at a time when LGBTQ representation continues to underperform, and discrimination is widespread, we need all the outreach and activism efforts we can get.