Who can do something to protect sexual health and sexual rights? You can.
It is time to get prepared.
Health care in general is going to get less accessible and chaotic. - If Obamacare is repealed, many of us are going to lose insurance and access the care. At best, things are going to get confusing and chaotic as massive shifts in plans, costs, and what we can expect go on around the nation. The gift of required coverage for pre-existing conditions may go away, leaving many Americans without coverage for long-term conditions. This applies to all manner of health, sexual and otherwise.
What you can do – it is hard to know how to prepare for this, since we don’t know what options will be available to us. If you have an issue you have been putting off getting care for, you may want to act. If you have a doctor you like and trust, you may want to see them now and ask about out of pocket payment options.
Birth Control is going to get less accessible – If people lose coverage for birth control (required under Obamacare), women will face monthly costs for prescriptions (estimated at $50 a month on average) putting added pressure on many individuals and families who may already be struggling. Getting a prescription may get a lot harder. Trump has said he will cut finding to Planned Parenthood, and Pence has personally led the fight to defund, which provides healthcare to 2.5 million people annually, and provides birth control for half of the women using contraceptives in the US. And we need to remember that hormonal birth control is not just for pregnancy prevention, it is used to treat symptoms of many other health issues, such as painful, problematic menstrual cycles. Effective use of hormonal birth control can preserve fertility and healthy reproductive systems for many women so that they can have healthy pregnancies later.
What you can do : For yourself, if you are thinking about longer term birth control options, like an IUD, tubal ligation, or vasectomy, now may be a good time to schedule with a doctor. If you use the pill or other monthly prescriptions, you may want to make room for that in your budget again.
For others – Donate to Planned Parenthood. Learn about low cost birth control options and spread the word. Teach your children to use condoms effectively and advocate for condoms to be available. Advocate for good accurate sex education that includes actual family planning information, not just abstinence.
More unplanned, unwanted pregnancies – Trump has made it clear he intends to reduce availability to abortion, both through his Supreme court appointees and through direct legislation. At a given time in America there are 43 million women who are sexually active and do not want to become pregnant. In 2011, 21 % of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) were ended with abortion. So that is a lot of people affected if abortion is no longer an option. I cannot address the impact on our communities of a massive increase in people being forced into parenting when they do not want that or of increased family sizes (59% of abortions are for women who had already given birth at least once).
What you can do : For yourself: be vigilant about birth control. Learn to use condoms effectively and be committed to your vision for your future.
For others : Donate to Planned Parenthood. Teach about effective birth control use, especially condom use. Talk to your kids about pregnancy prevention; do not rely on abstinence as the plan. Consider how to provide support for families who are faced with having children they do not feel prepared for, volunteer and donate to agencies that provide parenting support. Become aware and possibly support groups who are making abortion available, either by arranging travel to a place where it is available or supporting trained doctors. Become aware of dangerous procedures that people may try of they are desperate and speak out, educate about the risks.
Reduced rights for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans people – Trump has said that he is opposed to gay marriage and would consider appointing judges who will overturn gay marriage rights in the US. Earlier this year, Trump did state support for transgender people being able to use the bathroom they felt was appropriate but later said he would support individual states in deciding. Trump has said he will sign the First Amendment Defense Act, a very damaging ruling that allows for discrimination against GLBT citizens on the basis of religious beliefs. Vice President-elect Pence stated in 2000 that he felt funding for HIV research should be reallocated to provide programs for changing people’s sexual orientation to heterosexual (which has been banned by the APA as ineffective and unethical). The potential for increased harassment, discrimination, and danger for our communities seems clear.
What you can do : For yourself : Continue to be proud, to celebrate your love and relationships, and to refuse to be made invisible. Find allies and safe places in your community and go to them for support. Research legal steps to maintain your marital rights and protect your family. Stay aware of different states policies and be mindful when you travel or move.
For Others : Find and donate to a Diversity Center in your community. Educate yourself and your community about the issues and needs that the GLBT community faces. Speak up about discrimination or intimidation that you see. Volunteer for a suicide hotline. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, make sure the shelters in your area are safe for GLBT people. March, picket, physically show up to provide support and friendship and strength in numbers. Make sure your schools are providing support and safe spaces for queer kids.
Lack of safety and respect for women – it is hard to quantify the affect that having a President-elect who has openly ridiculed, harassed, and spoken about assaulting women, and is currently facing rape charges, has upon our country. I can say as a therapist, that simply witnessing Trump’s behavior and attitude for the past few months has re-traumatized many sexual assault survivors and been deeply disturbing for people who love and care about women’s dignity. The attitude, if not the legislation, is that women are fair game for objectification, molestation, and intimidation. It is also difficult to speak to the effect that so many white women voting for a man who so clearly disrespects women has had on many of us.
What you can do : For yourself : Find allies, women, men, and other gendered, who love and support you and stand with them. Get therapy support if you are feeling triggered or traumatized. Believe in yourself and your equality. Give yourself permission to say No, to get angry, to be an independent sexual being. Take up space, speak up, be yourself.
For others: Donate and volunteer for rape crisis centers and shelters in your communities. Volunteer for abuse hotlines. Work with kids to teach about consent and respect. Intervene if you see someone who looks like they are being victimized. Stop joking about or normalizing sexual harassment or objectification.
It is not time to give up. It is time to dig deep. It is time to pay attention. It is time to stand up for what you believe in and the future you want to see. Together we have made change happen before, together we can do it again.Be safe out there everybody. Take care of yourself and take care of each other.