CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A study released Thursday by the Alliance For Full Acceptance shows that LGBTQ people in the Charleston area have a strong need for more protection in the workplace, access to quality and informed healthcare, as well as public safety improvements in the tri-county.
“The findings of this study have tremendous implications for the LGBTQ residents of the tri-county area,” said Chase Glenn, executive director of AFFA. “There has been a lot of positive attention surrounding landmark victories for the LGBTQ community in recent years, yet we know from AFFA’s work on the ground that life for all LGBTQ people has not necessarily gotten better.”
Glenn said the purpose of the study was to have the data that correlates with real experiences LGBTQ people in the Lowcountry are facing.
In the inaugural study of 1,436 respondents, more than half said they cannot be themselves at work while more than 250 said they worry they will be fired for their LGBTQ identity. 165 said they were specifically told not to reveal their sexual identity at work.
Aside from no protections in place to stop this type of discrimination from the work place, the report also shows that the Tri-County lacks when it comes to healthcare.
One-third of respondents said their doctors don’t know the answers to their questions, including providing information about hormones for transgender patients, and HIV treatment and prevention options.
Kimberly Butler-Willis is the director of the Ryan White Wellness Center, a comprehensive sexual health center. The center is part of Roper Francis Healthcare and it provides services to a large LGBTQ population.
Butler-Willis says after reading the report, the center will now include gender identity and sex on intake forms for patients. She believes this is just a simple first step in bridging the gap between the LGBTQ community and the healthcare system.
“Your medical home should feel just like that, your home, the place where you feel comfortable to tell your provider exactly how you feel, when you feel it, the signs and symptoms and the intensity,” Butler-Willis said. “ If we can’t have those open and honest conversations then we can’t provide you with the highest level of care that we have here in our hospital system.”
Public safety all seems to be a big issue for LGBTQ residents. Of those surveyed, 207 said they have been physically/verbally attacked in public.
“With our survey results in hand, we now have a baseline understanding of what life is like for our LGBTQ neighbors,” Glenn added. “From here, we can create meaningful, positive change in our communities.”
The study took more than a year to finish as part of a partnership between AFFA, CofC and MUSC.
AFFA will be hosting an LGBTQ Healthcare expo on Sat. October 12, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center.
The full study can be found here.