As we celebrate Pride this month, we here at SOS wanted to take this opportunity to consider the issues and barriers facing our LGBTQ community in Orange County, and what we are doing as an organization to address them. It is our mission to provide care and assistance to those in need and act as advocates for systemic change, and we work every day to fulfill that mission for our LQBTQ community in a supportive and welcoming environment, sensitive to the struggles they face daily.
A recent study by the Center for American Progress found that 1 in 3 LGBTQ Americans, including 3 in 5 transgender Americans, experienced discrimination in just the past year. The study found that “many LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination in their personal lives, in the workplace and the public sphere, and in their access to critical health care. This experience of discrimination leads to many adverse consequences for their financial, mental, and physical well-being.”
SOS has a wide range of services available to directly attend to these issues including medical and dental care, behavioral health services, financial assistance, and homeless services. However, we know that simply having these services available is not enough. Addressing the needs of the LGBTQ community requires a team that is compassionate and well informed on the unique challenges of these individuals, and that is what we have at SOS. Our health providers are trained to care for the health conditions facing our LGBTQ patients in a sensitive and gender-affirming way. The fear of discrimination can also lead people to avoid seeking care, but at SOS everyone who walks through our doors is treated with dignity and respect, and without judgment.
The LGBTQ homeless population is particularly vulnerable, and our team of experts, as well as our community of volunteers, provides a safe space to talk, and work to find solutions so that we can help improve their living situation. Often this includes behavioral or substance abuse services, medical services for transgender individuals looking to affirm their gender, and working with other organizations to find permanent, supportive housing.
In addition to the direct services we provide every day, our leadership team also works with other community groups and organizations to advance the cause of equity in Orange County so that protections for vulnerable groups like the LGBTQ community can be enacted to promote systemic change. We also support legislation including the Equality Act that would codify those protections into law.
We have a long way to go in our society in the treatment of our LQBTQ community, but we are working every day towards the goal of equality for all. This month is a great time to recognize the progress that has been made and celebrate the freedom to choose love for everyone in our community.