Photo courtesy of Planned Parenthood of Michigan

Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ Community: What You Should Know

BY ELLEN SHANNA KNOPPOW

Care. No Matter What. -- Planned Parenthood

Birth control and abortion. For many people, that's what comes to mind when they think of Planned Parenthood. But did you know that they offer a full range of services, from HIV testing and treatment to cancer screenings? Planned Parenthood is a great resource for the health care of the LGBTQ community. Why don't more people know?

John Keserich, Director of Political Field Operations for Planned Parenthood of Michigan and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan explains, "While the Planned Parenthood brand is one of the best known and most well-respected brands in the country, especially a health care brand, the name itself can at times be confusing, especially in some communities.

Folks may realize that we provide services related to reproduction - but if pregnancy isn't a possible outcome of sex, Planned Parenthood may not be an obvious choice for some, as many are unaware of the full range of services we provide."

Keserich, who is openly gay, and has worked as an advocate for women and families for almost 20 years, wants to spread the word that Planned Parenthood has much to offer the LGBTQ community. "Many, many people, regardless of sexual orientation, need access to condoms, STD testing and treatment, HIV testing, HIV Post Exposure Prophylactic (PEP) Treatment, and cancer screenings. [Screenings for breast, cervical and testicular cancers are available.]

Planned Parenthood of Michigan does not currently provide hormone therapy for transgender individuals, but we continue to consider doing so as we look more closely at the needs of our communities."

Other services that PPMI provides include annual visits for both women and men, HPV vaccinations for adults age 18-26, and treatment of genito-urinary infections. (Additional services may be available at Planned Parenthood locations in other states; see resources below.) Keserich adds that Planned Parenthood is always looking for ways to expand services to better serve the needs of our communities.

Also, keep in mind that Planned Parenthood's services are very affordable. They accept most insurance plans, and there is the option of paying with a health savings account or flexible spending account. PPMI accepts Medicaid and participates with the Healthy Michigan Plan, whose eligibility requirements can be found on their website. And their sliding scale fee accommodates people who lack coverage.

Planned Parenthood has always has been a no-judgment zone, where health care services are confidential and compassionate. Individuals from all walks of life, regardless of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or sexual history are welcome. Keserich tells how and why: "At Planned Parenthood, one of our core values is that 'We Respect and Honor All People'. As is true of all of our core values, we take that very seriously. Our health centers are open to all people and are delivered in a welcoming, respectful, nonjudgmental way."

Part Planned Parenthood's mission is education: educating their clients as well as the public. And education regarding LGBTQ issues is an essential component of what they do--it's more than just a statement. That means they believe that all people of have the right to learn about their sexuality and develop skills to make healthy decisions about their bodies and relationships.

Keserich is proud that "all of our education programs are completely LGBT+ inclusive in that information is presented with the assumption that all gender identities and sexual orientations are represented in the room whether we are talking about healthy relationships or HIV prevention."

Their Peer Educators Program--which comprises youth who identify as LGBTQ--now features an LGBTQ-specific module, focusing on the community's issues, from healthy relationships to inclusion. These student groups are led by more than 80 youth across the state, and they support the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network. Further, Planned Parenthood provides educational programs for school boards and sexual education advisory boards, with the purpose of helping school districts design and implement LGBTQ-inclusive programs and policies.

Another component of Planned Parenthood's mission is advocacy. A number of issues they support overlap with the needs of the LGBTQ community: They work with Equality Michigan and the ACLU on the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, as well as the Michigan Department of Education in regard to their recommendations concerning the creation of learning environment that seeks to be inclusive of LGBTQ students. Another area of overlap concerns issues surrounding Religious Refusals.

In terms of endorsements, to receive Planned Parenthood's stamp of approval agencies and organizations must support LGBTQ equality 100 percent.

Finally, Keserich had a few words to add on what we have in common, in the belief that Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ community might support each other's causes--particularly in light of the present political climate. "First, we can always do more and be better allies in all ways - but we deeply value the intersectionality of our issues with a variety of issues including the LGBT+ movement. But we most certainly have some incredibly important commonalities as it relates to the political battles that we have faced in the past, and that we will continue to face as conservatives hold power in Washington D.C. and in state legislatures across the country.

We have common cause in what is right and just; that all people deserve equality and respect. We share a common philosophy around privacy and sexuality. We share common constitutional issues - equal protection under the law. And we share common enemies - the same people working against reproductive justice are working against LGBTQ equality, racial justice, economic justice, environmental justice, worker's rights, voting rights, etc."

I stand with Planned Parenthood. Do you?

Planned Parenthood:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

Planned Parenthood of Michigan:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-michigan

To find one of PPMI's 19 locations in Michigan:

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-center/MI

Interested in getting involved or staying up-to-date on legislative advocacy? See Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan:

http://miplannedparenthood.org/


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