The United States Senate has confirmed two historic LGBTQ presidential nominees by unanimous consent. Gina Ortiz Jones, confirmed for Under Secretary of the Air Force, will be the first out lesbian to serve as under secretary of a military branch. Shawn Skelly, confirmed as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, will be the highest-ranking out transgender defense official in U.S. history.

Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute, made the following statement:

Shawn Skelly

“Gina and Shawn served their country when living openly could result in discharge and a lost career, so their ascension to key leadership positions is a powerful moment for those servicemembers who served or continue to serve in silence. Their confirmation will transform perceptions of LGBTQ people within the ranks of the U.S. military, but also among the leaders of militaries we work with around the world.

"While they were confirmed because of their unquestionable qualifications and experience, they symbolize our continued progress and will further disrupt any lingering notion that LGBTQ people are somehow unfit to serve."

Gina Ortiz Jones

Jones is an Air Force and Iraq War veteran and former candidate for U.S. Congress. She was an intelligence analyst for U.S. Africa Command and a senior strategic planner and then special advisor to the Deputy Director for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Skelly is a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and retired with the rank of Commander. She was Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics at the U.S. Department of Defense and a commissioner to the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service.

Jones and Skelly are two of more than 200 LGBTQ political appointees to the administration of President Joe Biden – including at least 12 currently serving in the Department of Defense. Also nominated and awaiting a confirmation hearing is Sue Fulton, a retired U.S. Army Captain, who is nominated to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

Victory Institute's Presidential Appointments Initiative works with the administration to recommend and advocate for qualified LGBTQ leaders ready to serve in the administration – including Jones and Skelly. Victory Institute aims to help the Biden administration become the most LGBTQ-inclusive in U.S. history.

Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute, said: “The Biden team is building the most LGBTQ-inclusive administration in U.S. history and the impact it will have on policies and legislation is enormous. Gina and Shawn will join at least a dozen other out Defense Department appointees who understand the challenges LGBTQ servicemembers face and will make their well-being a priority.

Our military, like our government, is strongest when it reflects the diversity of the people it serves and ensures all are treated with dignity and respect. Gina and Shawn are shattering lavender ceilings that will encourage more LGBTQ people to consider public service.

About Victory Institute

LGBTQ Victory Institute works to achieve and sustain global equality through leadership development, training, and convening to increase the number, expand the diversity, and ensure the success of openly LGBTQ elected and appointed officials at all levels of government.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.