When the Girls With Guts Assistant Director of Communications reached out to me asking if I would write a blog for Pride Month, I felt uncertain. I’m proud of my queer identity, and it has taken me a long time to be able to write (somewhat) openly about it. Living in Portland, Oregon, I have the privilege of feeling relatively safe in my queerness: all the shops on my street have Pride flags in their windows, over half of the neighbors in my apartment building are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and a few of my medical providers are openly queer.

Even still, I can’t ignore the way this Pride month feels different. For the first time in history, the Human Rights Campaign has declared a State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans. Earlier today (June 15th), Oregon Senate Republicans finally ended a six week walkout (the longest in state history) that they underwent in opposition to a bill that, along with protecting abortion access, expands and protects access to gender-affirming healthcare. According to the Human Rights Campaign, over 525 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 41 states in 2023, with over 220 of those bills targeting trans people, and with 76 bills signed into law, “more than any year on record, and more than double over last year.”

This Pride Month, I am most concerned for trans people with IBD living in states that are restricting access to gender-affirming care, and that do not protect LGBTQ+ individuals in the healthcare system–just last month, Florida signed a law that allows healthcare providers and insurers to deny care to LGBTQ+ individuals “on the basis of religious, moral, or ethical beliefs.” Imagine having a medical crisis due to your IBD or ostomy and being denied care in the Emergency Department because the doctor found out about your sexual and/or gender identity and objects to that. So, no lifesaving emergency care for you, then?

Often in the IBD community, I see great information on how to form a partnership with your medical team–how to engage in shared-decision making, how to advocate for yourself, and how to better understand your care in order to form trusting relationships with medical providers. But how can any LGBTQ+ IBD patient living in states without anti-discrimination protections (or, as in Florida, with explicit permission to discriminate) possibly engage in any such conversations with their healthcare providers? We as patient advocates, as Girls With Guts, cannot ignore the fact that members of our community cannot access the same quality of IBD care due to blatant discrimination.

What’s more, we as Girls With Guts cannot ignore the rampant transphobia threatening trans people across the US, and must respond by ensuring that trans and nonbinary IBD patients have access to lifesaving resources and support. Given that I am not trans, I may be unaware of some of the existing resources for trans IBD patients, and cannot speak to what the trans IBD community needs. But, in preparing for this blog, I researched resources that are specific to LGBTQ+ IBD patients, and noticed that the IBD community is starting to develop more resources to meet the unique needs of trans and nonbinary patients. In addition to its private Facebook groups for Gay and Bisexual Men and Lesbian and Bisexual Women, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation is working on adding Gender Neutral restrooms to their We Can’t Wait App. And the IBD Pride Clinic through the Mayo Clinic includes a Transgender and Intersex Specialty Care Clinic. Still,  it’s evident that we in the IBD community have more work to do in order to expand the reach of our resources so that all patients–especially trans and nonbinary patients–have equitable access to care and community. And, of course, we can do that work alongside expanding resources serving all LGBTQ+ IBD patients, especially those living in states with increasingly hostile legislation.

I will always be happy to write blogs for Girls With Guts about my experience as a queer person with IBD. But I am aware that my experiences as a queer person living and accessing IBD care in Portland, Oregon may, unfortunately, be dramatically different from those of some of my fellow LGBTQ+ IBD patients. I hope that, in the (near) future, we have more individuals with various identities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella who feel safe and empowered to share about their experiences and find community within Girls With Guts.

I wish we lived in a time where it went without saying, but because we are living in the times we are living in: If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you belong at Girls With Guts. If you are lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or queer, you belong at Girls With Guts. If you are a trans woman with IBD or an ostomy, you belong at Girls With Guts. Trans women are women, and trans Girls With Guts are Girls With Guts. If you are nonbinary or gender non-conforming, and the Girls With Guts community resonates with you and your experiences with IBD or an ostomy, you belong at Girls With Guts.

We accept you, you belong here, and we will advocate with and for you, Pride month and beyond.

• About The Author
Lizzie was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at age 22 in April 2018, and feels fortunate to have found support and an outlet for her writing at Girls with Guts. Lizzie also lives with OCD, depression, and chronic pain, and is a member of the Queer/LGBTQ+ community. Much of her writing explores the interaction between her IBD and her other illnesses and identities. Lizzie is grateful for the acceptance she has found at Girls with Guts. In her free time, Lizzie enjoys taking walks in the rain, listening to audiobooks, photographing flowers, and spoiling her precious cat, Linus.
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