Discriminatory legislation is moving fast the week of March 8. We have listed each bill below and what you can do. But before we list the specific tasks for each bill, here are a couple of extraordinary steps you can take:
1. Do you want to have a virtual meeting with your legislators to discuss these bills? Here's how to set one up. If you give us a day's notice before your meeting, we may be able to help brief you. Email us at [email protected] for more details.
2. Do you want to help with media calls this week? Reporters around the state may contact us for comment on different bills. Particularly if you are trans or nonbinary and want to talk to the media about these bills, let us know at [email protected] Include your city of residence when you send your email. Note: If you volunteer for this responsibility, you should be prepared to respond to media calls the same day you get the request.
The bills moving this week and action campaigns:
*SB228/HB3, the anti-transgender student athlete bill, has passed the Senate and could be up for a floor vote at any time. Use this easy form to contact your member of the Tennessee House and add your own message in the blank space.
*SB1367/HB1233, which is a bill that requires schools to make accommodations for students who don't want to share restroom/locker room space with transgender students, is up for a subcommittee vote on March 9. Email the subcommittee with this link and add your own message in the blank space. Make calls or leave messages for some of the members of the subcommittee using the script and numbers at this link.
*SB657/HB578 attacks gender-affirming care for transgender youth and is up for a vote on March 10. Email the subcommittee at this link if you have not already done so. Make calls or leave messages with the script and phone numbers at this link.
*SB1224/HB1182 is a bill that requires businesses and public buildings with transgender-inclusive restrooms to post signs that say: "THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM." These signs will endanger transgender people and could lead to aggression against trans-inclusive businesses. Call or leave messages with the subcommittee using the script and phone numbers at this link. Email the subcommittee members with this easy form and add your own message in the blank space.
This is the current shape of the #SlateOfHate in Tennessee.
SB228/HB3 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Cepicky: This bill repeats the effort to prevent transgender students from participating in high school and middle school sports. It ties a student's gender to the original birth certificate. The "whereas" clauses attempt to pit transgender people against women's sports. Governor Lee signed the bill after it passed both legislative chambers.
SB562/HB233 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Leatherwood: This bill appears to be a caption bill that would eventually carry explicitly anti-marriage equality language. It pertains to marriage licensing and definitions. The bill has not moved this session.
SB193/HB372 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Casada: This bill allows employees of state or local government (which also includes public universities and colleges) to skip trainings or seminars that conflict with their values or religious beliefs. We believe that the bill provides a way of undermining LGBTQ-inclusive training sessions and seminars offered by government entities. Taken off notice on March 17.
SB1229/HB529 by Sen. Rose and Rep. Moody: This bill would require public schools to notify parents before offering any curriculum about sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill allows parents to opt their children out of such instruction. Governor Lee signed the bill into law.
SB657/HB578 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Ragan: This bill criminalizes gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Passed House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on March 17. It will be amended in the full committee to remove the criminal penalties, but no version of this bill is acceptable. Moving in House committees. The bill has not moved in the Senate and will be up in the House Health Committee on April 14.
SB1216/HB800 by Sen. Niceley and Rep. Griffey: This bill censors LGBTQ content in public school textbooks and instructional materials. It's an updated version of the old "Don't Say Gay" bill. The bill passed the House Education Instruction Committee on April 7 and is headed to House Finance. It is said that it will not move in the Senate this year.
SB1238/HB1177 by Sen. Pody and Rep. Jerry Sexton: This legislation is an anti-transgender "bathroom" bill. The bill has not moved this year.
SB1367/HB1233 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Zachary: Anti-transgender student bathroom bill 2.0. Governor Lee signed the bill into law.
SB1224/HB1182 by Sen. Rose and Rep. Rudd: This will requires businesses that have transgender-inclusive restrooms to post signs saying, "THIS FACILITY MAINTAINS A POLICY OF ALLOWING THE USE OF RESTROOMS BY EITHER BIOLOGICAL SEX, REGARDLESS OF THE DESIGNATION ON THE RESTROOM." That will make restrooms less safe for transgender people and it will lead to aggression against inclusive businesses. Passed House State Government Committee with some minor amendments on March 23. Governor Lee signed the bill into law.
SB126/HB1027 by Sen. Haile and Rep. Kumar: This is a caption bill that will likely carry language regulating gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Moving in Senate and House committees. Governor Lee signed the bill into law.
SB659/HB1535 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Weaver: This bill is a wide-ranging effort to prevent supplemental materials from being used in public school curricula. One effect would be to inhibit LGBTQ-inclusive materials. The bill is heading to the House floor, but it won't be heard in the Senate Education Committee until next year.
SB1208 by Sen. Pody: "As introduced, prohibits this state and any political subdivision of this state, or any official of this state or a political subdivision, from creating, enforcing, or endorsing policies that respect or promote non-secular self-asserted sex-based identity narratives, sexual orientation orthodoxy, or non-secular marriage doctrine because the policies fail the Lemon test, as established by the United States Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971)." Note: There is no House sponsor at this time.
If you would like to support our work of tracking legislation affecting the LGBTQ community, you can make a contribution at this link.
The following information was written by and is presented in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:
World AIDS Day was Dec 1, a day when we remember lives lost to this global pandemic and acknowledge the many lives which continue to be affected by HIV. Thankfully, in recent years we have much to be grateful for when considering options for HIV prevention. In addition to external and internal condoms (www.freecondomstn.org), we now have biomedical HIV prevention options which include PrEP, an antiretroviral medication which reduces the chance of contracting HIV by 99% when taken as prescribed, and PEP, a 28-day antiretroviral treatment for people who may have been exposed to HIV within the previous 72 hours. Below you will find the answers to several important questions about these HIV prevention options.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
Who could benefit from taking PrEP? Anyone who does not have HIV and who may be likely to encounter HIV. This could be someone who is sexually active and doesn’t use condoms consistently or is not in a mutually monogamous relationship (i.e. both partners only have sex with each other, and no one else), someone whose partner is living with HIV, or someone who shares injection equipment with other people when using drugs or silicone, as well as anyone who feels that PrEP will allow them to take more control of their sexual health and reduce their anxiety about HIV.
How does PrEP work? When HIV enters the body, it attacks our immune system through our CD4 T cells, using those cells to make more copies of the virus. PrEP stops the virus from making copies of itself inside the CD4 T cells, preventing HIV from taking hold and stopping it from reproducing.
How do I take PrEP? PrEP is currently approved by the FDA as a once-daily pill. It should be taken about the same time of day, every day, and can be taken with or without food.
Is PrEP safe? Yes! The medications used for PrEP have been around for 20 years as antiretrovirals used to treat people living with HIV, so we have many years of data to tell us about how PrEP affects our bodies. A very small fraction of patients may have a decrease in kidney function or an increase in bone density loss, but both side effects are reversible when PrEP is stopped. Your doctor will monitor kidney function through labs and determine if monitoring is needed for bone density, as well.
Which medicines can be used for PrEP? The first PrEP regimen approved by the FDA was Truvada, in 2012, followed by Descovy, in 2019. While both daily medications work extremely well, there are some differences between the two. First, Truvada is approved for use in cisgender and transgender individuals of all genders, while Descovy is currently only approved for use as PrEP in people assigned male at birth. (Studies are under way to expand approval to include people having receptive vaginal sex.) Second, while Truvada should only be used by people with normal kidney function, Descovy may be used by some people with decreased kidney function. Additionally, as of this fall, a generic version of Truvada is also available. Finally, recent studies have shown a long-acting injectable medication, Cabotegravir, to be another highly effective option which may soon be available for use as PrEP.
Does PrEP have side effects? As with any medication, some people experience mild side effects when they first start taking PrEP, often called “start-up syndrome.” These can include nausea, dizziness, lack of appetite and headache. Only about 20% of patients will have any side effects, and they usually stop within two weeks to a month after beginning PrEP.
Is PrEP safe to use with gender-affirming hormones? Yes! Although there is limited research on trans folks who use PrEP and gender-affirming hormones, what data that does exist indicates that PrEP does not affect hormones for either trans men or trans women, and hormones do not significantly affect PrEP, either.
What do I have to do to get PrEP? In order to get PrEP, you’ll need to see a provider, either in person or virtually, for an initial visit and follow-up appointments every 3 months. At those appointments you’ll also do important lab work, including HIV and STI (sexually transmitted infections), kidney function (creatinine), pregnancy (if applicable), and every six months to one year, Hepatitis B and C testing (depending on need).
Once I start PrEP, do I have to stay on it forever? No way! PrEP is a medication intended to be used when you need it and stopped when you don’t. We like to think about “seasons of pleasure,” when you may have more sexual or drug use encounters in which you could be exposed to HIV. During these times you may choose to use PrEP to protect yourself from HIV. If your likelihood of being exposed to HIV changes, you may choose to stop using PrEP. However, it is important to remember to discuss stopping PrEP with your provider and before starting it again, even if you already have your prescription filled. This is because you’ll need new labs drawn to be sure it’s still safe for you to take PrEP.
Also, keep in mind that it takes 7 days for PrEP to reach maximum efficacy for anal sex and 21 days to reach maximum efficacy for vaginal sex or blood exchange, so if you have a short window of time when you think you don’t need PrEP, consider continuing to use it so that you’re protected when you need it down the road!
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)
When should I seek PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)? PEP should be used in cases when there is a strong likelihood that someone who does not have HIV has been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours, which could include not knowing the HIV status of a sex partner with whom you had condomless sex (anal or penile-vaginal), having condomless sex with someone who is living with HIV and who is not virally suppressed (undetectable), or sharing syringes or other works with someone with whom you used drugs or injected silicone, and whose HIV status you do not know, or who is living with HIV. PEP is for emergency situations and not a substitute for regular use of HIV prevention methods such as using condoms, taking PrEP or not sharing needles or works.
How do I take PEP? PEP is usually prescribed as a combination of three antiretroviral medications, taken once or twice daily for 28 days. There are several different combinations of medications which can be used for PEP, depending on the patient’s needs.
How does PEP work? PEP works by preventing HIV from replicating in the body after a recent exposure.
Is PEP safe? Yes! PEP regimens consist of several anti-retroviral medications which have been used to treat people living with HIV for many years, so we have a lot of data on how these medicines affect the body. There is more than one PEP regimen, so your doctor will have options to consider if you have a specific medical concern.
Does PEP have side effects? Some people experience side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, nausea, flatulence, and headache, although most side effects go away or become manageable within a few days or weeks. Some of these side effects can be managed with over the counter or prescription medications, as well.
PrEP and PEP Access
How do I get PrEP or PEP in Tennessee? Many, but not all healthcare providers in Tennessee will prescribe PrEP and PEP. First go to www.GetPrEPTN.com to learn more about PrEP and PEP, then find a navigator to help you walk through the process and to find a doctor to prescribe the medication. This website is available in Spanish, as well.
How much do PrEP and PEP cost? You may have heard that PrEP and PEP are expensive. Thankfully there are a number of programs that can help to pay for prescriptions or prescription copays, and some even cover labs and appointment fees. Don’t know where to start? Don’t worry! Our navigators are trained to help you find the right program, fill out the paperwork, and make sure that PrEP or PEP is accessible to anyone who needs it! You can find a navigator here: https://getpreptn.com/get-prep/. Even if you don’t live nearby, navigators can help you remotely via phone, text, or video chat- whatever works for you!
For more information about PrEP and PEP, check out the following resources:
We are pleased to release the application for the Marisa Richmond Public Policy Fellowship at this link.
The Marisa Richmond Public Policy Fellowship is a program for Black transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary undergraduate students enrolled in an accredited Tennessee college or university who are interested in public policy advocacy. The fellowship honors the federal, state, and local advocacy of Dr. Marisa Richmond in the areas of racial justice and LGBTQ rights.
Three applicants will be selected for the Spring 2021 fellowship, ideally one from East Tennessee, one from West Tennessee, and one from Middle Tennessee depending on the geographic diversity of the application pool.
Fellowship recipients will receive a $1000 stipend and participate in Zoom/conference call discussions with leading advocates to explore key issues in public policy and build their network. The program will go from mid-January through March to coincide with the state legislative session. There are no project or work requirements so that students can focus on their academic requirements and self-care.
APPLICATIONS ARE DUE ON DECEMBER 11 BY 8:00 P.M. EASTERN TIME/7:00 P.M. CENTRAL TIME. Submit your answers through this Google form. Questions should be directed to [email protected]. The fellowship is a program of the Tennessee Equality Project Foundation.
The Tennessee Equality Project rescinds our endorsement of Sen. Steven Dickerson in the Tennessee Senate District 20 race.
Although he has an exemplary record on LGBTQ rights in the Legislature, elected officials are called to speak out against racism in politics.
We have seen the disgusting, racist ad targeting Mayor Heidi Campbell and Gideon's Army that was created by a political action committee. We call for it to be taken down and we call on Sen. Steve Dickerson's campaign to denounce it and call for its removal. Even those who are not responsible for creating a campaign ad must act responsibly when they become aware of it because racism is a deadly force in our state.
We are considering the future of our endorsement in the Senate District 20 race.
The following information was written by and is provided in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:
October is Health Literacy Month, and it could not come at a better time. We have been bombarded with health information because of the pandemic, and wading through it all can be difficult. Health literacy is the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions (source).
Most of us experience greater health literacy in some instances and less in others. Those of us living with a chronic health condition find ourselves becoming expert in that condition and the resources around it. On the flip side, some parts of our health are less familiar to us. Sexual health usually falls on the less familiar side.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a topic where health literacy is often low. While one in two sexually active people will get an STI by their 25th birthday, the common experience of having STIs has not been enough to build expertise and comfort with this facet of our health.
There are as many reasons to change this as there are different types of STIs. All STIs are treatable, and most infections can be cured with oral or injectable antibiotics. For infections like HIV and genital herpes, early and consistent treatment can make a huge impact on how the disease affects a person’s life. Most STIs infect us without symptoms, so routine testing is the only way we have to know when treatment is needed.
Nationally and in Tennessee, rates for almost every STI are rising. But not all STI testing is created equal, and research demonstrates that requesting the right type of STI testing is increasingly important.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 15–24 year olds make up a fourth of the nation’s population, but account for half of all new STIs (source). STI rates in Tennessee are also on the rise. From 2018 to 2019 all STI rates increased: Chlamydia by 8%, Gonorrhea by 9%, Syphilis (all stages) by 29% (source: Patient Reporting Investigation Surveillance Manager (PRISM), 2018–2019). Tennessee surpassed U.S. rates for both gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2018-2019 (source).
Even with these rising STI rates, the numbers are still under-estimates because when people present to get STI testing, they are often not getting the most complete testing available. Testing for STIs like Gonorrhea and Chlamydia is recommended at all sites of exposure, including the throat and rectum, and oral and anal testing is referred to as extragenital testing. Those presenting for STI testing usually receive standard testing, which is done by collecting a urine and/or vaginal swab and for some STIs a blood sample; but standard testing only identifies penile and vaginal infections in some STIs, and does not identify extragenital infections. Standard testing is often focused on the least invasive and most comfortable option for the patient, and is what is routinely offered in health department clinics.
When it comes to STIs, a little bit of additional discomfort during testing is worth it. Nationally, traditional urine testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia miss 70%–88% of infections that are found using extragenital testing with men who have sex with other men (source). In 2019, a Tennessee Department of Health study identified that standard testing alone would have missed up to 46% of infections in males, and 18% of infections in females (Source: Patient Tracking Billing Management Information System [PTBMIS], 2019).
STI tests now include a lot of new options, and one key characteristic of STI screening that can significantly impact its accuracy is the type of sample used to run the test. Unless you specifically request something different as the patient, you are likely to be provided with standard testing for STIs.
In 2019, a Tennessee Department of Health study found that when extragenital testing was offered to all patients, testing increased significantly. Among males, rates of rectal testing increased by 200%, and oral testing increased by 78%; among females, oral testing increased 122%, and rectal testing increased 316% compared to 2018 testing data (Source: PTBMIS,2019). This suggests that patients and health care providers are not always talking about oral and anal sex. If health care providers use patient reporting alone, oral and rectal testing may not be completed or offered, even if warranted. This is why it is so important to not only talk to your health care provider about all of your sexual practices, but also to request extragenital testing.
Extragenital testing is not new, but health literacy and personal advocacy are required to get access to it. Healthy literacy includes knowing that this type of testing is more accurate and where you can go to get it. In Tennessee, local health departments that provide STI testing have oral and rectal testing available. Personal advocacy involves asking for the version of the test during the appointment that fits your needs and answering the detailed questions about sex asked by a medical provider that will lead to knowledgeable, personalized care. Medical providers often assume that patients will be more comfortable giving a urine sample than they will be using an anal swab, so personal advocacy includes speaking up to let your provider know that you want to get more comfortable taking oral and rectal tests.
Annual testing is recommended for all adults for all STIs, so every year you have a chance to use your increased health literacy and personal advocacy skills to get more effective testing. Asking for STI testing that includes oral and rectal swabs will not increase the cost you are asked to pay, and health departments all over Tennessee offer STI testing at little to no cost. HIV testing on its own is free, and the cost range for full STI testing is usually between $10–$20 in metro areas and is either free or calculated using a sliding scale based on income at regional Health Departments. When making an appointment, the clinic can provide information on cost. You will not be turned away due to an inability to pay the day of services. Many clinics have same day or next day appointments and some clinics allow for same-day walk-ins.
Here are some helpful steps to take as you get ready to get STI testing:
- Identify your testing location and learn more about STI testing there. Click here for a list of health departments in Tennessee to quickly find one close to you. Once you’ve identified the place, go on their website or call to learn more about their scheduling procedures, what forms of identification you need to bring, and what your STI testing (and potential treatment) will cost.
- If you are coming to a health department clinic after being tested at another location, bring your information with you. Bring any lab results and information from your last clinic appointment with you to your health department visit to save time and ensure you are getting the correct tests and treatment options.
- Be ready to answer questions about your sexual history. Be prepared for the questions they will ask you, and bring questions of your own. Write down 2 – 4 questions you have so that when you are face-to-face with your provider, you don’t forget what to ask.
- Write down any requests that are important to you. This includes requesting extragenital testing for STIs. It can also include requesting a walkthrough of the exam before you start.
- Learn more about STIs before you go. Doing your own research can both increase your knowledge and help you feel confident and comfortable during the process. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s STI resource page is a great place to start.
- Choose a change to make in the next year. STI testing is annual, and it can be a great time to make a new resolution to improve your sexual health. Learn more about how to get free condoms, start on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and other ways you can improve your health on Tennessee Department of Health’s HIV Prevention page.
STIs are common, but STI testing is widely available in Tennessee. Start planning today, and don’t let discomfort or a lack of information stop you from getting the best testing and care possible.
Tennessee Equality Project
State and Local Endorsements
Tennessee Equality Project lobbies the Tennessee General Assembly and local governments around the state on behalf of the LGBTQ community. We are pleased to endorse a strong group of candidates for state and local government this year, including a number of LGBTQ candidates who can significantly change the conversation about our issues in Tennessee. The Slate of Hate, which is a set of vicious anti-LGBTQ bills, looms as a threat when the Legislature reconvenes in January. On the other hand, we have important opportunities to advance equality in many of our cities. The candidates we have endorsed can play a vital role in fighting discrimination and making life better for LGBTQ Tennesseans.
TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENDORSEMENTS
TN Senate District 6-Knox County
TN Senate District 10-Bradley and Hamilton Counties
TN Senate District 14-Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore, and Rutherford Counties
TN Senate District 22-Houston, Montgomery, and Stewart Counties
TN House District 4-Unicoi and Carter Counties
TN House District 6-Washington County
TN House District 13-Knox County
Rep. Gloria Johnson
TN House District 18-Knox County
Eddie Mannis-LGBTQ candidate
TN House District 25-Cumberland, Putnam, and Van Buren Counties
TN House District 37-Rutherford County
TN House District 38-Clay, Fentress, Macon, Pickett, and Scott Counties
TN House District 40-DeKalb, Smith, Sumner, and Trousdale Counties
TN House District 48-Rutherford County
TN House District 49-Rutherford County
Brandon Thomas-LGBTQ candidate
TN House District 56-Davidson County
TN House District 63-Williamson County
Our endorsement goes to Elizabeth Madeira for her strong outreach to the LGBTQ community. We also wish to commend candidate Brad Fiscus for his clear expressions of support for our community.
TN House District 82-Crockett, Haywood, and Lauderdale Counties
Andrea Bond Johnson
TN House District 83-Shelby County
TN House District 89-Knox County
Keri Keeling (Write-in candidate)
TN House District 90-Shelby County
Torrey Harris-LGBTQ candidate
TN House District 96-Shelby County
TN House District 97-Shelby County
CITY GOVERNMENT ENDORSEMENTS
City Council Ward 4
Margaret Thompson-LGBTQ candidate
City Council Ward 5
City Council Ward 9
City Council Ward 11
Ashlee Evans-LGBTQ candidate
City Council Ward 12
Our endorsement goes to Joe Shakeenab for his demonstrated willingness to take action to address discrimination. We are also grateful to candidate Trisha Butler for her expressions of support for the LGBTQ community.
Kyle Beagle-LGBTQ candidate
Jeffrey Clark-LGBTQ candidate
Board of Aldermen
Lloyd Dunn-LGBTQ candidate
The Tennessee Equality Project surveyed candidates in these cities that are holding November 3 elections. All candidates for the city legislative body were surveyed. If you are a candidate and we didn't survey in your city and you would like us to do so, be in touch at [email protected] and we will consider your request.
Below are the responses for those candidates who completed surveys by the September 28 deadline:
Voters cast their ballots for alderman by district and may select one candidate in their district.
*Alderman Position 6
Voters cast their ballots for city council according to the ward in which they live. There are multiple candidates per ward in most races, but voters may only select one.
There are eight candidates for city commission; voters may select up to three.
There are four candidates for city council; voters may select up to two.
There are eight candidates for alderman; voters may select up to four.
The following state legislative candidates (TN Senate and TN House) turned in surveys to Tennessee Equality Project by the September 17 deadline. TEP did not survey in all legislative races. For example, there is only one candidate in many races where an incumbent is seeking reelection. In some races in which we sent out surveys, no candidate responded.
Candidates are listed within their district in the order in which they responded to the survey.
District 2-Blount and Sevier Counties
District 6-Knox County
District 10--Bradley and Hamilton Counties
District 14-Bedford, Lincoln, Marshall, Moore, and Rutherford Counties
District 20-Davidson County
District 22-Houston, Montgomery, and Stewart Counties
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
District 4-Unicoi and Carter Counties
District 6-Washington County
District 13-Knox County
District 18-Knox County
District 25-Cumberland, Putnam, and Van Buren Counties
Robyn Deck-Democrat (received after deadline)
District 37-Rutherford County
District 38--Clay, Fentress, Macon, Pickett, and Scott Counties
District 40-DeKalb, Smith, Sumner, and Trousdale Counties
District 48-Rutherford County
District 49-Rutherford County
District 56-Davidson County
District 63-Williamson County
District 82-Crockett, Haywood, and Lauderdale Counties
District 83-Shelby County
District 89-Knox County
District 90-Shelby County
District 96-Shelby County
District 97-Shelby County