LGBTQ Protections Would Make Our Country Safer and More Inclusive

Anonymous • Arizona

Editors’ Note: This piece is published anonymously to protect the writer’s identity; the desire of the author to remain anonymous reflects the reality of the stigma and discrimination that so many people living with HIV confront every year. Read his powerful story:

The Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision affirming employment protections for LGBTQ Americans was encouraging, but we need Congress to act and pass federal protections to make this country a safer, more welcoming place. 

As a gay man and a person of color living with HIV, I have experienced discrimination and harm in my hometown of Tucson simply because of who I am. It makes my daily existence one of great uncertainty and fear. In 29 states, including Arizona, there are no explicit, comprehensive statewide non-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people in housing and public spaces, like restaurants and bars. 

In 2019, I was at a nightclub with friends when some men approached and asked if I was gay. When I confirmed this, I was subjected to anti-gay slurs and a violent beating. Since no one nearby, not even the bouncers, intervened and there are no laws protecting LGBTQ people, I didn’t feel safe calling the police so I took time out of work to recover. After three days out, despite having approval, they fired me when I returned. Over a year later and I still have scars on my face. 

Ultimately, I may leave Arizona for a state with better protections and resources, if something doesn’t change. No one wants to leave their home and start over, but Arizona has not felt like a safe or welcoming place for me or those in the LGBTQ community. My home state and our country deserve better. 

No one should be discriminated against because of who they are, who they love, or their health status. That’s why it’s more important than ever that Congress finish the job and pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for ALL LGBTQ Americans, in all areas of life – including housing and public spaces. 

Months after the attack I faced another blow when I was diagnosed with HIV, but the process of getting tested, informed, educated and treated was overly-complicated and frustrating. In March, I was told I was negative only to be called back in for a retest. Then when I was positive in April, they told me over the phone rather than an in-person informational overview to guide me through what this would mean for me and my life. I was only 19 years old. The clinic should have been more helpful than eventually giving me a packet of information, a list of infectious disease doctors and sending me on my way. I knew very little about this disease and what I did know was outdated and incorrect. 

Finally the Tucson Health Department referred me to an LGBTQ competent doctor. This was a tremendous relief considering how scared I felt about discrimination. A vast majority of LGBTQ Americans report facing discrimination in their everyday lives, and for people living with HIV, the chance of experiencing anti-LGBTQ discrimination is even more likely. For them, these protections are even more crucial.  

Having the correct information and a trustworthy doctor has changed my life, but I still struggle with medical providers wanting to blame other ailments on my being gay or having HIV. Due to my diagnosis, doctors are less likely to take the initiative to address other medical issues I experience. This is a huge detriment to my wellbeing and illustrates how important proactive education is for everyone, including medical providers and people who may not think they are at risk for HIV. LGBTQ Americans living with HIV often face barriers to receiving preventative care due to discrimination and the stigma around living with HIV; thus they are more susceptible to health complications and other illnesses.

No one should be discriminated against because of who they are, who they love, or their health status. That’s why it’s more important than ever that Congress finish the job and pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for ALL LGBTQ Americans, in all areas of life – including housing and public spaces. 

Congress, especially our Senators Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema, must respond now to this crisis of discrimination by passing the Equality Act. 



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