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The fifth annual Acadiana Pride Festival held at Le Barn Rouge on Saturday, June 30, 2018 included musical performances and a plethora of booths for guests to enjoy.

As COVID-19 spreads, many organizations have been forced to reevaluate how to continue doing business. For LGBT-centered organizations Louisiana Trans Advocates (LTA) and PFLAG Lafayette, decisions were made on how to continue their operations.

Peyton Rose Michelle is the Board Secretary, Lafayette Board Representative and the Director of Operations for LTA.

“LGBT people also face higher levels of depression and whatnot, and being alone can really take its toll on LGBT people. Being quarantined also means being stuck with family that is unaccepting of one’s sexuality or gender identity. Both of these things combined can really make life much harder for an LGBT person, in addition to possibly having issues with their income, etc.,” Michelle said in a written statement to The Vermilion.

In an effort to maintain social interaction and support for LTA members, all support group meetings have been moved online rather than canceled. They didn’t get away with not canceling any events, however. A lobby day at the capitol on March 31, meant to be held for Trans Day of Visibility, was canceled.

PFLAG Lafayette canceled all meetings until further notice.

Both groups expressed concerns regarding the LGBT community’s level of susceptibility towards the virus. According to Michelle, there is a high number of transgender individuals who work in tourism, service and hospitality. The people holding these kinds of jobs are at greater risk of being exposed to the virus. Some are facing layoffs and similar circumstances.

Matthew Humphrey, president of PFLAG Lafayette, said that because LGBT people smoke at a rate that is 50% higher than the general population, they are at greater risk should they contract the virus.

“Also, the LGBT community has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means there’s a greater percentage of people that have compromised immune systems within the community, so that leaves them vulnerable to actually get those infections and not be able to fight them off effectively,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey also discussed healthcare discrimination for the LGBT community. “I have heard stories in the past of people in the trans community who don’t actively seek medical treatment because of rejection from family or other institutions and being fearful that their medical doctors may turn them down.”

PFLAG Lafayette is currently compiling a list of LGBT-friendly physicians and psychologists to aid the LGBT community and ensure everyone feels safe enough to get the help they need.

Michelle believes organizations like LTA are important due to their efforts to reduce the issues transgender people face.

“While ‘advocacy’ is in the name, LTA has always really thrived on its social support programs. We’ve moved all of our support group meetings online, giving folks a place to escape from the environment they’re quarantined to. We’ve also been trying to organize folks within our community to host activities in our FB group, like yoga, Netflix parties, etc. We’re hoping this will further allow folks to distract themselves,” Michelle said.

Affiliates of LTA, along with LTA leadership, have begun the Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming (TGNC) Crisis Funding Circle. As of March 26, it has paid over $4,000 to about 50 TGNC Louisianians who have been impacted by the coronavirus crisis. According to Michelle, they are currently working on raising even more money.

Humphrey spoke on the importance of these organizations as well.

“Groups like these are vital everywhere, but especially in South Louisiana, because we do it in such a conservative environment. So having groups like LTA and PFLAG really serves to give these folks a place to just feel seen and to know there is somewhere to turn should they need something,” he said.

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