Photo credit: Andrea Morales for the Washington Post | Kayla Collins, OUTMemphis’s Director of Health & Wellness, setting up for regular HIV testing at our Cooper Young community center

Dear community and allies,

I’m writing to you this morning from Nashville, where I’ve spent a good amount of time over the last month. I’ve been working with our partners, community members across the state, and speaking with elected officials about the multi-faceted and crushing attacks on our right to live, love, and thrive have come from our state leadership.

As many of you know, in mid-January, OUTMemphis was informed about Governor Bill Lee’s decision to turn back millions of dollars of HIV prevention funding from the CDC. These funds not only support a significant portion of OUTMemphis’s lifesaving services — and have for over a decade — but also make it possible for the entire network of HIV care providers to do essential work here in the Mid-South.

Meanwhile, in the last three weeks, our state legislature already has 20 pieces of house and senate legislation introduced — two of these bills are well on their way to becoming law: a ban on gender affirming care for minors and a ban on drag performance. Read more about the healthcare ban that passed in the Senate yesterday.

We condemn in the strongest possible terms these joint actions of Tennessee lawmakers. Drag is for everyone and free expression should never be illegal. These efforts are meant to dismantle bodily autonomy across all communities. Let it be known: The rights of transgender Tennesseans are the rights of all Tennesseans.

Here’s the good news:

Over the last month, we’ve worked in lockstep with our local and statewide coalition partners — from HIV providers to queer organizations across TN to national partners including the ACLU-TN and the Human Rights Campaign.

We assure you that we are working in tandem with national leaders who care about the rights of Tennesseans and are committed to our communities so deeply impacted by HIV.

You can catch our staff member Vaniel Simmons, OUT Youth Advocate, providing testimony on how gender affirming care saved his life here.

Today, we are proud to co-host the Have A Heart, Tennessee Rally and press conference with Inclusion Tennessee, Human Rights Campaign, and the Tennessee Equality Project. I’ll be sharing a few words alongside community organizers and drag performers at 3 pm at Legislative Plaza, followed by a march to the Cordell Hull building for the final hearing of the day.

Tomorrow, OUTMemphis staff will participate in Advancing Equality Day on the Hill alongside Memphis-based community partners and our statewide coalition.

As the spring unfolds, we’ll continue this fight — for the weeks and years to come. Stay tuned.

With gratitude,

Molly Rose Quinn

Executive Director

How you can help:

Spread The Word:

Spread The Word: Awareness of the uphill battle we face as Tennesseans is essential. We’re sharing some resources and articles about all that is going on to help. Everyone is an advocate: Tell your friends, neighbors, employers, faith leaders, and family members about these recent events.

Take Action:

Weekly phone banking, email campaigns, and opportunities to show up in Nashville are posted at TEP’s website at each week. Check back regularly for the upcoming information and stay involved. 

Coalition of staff, youth, families, and community partners in Senate hearing room in Nashville

(LTR) OUTMemphis staff Vaniel Simmons, Jenna Dunn; Board Member Lacretia Carroll, RN, PHD; Executive Director Molly Quinn; Casey Bryant, Advocates for Immigrant Rights

Representatives from ACLU-TN, ACLU, GLSEN-TN, OUTMemphis, Inclusion Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Tennessee Equality Project, and community members gather outside the House hearing room.

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