As a counter to legislation passed in many states, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday, June 6 to expand healthcare services for transgender people and to establish for the first time a LGBTQ+ Commission to advise the board on related policies and programs.
The effort will enhance the county’s gender-affirming medical care and mental health services already offered to transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex residents and will include hormone therapy and puberty suppression medications, as well as surgical options, according to Third District Supervisor Lindsey Horvath.
It also includes providing PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), a daily pill or injection for sexually active adults that reduces risk of HIV to nearly zero.
Before adopting two motions by 5-0 votes, the supervisors said they disagreed with limiting transgender care to treat gender dysphoria. At least 17 states have enacted laws banning or restricting such medical procedures for minors, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho and Texas.
The supervisors’ approvals of dual motions affirming queer and transgender healthcare puts the county in line with the state of California, but in opposition to a growing number of states mostly in the South and Midwest.
First District Supervisor Hilda Solis said the actions are a way to reject such restrictions and make a statement. She said there have been more than 500 “anti-LGBTQ+ bills” considered by other states, many of them adopted into law, and some that censor books, outlaw public drag shows, ban curricula and criminalize doctors who perform gender-affirming treatments.
About 800 transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex people have received care in Los Angeles County facilities, and with more coordination across county departments as required, that number is expected to grow, the county reported.
“Here in Los Angeles County we should not stand for any of that,” Solis said. “We stand with our LGBTQ+ residents and reject those efforts wholeheartedly.” She added that the county is home to 500,000 residents who identify as LGBTQ+.
“I believe it is vital we take a stand with the LGBTQ+ community, not just with our words but also with our actions,” she added.
Various county departments, lead by the Department of Public Health (DPH), must report back on the number of residents served. The county will create and run a specific website promoting its services for the LGBTQ+ community.
County employees at the DPH, the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Children and Family Services must take “transgender awareness” training “for county employees to better serve the LGBTQ+ communities,” according to one of the motions adopted.
A second motion establishes a LGBTQ+ Commission of 15 members, including 10 nominated by the supervisors, three by other countywide leaders, and two chosen at-large. The commission will take about six months to form and will add to the 34 county commissions that advise the supervisors on policies and programs, often for marginalized communities.
“Creating a commission and expanding gender-affirming health care will help the county better understand the services we need the most,” said Camila Camaleón, president of the San Gabriel Valley LGBTQ+ Center based in El Monte.
Some who spoke in favor echoed the county’s motion to find safe places for the LGBTQ+ community. The county’s Commission on Human Relations found in a 2021 report that 89% of hate crimes against gay men were of a violent nature, and 93% of anti-transgender crimes were violent.
The supervisors emphasized reaching out to LGBTQ+ youth, who make up 19% of youth in the county’s foster care system and 40% of the youth experiencing homelessness, according to a 2014 survey.
“We work with youth, and specifically transgender and gender nonconforming youth,” said Adree De Luna, program operations associate with Rainbow Labs, a nonprofit that helps youth with community building, often through mentors. “They can’t be themselves at schools, and homes are not necessarily the safest places for them. So gender-affirming care saves lives,” said De Luna.
Only one speaker opposed the motions. Emily Lares of South El Monte said she was not opposed to the LGBTQ community, “But if there is going to be a commission for LGBTQ people, there should be a commission for families who believe in God.”
Programs emphasizing inclusivity, including reading a book to elementary school students about families with same-sex parents, have been challenged in L.A. County recently. Conservative and Armenian parents protested at Saticoy Elementary School in North Hollywood on Friday, June 2. One critic said the reading during an assembly that was part of June Pride Month activities, was “grooming” children to grow up gay.
Renato Lira, director of the San Fernando Valley LGBTQ Center, mentioned the protest at the North Hollywood school and thanked Horvath for her co-authoring one of the motions. “Thank you for standing for us. We need all the support we can get especially in the San Fernando Valley,” Lira said.