Meet Britney: A South Carolinian accelerating LGBT acceptance in healthcare and beyond

 

This video interview was conducted by YouTube personality Raymond Braun, who came with GLAAD on GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour. Check out all of his videos here.

As a follow-up to meeting her on the Southern Stories Summer Tour, GLAAD spoke by phone with Britney Nesbit, a student at The Medical University of South Carolina, about coming out as queer in the South, her work with minority populations, and what's next for LGBT equality in South Carolina. Health and healthcare are growing issues for the LGBT population, as LGBT people continue to be at greater risk for myriad health problems including HIV, obesity, substance abuse, and mental illness. These health inequalities are often related to the discrimination and stigma that LGBT people experience in day-to-day life. Advocates like Britney are working to ensure that healthcare providers receive proper training on LGBT issues and are open and accepting of all patients.

GLAAD: What has it been like to grow up and come out as queer in South Carolina?

BN: I guess ever since I was a child I never wanted to be gay, even up until a couple years ago. I have a couple of women in my family who came out and they were chastised and it just didn’t work out. My family wasn’t really receptive of their "lifestyle" or whatever and they just started not coming around. […] I didn't want to be that person that just gets shunned by family. The religious background from the Bible belt wasn’t really helpful either. [...] After a while I realized I just wasn't happy dating the opposite sex. I also wasn’t happy not being able to tell other people that. I didn’t really come out to my parents until I was 22, and I'm 25 now, so it took me a minute I guess. I'm a little bit of a late bloomer. It took me awhile to also let myself date other women. [...] I feel like my parents knew for a while and they were pretty cool. They were just like 'Hey, we still want grand-kids. We still love you'. It was rough at times I guess. After I got older though it was okay, my parents were cool.

GLAAD: What's the LGBT community like in South Carolina?

BN: It still feels like people are very fearful about being out. I think the younger crowd now that I am older is much freer. They are freer to dress how they want to dress, identify how they want to identify. I go to the Medical University of South Carolina, and I'm the president of the LGBT GSA at our school, and it's still very taboo. People don't want to talk about it, or if we have a table at an organization fair, the minute they realize it's an LGBT group, they say, 'Oh, I'm not gay so I can't be a part of this.' People aren’t talking about it. And we have a huge HIV population in Columbia, South Carolina. There are a lot of issues with LGBT health that need to be talked about. Also, it's important to get around to people in churches and talk about being LGBT. 

GLAAD: Describe the issues the LGBT community faces in healthcare, and how you want to impact them.

BN: I think healthcare is a big issue right now, especially for minority populations. I'm in pharmacy school right now. Before I got into pharmacy school, I used to do a lot of volunteering. In undergrad for a couple years, I did some volunteering at the free medical clinic there, and it was really awesome. […] I would like to push for prevention support groups for chronic diseases, and I want to work towards better health education for teenagers. Also, I want to be a voice for the [LGBT] community in healthcare. […] My [LGBT] peers often don't feel comfortable going to some community health centers out of fear. Right now, they are talking about starting an LGBT focused clinic here, which would be awesome.

GLAAD: What can white allies do to support people of color within the LGBT community?

BN: I think one big deal is to recognize it. I've come in contact with people who say they don’t see race, and people think that is a good thing to say. But they're really saying we're equivalent in a way […] but that is actually what we don’t want. Just say, 'I do recognize that you are different and we have different cultural backgrounds, and I understand that you are a part of a marginalized population.' Then ask, 'How can we help?' instead of assuming we are all equal. Black people have a totally different experience when it comes to healthcare, like a lot of minorities. It all starts from realizing there is a cultural and socioeconomic difference and then asking how we are going to deal with that.

GLAAD: What is next for LGBT rights in South Carolina?

BN: You can be fired for being gay...so that's a big deal. I think we need more nondiscrimination clauses protecting us and our partners. The Medical University of South Carolina is trying to make a lot of moves to protect people based on sexual identity and gender identity. Even in our schools GSAs don’t exist. I think we need to push to create more safe spaces. [...] I think we deserve to be more equal.

Be sure to visit GLAAD's Southern Stories page and watch GLAAD's documentary "State of Change: South Carolina" for more information and profiles of people accelerating acceptance in the South!