June Meeting: The 2024 LGBTQ+ Landscape

It will not come as a surprise to anyone that South Carolina ranks 45th in the nation on the “equality index”. That’s data maintained by Equaldex, an online public opinion aggregator, that monitors and analyzes public opinion and legislative actions impacting the LGBTQ+ community across the globe.

We enter Pride Month 2024 with two cycles of negative legislative action behind us – and the unknown ahead. In 2022, the governor signed the Transgender Sports ban forcing students to play sports as their gender at birth. Just last month, the governor signed into law a measure that makes gender-affirming care for minors illegal in South Carolina.

Our speaker in June is on the front lines of these issues. Susan Ward is president of the Greenville Chapter of PFLAG, the largest organization in the US dedicated to supporting, educating, and advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people and those who love them.

She also works closely with Freedom in Libraries Advocacy Group (FLAG), fighting book bans and relocation in Greenville County libraries. 

After growing up in rural northeastern North Carolina, Susan attended journalism school at USC in Columbia, and met her husband there. They spent 10 years in Charleston — she worked at Johnson & Wales University, and at the Post and Courier while he completed medical training at MUSC. They moved to Greenville in 2003, and raised two kids here. 

In addition to PFLAG and FLAG, Susan runs a family foundation focused on mental health and suicide prevention, teaches fitness classes at Greenville Indoor Rowing, and volunteers with ReCraft Creative Reuse Center. 

Susan will talk about her family’s personal journey, offer insights into what the personal and professional landscape looks like for the Upstate’s LGBTQ+ community, and address our understanding of transgender people.

PFLAG is primarily a resource for the Upstate’s LGBTQ+ community, but an increase in legislative action, the fast-growing censorship movement, and more have made advocacy an important priority as well. Unfortunately, success has been elusive.

While the Legislature has spent a great deal of time in the past two years addressing transgender issues, the transgender population in the state is about 25,000.

In that same period of time, lawmakers had two opportunities to approve a hate crime bill. In 2021, a bill passed the House 79-29 and died in a Senate subcommittee; in 2023, a new session of the legislature passed the same bill by 84-31. But it faced the same fate in the Senate. In February, when asked if the bill would get a vote, the Republican Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey dismissively said: “Don’t hold your breath.”

Today, South Carolina is the only state in the country that has not addressed hate crimes legislatively.

Into this climate, Susan Ward and PFLAG work hard to build a vibrant and positive community. Susan is hoping for a engaging Q&A, so please be thinking about whatever questions you may have.

Join us for this important program on June 10. It is the first in our Summer Series of evening meetings.

In addition to Susan as our featured speaker, we will hear from two Democratic candidates: Kathryn Harvey, candidate for US Congress (SC-4) and Brann Fowler, candidate for state House District 22. We will be hearing from all our Democratic candidates over the next five months. More information will be regarding the schedule of candidates, as they confirm.

Be the change you want to see: Help the party with a much-needed donation or volunteer to help!