Queering Reproductive Justice


In a recent op-ed in the Washington Blade, an LGBT newspaper, James Kirchick argued that LGBT communities should not take a stance on abortion, which can be counterproductive and divisive to the greater goals of LGBT equality. Reacting to the position statement released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in response to the Supreme Court ruling upholding the Federal Abortion Ban, Kirchick argues that abortion is "at best tangential to the gay community."

As a queer Latina working for an abortion rights organization, I can attest to that fact that Kirchick is wrong—and the only thing divisive about LGBT groups and reproductive rights advocacy is the insistence on keeping them apart. Kirchick implies that abortion should not be a concern of LGBT organizations because "'Oops babies' are simply not a phenomenon common to gay life." The ignorance behind this statement is vast, but to sum up a few of the things this author neglects:

LGBT people come to the community from a diversity of backgrounds including, for many, significant time spent in the closet, and very often partnering with folks of the opposite sex. Sexual assault and rape are unfortunately still a reality, both for heterosexual women and queer women. Kirchick is also obviously leaving out the "B" and "T" in his discussion, because bisexual and transgender members of our community are by no means excluded from the possibilities of pregnancy.

Regardless of all of these exceptions to the crux of his argument—that abortion is not an issue that affects the LGBT community—the most important evidence that I have to the contrary are the activists that I work with. At the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, we bring together groups of like-minded Latina/os with a passion for reproductive justice through our Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy trainings. A large number of these men and women identify with queer communities, and this isn't a coincidence. Even though our work does not focus explicitly on LGBT issues, these activists see the connections clearly and resonantly enough to devote a significant portion of their time to reproductive justice activism and advocacy.

As a member of the steering committee of Causes in Common, a coalition that works to make the connection between LGBT and reproductive justice movements and build cross-movement collaboration, I see how these connections can be fostered and put to good use. People of color, particularly women of color, are familiar with the tensions that arise when one segment of an oppressed group's interests are seen to be at odds with the agenda of the group as a whole. In the past, women of color have been at odds over feminist struggles within their national and ethnic movements. The lesson learned from this history? Solidarity is the only thing that can really bring about widespread change.

Reproductive justice is not just about one's ability to reproduce. It's about autonomy, its about respect, its about shared principles based in the human right to health and a desire for real social change. If members of the LGBT community can't understand this, how can we expect to find allies in other movements? This isn't about feminists versus abortion advocates versus queer people; this is about building a movement within which we can all find a space. The other side has mastered this. It only takes a quick look at the common denominator between anti-choice and anti-gay legislators and activists to see it. They are one in the same. We need to be as well.

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  • http://debrahaffner.blogspot.com invalid-0

    Thanks for this, Miriam. Sexual justice issues are linked…and those of us who are progressive activists (as well as people of faith) must learn to work on them together.

    Rev. Debra W. Haffner
    Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing

  • invalid-0

    Miriam!
    Wow, thanks for this articulate piece! I agree wholeheartedly. Our social justice movement must reflect the interconnectedness of these issues both in our personal and political lives.

    Liza

  • invalid-0

    In the Philippines,I’ve met many lesbians who are in street prostitution and experience abuse almost on a daily basis.Many of them were also abused even before they joined the sex trade. Abortion is an important issue to them as well as other reproductive rights.I agree with you that reproductive justice cuts across women of different ethnicities, class, race, orientations etc…