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Having the Reproductive Justice Talk with Your Parents

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January 6, 2014

the talkMost of my activist friends, myself included, have developed political values leaning far left than those of their parents possess and raised them with.   And, particularly when considering reproductive justice activism, this can cause rifts between you and your parents. I know it’s been a struggle for my red-state residing, devoutly Catholic parents, ever since I announced I was a big ol’ pro-choice queer feminist. Many of friends with not-so progressive parents just tend to shut that aspect of their life out in order to order tension and strife.  Unfortunately, depending on your parents, or your dependence on them, sometimes this might be necessary. However, I also think, while it’s hard, it’s also necessary to push those boundaries a bit and reside in uncomfortable spaces.

This is definitely easier said than done. I’ve had my fair share of tear-ridden “conversations” with my parents that leave both parties feeling exhausted. And there are definitely certain aspects that are easier to discuss than others. For example, when I came out my mom said she wouldn’t mind if I was a lesbian, but she didn’t know how to feel about me being interested in both men and women. And my mother still tends to shut down when it comes to discussing abortion. It’s frustrating, being a passionate reproductive justice advocate and listening to what is in your ears opposition talk. One of best friends (who is my comrade in arms for recovering catholic queer feminism) and I joked that we have a new holiday tradition—texting talking points and condolences when our families says shit that is problematic/outright bigoted. But, though it wears us down, we’re still talking, and the good news is, we’re getting our folks to listen, bit by bit.

I’m not saying your pops is going to start preaching the glories of Loretta Ross, or get you that “Pro-Feminism, Pro-Choice, Pro-Cats” shirt for your birthday. But, if you engage in honest conversation—conversation that doesn’t compromise your values, but recognizes the space your parents are coming from—then the least you’re going to do is make your parents recognize your resolve and commitment to the reproductive justice. Which ain’t a bad place to start.

First, you’re probably going to have to lighten up on the feministanese: there is no good in talking about the patriarchy if mama doesn’t know what the hell patriarchy even means (as I learned Christmas mid-lecture, and quickly amended with Wikipedia’s help).

Second, recognize that you probably cannot be able to change your parents’ core values, and they’re probably never going to stand as far left as you do. I know my mother is never going to take upon the term “pro-choice” for herself. However, through various conversations, my parents have recognized the importance of birth control being accessible for all who need it, and that while they may believe abortion is wrong according to their religion, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good thing to have it outlawed or made inaccessible in a secular state.

And third, your parents are going to slip up all the time and that is not something you need to excuse—however, it also doesn’t mean you need to write them off completely. You want to know why? Because you slip up all the time. If you have any kind of privilege, you’ll end up messing up, at some point or another, and doing/saying/advocating something uncool. Yeah, you know better than your parents, maybe, but you’re also working with an education they most likely never had. So don’t excuse it, and definitely don’t let that “but my intention wasn’t…” stuff fly by without a side-eye. But, try to teach from it.

For some folks, this won’t do a damn thing. And that sucks. But, for others, your parents might surprise you. Yeah, I explained what the patriarchy is Christmas day this holiday season (actual quote from my mother: “Oh is that what you all do? Stop that??”). But, when my dad asked me “So are you seeing anyone, you know a boyfriend—or, a girlfriend?” completely casually, I was floored. Even just 3 months ago, my dad was nowhere in the place to ask me to offer up details of my queerness. But, being willing to talk—a lot—offers real results when it comes to swaying your folks to the necessities and realities within reproductive justice. Particularly when you, their kid, live it.

Reproductive justice shouldn’t be shut out once mom breaks out the holy water—it should be a conversation you try actively engage those around you with, and especially with your conservative leaning parents. Not just because they’re voting y’all – and the voice most likely to make them reconsider that vote is a personal one – but, because if reproductive justice is for everybody, then you have figure in everybody—even those who might seem opposed to it at first.

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