Em-URGE-ing Voices

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How Being Queer Impacts my Reproductive Justice Work

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June 13, 2013

People have always told me that I’m a bit weird, silly, or odd. When I was young and before I was out (even to myself), I remember feeling isolated and disconnected from other people. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how or why I was so different. Now, as an out, queer woman, I wear these words as a badge, because, I AM odd. And I know that this self acceptance has a lot to do with me being queer, and vice versa — I’m queird! (thank you Hartbeat for introducing me to that word).

To me, being queer is so much more than a sexual identity. I personally identify most with the term queer because it best represents who I am attracted to–men, women, femmes, dykes, genderqueer folks, androgynous folks… the list goes on. But, being queer also means pushing against the status quo in most areas of my life. People like to make a lot of assumptions when they look at me since I present as very feminine. Queer means expressing myself the way that I want to regardless of whether I fit into the neat boxes people have created in their head.

My sexual orientation has also had a profound impact on how I view bodies–my own as well as the bodies of others — and the way I experience sexuality. Women of color are often fetishized and labeled as “exotic”. I cannot count all the times I’ve been told by strangers how “hot” it is that I am Latina. Going to Smith College, meant that I had a very strong, visible LGBTQ community which helped me define what beauty meant for myself. I shaved my head, wore “men’s” clothes, and didn’t worry about shaving my legs — which were all things I felt I couldn’t do before, for fear of being shamed. Queer culture has also taught me to be unapologetic about my body size. While being Chicana helped me embrace some of my curves, it was the body positive messages I heard from my queer, feminist sisters that eventually helped me make the connections between sexism and weight discrimination.

It is because of my understanding of queer culture, experiences within the queer, feminist community, and deep commitment to deconstructing traditional gender norms that I am passionate about reproductive justice issues.

Reproductive justice means having true agency (having political, social, and economic power) over one’s own body, relationships, and all areas of their lives. This also means being able to express your gender and sexuality the way that you want, as well as being able to access safe and affordable reproductive health services and technology. At the core of both reproductive justice and LGBTQ movements is the belief that society must remove barriers that interfere with people’s ability to lead healthy sexual and reproductive lives, and must provide the necessary supports to achieve these goals.

Both movements have similar opposition — the straight, white, cisgendered, hypermasculine power structure–whose ideology is deeply rooted in patriarchy and heteronormative, hegemonic masculinity. Both movements envision a world where people can be who they are, love who they want and create the families they want.

The connection between these two movements is obvious for me. Queer rights are reproductive rights, and reproductive rights are queer rights. I hope that you join me in breaking down silos in order to build a more intersectional, and inclusive movement that works towards collective power and collective victories.


Raquel pictureRaquel Ortega is a Field Associate for Choice USA




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