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Queer Rights Are Reproductive Right Because Queer Folks Have Reproductive Systems

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June 14, 2013

While interviewing for an internship at an LGBT non-profit last summer, I was asked, “I can tell that you’re very active in your community but you’ve mostly been working on abortion and women’s issues. So why do you want to work here?” I gave my interviewer the benefit of the doubt, but underwritten in his question was the idea that LGBT issues and reproductive justice issues are mutually exclusive, and that working on one set of issues would not qualify me to work on the other. I am fortunate in that I now work for an LGBT organization that understands the value of reproductive justice and my activism within that community. That interview was not the first or the last time I would be asked why LGBT folks should care about reproductive justice or about the overlap and intersections between the two movements.

My short answer to that particular interviewer’s question was “I’m bisexual?” and with an “Oh,” he was satisfied. Those of us who identify as LGBT and are attracted to the opposite sex are often overlooked in both the queer and reproductive health communities.

I have made a very conscious choice to stay actively involved with both movements in the hopes that one day my identity won’t be erased because I choose to stay with one partner for an extended period of time. If I marry a man, I won’t suddenly be straight and if I marry a woman, I won’t suddenly be a lesbian. I will always be an activist for both reproductive justice and the LGBT community because they will always be issues that personally impact me.

For those who wonder why LGBT folks should be concerned about reproductive justice, there are members of our community that must be concerned about unintended pregnancy, preventing sexually transmitting diseases and HIV/AIDS, and other issues that fall under the purview of reproductive justice.
My interest in reproductive health stemmed from a general interest in women’s health. In my mind, the two are indistinguishable. If we care about the health of LGBT women, we must also care about their reproductive health. Even female bodied folks who have little to no risk of unintended pregnancy still have reproductive health needs – they may want to use contraceptives to regulate menstruation, can still be vaccinated against HPV, and may still want to start a family.

Ultimately, the connection between the LGBT community and the reproductive justice community is abundantly clear to me. What ties the queer rights movement with the reproductive justice movement is the fight for sexual freedoms. Please do not take the word “freedom” lightly in this context. What I mean by freedom here is the ability to make decision about sex and sexuality safely. Safety for LGBT folks means first being able to love openly without being harassed, bullied, beaten up, or even murdered. It means not having to hide who you are attracted to and being able to build the family you want.

It’s these same conversations about safety that the reproductive justice movement engages in when talking about ending street harassment, consensual and protected sex, and access to licensed abortion practitioners. Personally, I will not rest until I am able to walk down the street without fear no matter who my partner is; their gender, their race, or even (heaven forbid) alone at night. I work with both of these movements because their goals and their values are mine and those of my community.

The 19 year old gay man who was kicked out of his house for coming out, moved to a big city for the first time in his life, and is just trying to figure out what his identity means. The married lesbians who are thinking about having a baby. The teenage couple facing an unintended pregnancy. All are searching for that necessary freedom. We want to share our families and therefore our lives without the cultural or political pressure invading our decisions. We want to get married, to have a baby, to not have a baby, to have sex, to not have sex. We can and should be working together to guarantee this for each of interlocking and intersecting communities.

TanishaTanisha Humphrey is a Program Associate at the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute where she focuses on the Executive Appointments Project and tracking LGBT appointed officials and their impacts. Tanisha is a Chicago native and a recent graduate of Georgetown University, where she majored in Sociology and was a Campus Organizer with Choice USA. Tanisha is a recent graduate of the New Leaders Fellowship with the Center for Progressive Leadership.

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