We are here too: Including Queer People in Reproductive Justice Movements
50 years ago, this month, America witnessed a turn in LGBTQ+ activism. Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and many others engaged in a riot against New York City police, fighting against homophobia and transphobia in America. These riots led to a movement that has seen the legalization of same-sex marriage, annual celebrations honoring the Stonewall Riots and LGBTQ+ folk, and broader education of the struggles facing this demographic.
Years before, the Women’s Movement was propelled into the stratosphere of public media, pushing for voting rights, and later, landmark cases of Roe v. Wade in 1973, giving the right for a woman to choose their ability to terminate their pregnancy. These days, we see women dressed as Handmaids from Margaret Atwood’s famous dystopian novel to highlight what our world could look like without healthy abortion access.
Reproductive justice, women’s rights, and LGBTQIA+ movements have occurred side by side since their inception, and yet their movements rarely intersect to include those pushed to the margins. In conversations about reproductive justice, rarely do conversations about queer people penetrate the public media stratosphere, especially if they are queer people of color.
Just like popular mass media refuses to highlight the mass murders of Black trans women that occur each year (82% of the transgender people killed last year were women), or the multitude of Black infants dying during childbirth (double the likelihood than their white counterparts) the narratives of same-sex and queer couples and their reproductive health are erased.
I came out as queer in middle school, but only in college did I begin to see the barriers in our reproductive health processes that would prevent my idea and dream of a family. My partner identifies as gender non-conforming, and when the two of us begin the process of starting a family, we would need to jump through a number of obstacles to ensure we had the same privileges and rights as a cisgender, heterosexual couple. This includes the thousands of dollars invested in surrogacy, in vitro fertilization treatments, or even adoption. Though our union is legal on the federal level, it is extremely difficult for a queer couple to be considered “appropriate” parents when adopting.
If we decided we weren’t ready for a baby, but one of us was pregnant, difficulties would undoubtedly increase. According to Trish Bendix from Them, 28 states have introduced legislation curtailing abortion in some form just this year (2019, Them). Notably, this includes three states (Missouri, Alabama, and Ohio) that have restricted termination of pregnancy, even in cases of rape, incest, or endangerment of the child or the mother. For queer people of color, who already receive inadequate healthcare that is accessible in these states, this could be a death sentence.
LGBTQ people still need access to sex education, sexual and reproductive healthcare, like testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, birth control, and abortion. Despite myths to the contrary, LGBTQ people can still face unintended pregnancies. Trans people need gender affirming hormones or surgery to ensure their body autonomy. Prejudice against LGBTQ people is a reproductive justice issue impacting their personal bodily autonomy, safety, and ability to create and support healthy families.
The role of doulas is beyond helping parents prepare for birth. It’s about advocating for those who give birth in the margins. The individuals who cannot give birth but are mothers. The fathers that can give birth. When I think of revolutions, the most fundamental tool in the liberation that is ignored is solidarity. When we unite, we are more powerful. Joe Feagin summarizes this best: alienating other groups makes it difficult for people to recognize their commonalities in the struggle and fight the real enemy. Access to reproductive health is a queer issue. A woman’s issue. A black issue. And all the intersections in between. This is the world I hope for my unborn children and to all the children I help bring into this world.