By Jon Wong, Network Advancement Associate at If/When/How
When many people think about the terms “reproductive rights,” “reproductive health,” or even “reproductive justice,” the impulse is to focus on specific hot-button political issues like access and legality of abortion, health insurance coverage of contraception and birth control, or even what is taught in sex ed. And in many of those instances, the focus is on straight, cisgender female bodies — thanks in part to framing by corporate media and mainstream politicians alike.
But reproductive justice isn’t just an issue for straight, cis women, it’s an issue for queer people just like me as well, even if you are a queer, cisgender male.
How so, you might ask? Well it’s because liberation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender folk has been centered on the ability of all people to have freedom and self-determination over their own body, health, and life – the same ideals and values at the core of reproductive justice.
Modern queer liberation started around 50 years ago when LGBT folks, especially trans women of color, fought back against police raids in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. LGBT people were tired of being harassed by police in spaces where they just wanted to be themselves and be with others just like them. And even after Stonewall helped put the gay liberation movement on the map, LGBT bar raids continued to happen even as recently as 2009 when the Atlanta Police Department raided the Atlanta Eagle.
Bar raids, however, are only one in a number of tactics legislators and law enforcement have used to restrict and deny LGBT people the ability to be who they are or be with who they love. During the AIDS Crisis of the 1980s, queer people were denied the care they needed to stay healthy and alive and the Reagan administration remained silent and complicit as tens of thousands of queer people died. And before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, HIV positive folks, many of them LGBT, were often denied health insurance coverage because of pre-existing condition exclusions.
The reality is that queer justice is reproductive justice and reproductive justice is queer justice.
Private, consensual sex between same-gender adult partners wasn’t even fully legalized in the United States until 15 years ago with the Lawrence v. Texas decision. The decision in that case was monumental and paved the way for subsequent cases to advance marriage equality and allow same-gender family formations under Windsor v. United States and Obergefell v. Hodges.
Interestingly enough, one of the previous court cases that underpinned the Lawrence decision was Griswold v. Connecticut, a case that allowed a straight, married couple’s right to privacy to use contraception. This was extended to unmarried couples under Eisenstadt v. Baird and helped pave the way for the landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade that effectively legalized abortion in this country.
As the Supreme Court has established, the right for consenting adults to make their own private decisions on sex and their reproductive health should legally be available to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This includes a gay couple looking to use a condom for sex inside their own home. This includes a bisexual cisgender woman that wants to use an IUD as their form of birth control. This includes a transgender man who needs access to abortion.
And that’s not the only way reproductive and queer justice issues are inextricably linked. Often times the same forces pushing to restrict and undermine people’s access to reproductive health care are the same people who want to deny legal recognition and rights to LGBT folk. Take, for instance, the state of Texas where Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who once sponsored and passed a law forcing people who need abortion care to have a sonogram, has long been on a crusade to pass an anti-trans “bathroom” bill. Similarly, on the state and federal level, the folks who want to allow people to refuse to bake a cake for same-sex couples for religious reasons are the same folks who want religious owners of businesses to deny health insurance coverage to their employees for contraception and abortion.
The freedom and ability for people to have agency and access to the reproductive health care that’s right for them is fundamentally tied to the freedom and ability for people to be who they are or have intimate relationships with who they like. Thus, the reality is that queer justice is reproductive justice and reproductive justice is queer justice.
Even as a queer, cisgender male, reproductive justice is something I need too, whether it’s affordable access to PrEP to prevent HIV or the ability to decide what contraception to use between myself and a transgender or gender non-conforming intimate partner.
So this Pride month, let’s look beyond the narrow confines of straight, cisgender bodies as the main conception our society has on reproductive health, rights, and justice. Let’s make sure that within our fight to protect access to abortion from TRAP laws or repeal the Hyde Amendment for low-income folks that we lift up and recognize LGBT folk that need reproductive justice as well. And whether you are gay, bi, or straight; cisgender, transgender, or gender non-conforming, let’s make sure that all of us have the freedom, ability, and access to determine what is best for our bodies and our health.
And P.S., if you want a more in-depth guide to queering reproductive justice, take a look at the National LGBTQ Task Force’s great toolkit, edited in part by If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellows Zsea Beaumonis and Sabrina Rewald, here.
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