Pride season is here and hitchhiking in its backseat are all the complicated feelings that come with it. There are numerous issues with pride. It’s heavily commercialized. It’s focused around alcohol use. It’s inaccessible to disabled, underage, undocumented, sober, and countless other LGBTQIA2+ folk who find it hard to see themselves reflected back.
Visibility, and all its implications, asks us so many questions that we don’t have answers to. On the one hand, it’s magical to feel seen. Our presence as queer folk is often neglected or forced into hiding. It’s delicious to be able to be fully present in our glorious selves, among others with similar life experiences.
Yet on the other hand, we see where visibility is dangerous. Whether its same-sex couples being attacked or the high murder rate of black trans women, being seen means being a target in an unforgiving world.
One realm where visibility is uniquely complex is in the world of reproductive justice. Reproductive justice is a term gifted to us by a collective led by black women, SisterSong. They define it as:
“The human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
Notice how in this definition, the word “women” is never used. This is a deliberate choice because reproductive justice does not just concern women. Abortion access is not just about a woman’s right to choose.
When we begin our conversations about abortion access with phrases like “women’s rights” and women’s bodies,” we participate in active erasure of trans, nonbinary, two spirit, and others who have the ability to get pregnant and do not identify as women. When we consider straight women as the only ones in need of abortion care, we participate in active erasure of many queer women.
In our current climate where abortion access is being threatened on several fronts, reproductive rights advocates and organizers are working endlessly to change the conversation about abortion. I don’t think many of these individuals who fail to use gender-inclusive language in their rhetoric are actively trying to leave out important voices and stories. I think it’s merely a symptom of the world we inhabit.
But that’s the thing about symptoms. When they present themselves, it is the body asking us to pay attention and devote extra care to an illness or injury. Symptoms ask us to spend time with our pain and complaints to find a root cause and hopefully, a solution.
When we as queer folk remind you to include us in the conversation about abortion access, we want to be seen. We want to be a part of the narrative, because we are already.
At West Fund, it’s incredibly important for us to name queer folk as pillars in our work. It is our standard practice to use gender neutral language in our discussions around abortion. We serve our queer community in accessing abortion care. We recognize that the work of reproductive justice started and has been carried by queer black and brown folk fighting with love and compassion for the communities they were a part of. We carry on that tradition as an organization run primarily by queer women and people of color.
I invite anyone reading this to reflect on the ways we talk about abortion access, on the intersections of access and LGBTQIA2+ issues, and the countless ways we can show up with our whole selves to this sacred fight.