Abortion Rights Are Queer Rights

by | January 18, 2012
filed under Can-Con, Feminism, LGBT, Politics

This piece was originally posted at Synergy, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada’s student and youth network for reproductive justice blog. It was written by guest contributor Kailey Willetts. She is a UVic student journalist working in the areas of queer rights and reproductive justice. Cross-posted with permission.

Anti-choicers love to connect queer people with the struggle for abortion rights in truly absurd ways. One example is this charmer from LifeSiteNews.com blogger, Alissa Golob:

“On an ideological level, homosexuality tends towards being individualistic; in a practical sense, profoundly sterile. Homosexuality uses sex as an instrument for self-gratifying pleasure, and cannot physically be used in the unitive and procreative way it was intended.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you find mainstream gay rights activists vehemently asserting that abortion rights are not gay rights. These are very likely the same gay rights activists solely occupied with pursuing the right to have children and parent.

While forsaking one aspect of reproductive justice that you don’t feel impacts you is shitty, it goes far beyond that. Reproductive justice in all aspects is a queer rights issue; abortion is a queer rights issue (and not because we’re “profoundly sterile”).

Anti-choice ideology is rooted in restrictive gender roles and control of people’s bodies. People who have the reproductive capacity to become pregnant are expected to be women and mothers. Sex is not for pleasure but for reproduction. The reasons for this reproductive imperative are numerous: capitalism requires us to reproduce the labour force; our white supremacist society requires the reproduction of white bodies and dominant white family structures, values and ideologies (abortion was criminalized under fears of “race-suicide”); dogmatic Christianity requires people to embrace their god-given gender roles. No matter what the reason(s), dominant power structure rely on sex as a tool of reproduction, dominance and control, not as a mutually pleasurable activity.

Queer sex, on the other hand, is frequently non-reproductive and pleasure-focused. It’s the idea that sex doesn’t need an objective; that people do it just because it feels good. Clearly, straight people also engage in non-reproductive, pleasure-based sex. In fact, non-reproductive gay sex and non-reproductive hetero sex share a common origin. The terms “homosexual” and “heterosexual” emerged in the 19th Century from psycho-analytical discourse to identify sexual deviants — aka people who strayed from the reproductive imperative. We cannot divorce current queer rights and abortion rights struggles from their shared history. The attack on abortion rights is an attack on all of our sexual freedom.

It’s also entirely false to assume that queer people don’t have unplanned pregnancies. This is based on narrow, harmful conceptualizations of queer identity. While white, cis, gay men may dominant the face of gay rights struggles in North America, queer identities are far more diverse. Queer people may have sexual partners of all genders and genitalia. To break it down, two women who are sleeping together may still need contraception if one woman has the reproductive capacity to get pregnant and the other one has the reproductive capacity to impregnate someone. Additionally, transmen, genderqueer or gender variant people, or people who do not conform to dominant ideas of what a woman is can often face additional barriers to accessing abortion services. If we are going to fight for queer rights, we must also fight for access to necessary health services for all queer people.

While abortion rights may not grace the mainstream, gay rights movement, to deny that abortion rights are queer rights is a form of erasure and violence to not only queer people that need access to abortion and contraceptive services, but also to all people who wish to engage in non-reproductive sex.


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