Women's Rights Issues are LGBT Issues

On Thursday, Feb. 17, students at Wellesley College gathered in Harambee House, the cultural center for students of African descent, to discuss issues facing the college community and what changes we would like to see. One major issue we agreed upon was the imperativeness of being aware of and supporting all of the student organizations on campus, especially cultural organizations. “Our issues are your issues,” was one of the most favorable quotes of the night.

Earlier that day, I received an e-mail from the Human Rights Campaign, whose subject line read “Let’s Talk about Marriage.” While such a topic was nothing new, especially from HRC, something about those simple words disturbed me. For some reason, I had been expecting something different.

The e-mail came in the light of recent plans by the Republican-led House of Representatives to severely cut back on funding for family planning and abortion coverage. ($75 million would be cut from Planned Parenthood.) Furthermore, some in the House were attempting to redefine rape, to further complicate the matter of what situations would permit an abortion. One bill allows for hospitals to refuse to give an abortion to a woman, even if it may save her life or refuse to refer her to a hospital that will,
while another permits the murder of abortionists, on the grounds of “defense of the fetus.”

But the biggest issue for me is the attack on Title X, which is a Family Planning Program. Here’s the definition according to the Office of Population Affairs:

Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. The Title X program is designed to provide access to contraceptive services, supplies and information to all who want and need them. By law, priority is given to persons from low-income families.

To reduce funding for this program would be to reduce the availability of HIV/AIDS testing, gynecological exams, cancer screenings, access to birth control methods, and sexual health education. Also, please note the last line of the quote above: priority is given to persons from low-income families. That means those who can barely afford health care now will no longer have access to any form of it whatsoever. The idea of “talking about marriage,” at a time like this, seems kind of like a brazen statement of apathy and ignorance. Women are being essentially being stripped of their legal rights and treated worse than cattle. (Republican Representative Dan Burton of Indiana recently introduced a bill to provide contraception to wild horses.) Murder is becoming legalized and women are being left to die – and you want to talk about marriage?

Such talk is an absolute slap in the face. It assumes that family planning programs only affect heterosexuals and the women’s rights are not LGBTQ concerns. However, it is clear that Title X protects and provides for men and women of all orientations and that any attack on it is an attack on us. Ignoring its significance is not just ignoring women’s rights – it’s ignoring our health and our bodies.

Of course, it wasn’t only the HRC who seemed to have turned their attentions away from a massive national overhaul of progressive principles. Every LGBTQ blog I’ve come across has little to no mention of Title X or the Republican attack on family planning and women’s reproductive rights – even the lesbian blogs seem woefully silent.

Where is the cry of outrage? How is it possible that I can receive e-mail after e-mail about Prop. 8, DOMA, and DADT – and not even the slightest peep about all of these atrocities? What’s going on?

There is clearly a disconnect about what does and does not affect the lives of LGBTQ people. There is a lack of recognition toward the reality that people with reproductive organs, victims of incest, victims of rape, victims of HIV/AIDS, victims
of cancer, and low-income individuals with little access to healthcare are part of the LGBTQ community. There is a lack of solidarity among progressive groups. There is apparently a faulty belief that each oppressed part of society should focus on their own specific, narrow issues and let others deal with their problems on their own.

When I read that I may not have access to necessary gynecological exams or that my sister may not have access to birth control or that my best friend may not have access to HIV testing, and meanwhile all anyone else can talk about is marriage and the military as if that’s the only thing gay people every have to worry about, then there is a problem.

What happened to the concept of being allies? For those of us who may not be directly affected the conservative Republican assault, it is still absolutely necessary that you recognize and support those who are. While we thank and praise those heterosexual men and women who rally to our side and speak out on our behalf, it is equally imperative that LGBTQ people be called to the stage to lend their support to others.

Women’s issues are LGBTQ issues are women’s issues are everyone’s issue. “Your issues are your issues” or, even better, “These are our issues.” That should have been the type of e-mail I was getting from the gay rights blogs. If you believe that we are equal, you must first act like we are all equal. That includes being aware of issues that extend beyond your own and, sometimes, making them a priority. If people of every race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious background were to do that, the impact of change would be that much greater and it would mean change for us all.

  • Rebecca Booth-Fox

    Thank you, Erika! It is so true that our silos prevent us from working together and having a bigger effect!

    Do you know of organizations that are working against these atrocities you listed? Those of us reading this blog should all be involved, and spreading the word to our networks.