Tuesday, January 22, 2013
On Being Brown, Queer & Prochoice
As a queer man of color I am adamant about having a public ideological and physical pro-choice stance. I believe that queer men, particularly queer men of color, must not only stand in solidarity with our sisters in demanding and embodying values of reproductive justice, it is essential that we also see our own bodies as requiring a world where reproductive justice is demanded, lived, and sustained.
While I am not interested in dogmas that require one person to be wrong in order for another to be right, I do find that to be anti-choice (for to be pro-choice is, by definition, to be pro-life in its real meaning) is to be lacking in an understanding of a shared human experience; it is to be lacking in humanity.
I grew up in an anti-choice home. My father is an adamant believer in the rights of a fetus over all else. I understand the context and religious and cultural fervor from which he basis his belief. However, my understanding, or perhaps better said, my knowledge of these undergirding values are not enough for me to cease to insist that to be anti-choice, to be a cisgender male, and to be of color, are all unacceptable contradictions.
Reproductive injustice has roots in many unhealthy terrains, though I am particularly interested in the role economics have played over the centuries in insisting on the control of women’s bodies specifically, but also the bodies of people of color (understanding that these two identities are not necessarily exclusive). My refusal to procreate to parent myself is rooted in a number of ideological stances. I need only look at the many examples of men who have failed at being fathers and whose failures are celebrated by a misogynist and both anti-woman and anti-man-of-color society; something I have seen celebrated by my own family.
I live in a world where the lives of young adults (increasingly of color) are seen as disposable in the way of sending them to risk facing their own death while massacring young adults of color, including their communities. This reality creates impossibility in believing that we, as a society, collectively believe in the sacredness of all life.
As I continue to meditate on my relationship to reproductive justice values, I am convinced that it is my own queerness that fuels this unwavering commitment toward choice. Of course, I am pro-choice because I am human, alive, and conscious. I am also pro-choice because I understand and witness the economic underpinning of an anti-choice movement.
Angela Davis points out in her book “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday,” that “the slave system’s economic management of procreation... did not tolerate and often severely punished the public exhibition of self-initiated sexual relationships.” I do not believe in hierarchies of oppression or in playing oppression olympics. I have no intention of comparing enslavement to any other act of human violence. I do, however, think often about how the “economic management of procreation” is manifested in, permeates, and feeds the anti-choice movement, and, without a doubt, in the anti-gay movement.
A world where women have agency and are able to make informed decisions about their own bodies and health, is a dangerous world to live in for those wanting to control procreation. Similarly, living in a world where I, a brown queer man, chooses to love another brown queer man (or worse, multiple), is a direct resistance to the economic control of human bodies.
While the Supreme Court ruling on Lawrence v. Texas was historic in that it eliminated the criminalization of homosexuality as an act, queer men must not limit their celebration to this decision alone. Queer men, especially queer men of color, must also remember and remain vigilant of the historical importance of Roe v. Wade. It is critical that queer men of color understand that both cases, and perhaps most importantly in Roe v. Wade, one of the questions at hand was that of self-determination and the repulsive act to legislate the body.
Certainly, the two aforementioned Supreme Court rulings have enormous implications for the lives of queer men of color. However, we must not overlook the fact that we live in constant fear that one day Roe v. Wade might be in jeopardy. In addition, while criminalizing homosexuality has been deemed unconstitutional, queer men of color continue to live under constant threat of violence and criminalization by the State.
It is my hope that in coming to the realization that reproductive justice is not the exclusive concern of women, queer men of color might insist on a comprehensively just movement for queer rights and demand that the institutional leadership of the LGBT movement manifest such values. LGBT rights (including marriage equality, freedom to serve in the U.S. military, hate crimes legislation, and workforce nondiscrimination efforts) must be informed by the other issue movement areas that pertain to the lives, experiences, and mere survival of all people of color. Perhaps in employing such values and a multi-layered, multi-issue, and multi-identity analysis will create the language, spaces, and ability to engage those LGBT rights efforts that are counterintuitive and at odds with liberation.
Originally posted on February 5, 2010. Reposted in honor of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.
Posted by Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano at 10:05 AM