The Disconnect Between the Reproductive Justice and LGBTQ Movements


During OUTober, I am often reminded of the chasm that exists between the LGBTQ spaces and pro-choice spaces on campus. If I had a nickel for every time someone — specifically white, cis, gay men — questioned my participation in H*yas for Choice because I’m a gay woman, I’d have 10 cents and zero f*cking patience left. It is extremely unfortunate for me to see a blatant disconnect between the LGBTQ movement and the reproductive justice movement, both on this campus and in the greater public discourse in this country. I attribute this distance to a misunderstanding of what reproductive justice means and the way it affects Georgetown and society as a whole.

For me, reproductive justice is affirming everyone’s right to choose when, how, and if they want to exercise their ability to reproduce.

When: This includes protecting access to contraceptives for men, women, and those who do not conform to the gender binary so that they can be in control of their reproductive destinies. Male condoms, female condoms, IUDs, the pill, hormonal implants — you name it, they all need to be available to students regardless of their socioeconomic background or the religious affiliation of the school they attend. Access to contraception and other methods of protection (e.g. dental dams) that prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs is immensely important for both the LGBTQ community as well as proponents of reproductive justice.


How: This is where I believe we need to expand our understanding of reproductive justice. How people choose to reproduce (if they choose to reproduce in the first place, which we’ll cover later) should be dependent on their own decisions and that of their partner, if they have one. Fighting for reproductive justice means denouncing the coercive sterilization of women in prison, just as much as it means fighting for the right of any couple, or individual, to use in vitro fertilization to conceive a child. When we prevent certain members of society from reproducing based on racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, sexism, biphobia, and other kinds of prejudice, we rob them of their reproductive rights. Both the LGBTQ movement and the reproductive justice movement ought to work together to uphold the right of individuals to reproduce however they choose.

Another aspect of the “how” of reproductive justice is consent. An individual’s sexual agency must not be violated, regardless of whether their perpetrator is their partner. I am glad to see that there have been increased discussions on campus regarding intimate partner violence in the LGBTQ community and hope to see this expanded further in the future. These conversations are especially critical considering that bisexual women endure the highest levels of sexual violence, the stigma surrounding sexual violence, and the demasculinization that male survivors may endure. Rape and sexual violence, especially when committed against people who are able to get pregnant, violate a survivor’s reproductive rights since the victim cannot decide to participate in an act that might lead to conception.


If: Not all women want to have children! Not everyone who is married wants to have children! Not everyone in a relationship wants to get married! Not everyone wants to be in a romantic relationship! Not everyone wants to have sex! Both movements respect the right of the individual to live out their identity free from pressure to conform to societal expectations of masculinity, femininity, relationships, and parenthood — so, why not engage in more conversations about this intersection on campus!?

Unfortunately, there are shortcomings that both the LGBTQ and repro movements share, but they can be conquered together. Racism, notably in the form of historical erasure that obscures the impact people of color have had on both movements, has led to the persistent marginalization of people of color. We need to celebrate the contributions that people of color have made to both movements and ensure we are being inclusive, especially with our language. The creation of the Queer Men of Color discussion group as well as the GU Queer People of Color organization are important advancements, but more needs to be done by existing LGBTQ and pro-choice spaces on campus. Additionally, as the LGB(T!)Q movement is evolving to address the particular issues trans people face, so must the repro justice movement, including dialogue addressing abortion access and “women’s” health care; once again, language is vital to create safe, inclusive spaces.

The LGBTQ and reproductive justice movements are certainly not mutually exclusive. This is made clear by the many students active in H*yas for Choice who are also part of the LGBTQ community — students like me. If the movements did not have overlapping initiatives, they would be horribly inept at creating a progressive environment where students can feel comfortable acting in ways that are consistent with their identities. More can be done to ensure both movements work in solidarity with each other, and I urge leaders on campus to help facilitate this change.

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Annie Mason (COL’ 18) is the Historian of H*yas for Choice.


Pro-Life Advocates Didn’t Want Me to be Born


I was conceived in a loving union. My parents were thrilled to find out they were going to have a child. My mother delivered me in Georgetown University’s Women’s Hospital just over twenty years ago. Four years later, my brother joined our family in the same manner. But to the leadership of the Catholic Church, our lives were never supposed to happen.

My two mothers decided to have children by artificial insemination, a practice prohibited by Catholic doctrine. Although many have lauded Pope Francis for supposedly adopting a more tolerant stance on homosexuality and gay adoption, the keynote speaker of the Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, says that the pontiff should not be understood as changing doctrine: “The church cannot change its views to suit the times,” but must rather work harder to persuade an increasingly unconvinced public that its social teachings are holy and true.

Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley is the keynote speaker of Georgetown's 2015 Cardinal O'Connor Conference on Life

Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley is the keynote speaker of Georgetown’s 2015 Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life

Not only does Cardinal O’Malley not want LGBT folks to conceive children, but he would also rather end all adoptive services than allow gay couples to adopt and care for children. I can say from personal experience that there has not been a single detriment to my life due to the fact that I was raised by lesbians.

I can say that there have been moments where the social stigma around my family’s arrangement has caused disapproval from peers and onlookers — I think my 6th-grade boyfriend (Catholic) dumped me because he found out. But my mothers cannot be held accountable for the weight of society, nor can any other individual.

Mona Charen, another conference speaker, thinks that gays and lesbians shouldn’t be allowed to raise children because male and female parents bring complementary and necessary skills to the table. Children raised by two members of the same sex are deprived. I appreciate the concern, really, but there is no evidence to support her claims. My moms offered my brother and I untold wisdom, and I respect them more for the fact that they faced judgment and adversity about their lifestyle. If anything, my life has been enriched by being raised by people who are more tolerant of others than your average parents.

So, here’s the thing that I can’t resolve about pro-life dogma: Why, on the one hand, are women who get pregnant without planning on it required to give birth, while women who want to get pregnant — despite the odds being stacked against them — are discouraged from doing so? Is it truly pro-life to tell committed and loving unions not to use the means available to them to create a new life?

I cannot reconcile pro-life ideals with bans on gay adoption, IVF, or artificial insemination: all devices with which men and women who have a desperate calling to raise and love children can make their dreams come true. I cannot support a conference hosted by a group of people who believe that my very birth was a sin while at the same time proclaiming to value the sanctity of life. I cannot respect a doctrine that spews hatred toward the first women on the planet who ever loved me.

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Marilyn Arwood (COL ’17) is a member of H*yas for Choice. 

Hey Georgetown, Your Conference is Homophobic!


At this Saturday’s Cardinal O’Connor Conference on Life, Damon Clarke Owens will lead a breakout session with student participants. Owens currently serves as the Executive Director of the Theology of the Body Institute, but has served as the New Jersey Director of the National Organization for Marriage.

The National Organization for Marriage is the leading organization — which truly isn’t saying much — in the fight against same-sex marriage. Although NOM’s prominence and funding have greatly decreased in recent years, it has continued to put forth dangerous and violent rhetoric against queer people. As the Southern Poverty Law Center has noted, these claims have ranged from accusing queer people of trying to attack people of faith (as if these groups are mutually exclusive) to claiming that queer people are more likely to be pedophiles.

As the New Jersey Director of NOM, Owens is directly responsible for this legacy and for furthering violence against queer people. Although there are incredibly valid class/race/feminist critiques of marriage as a rights-giving institution, it is clear from Owens’ writing and his Twitter (see below) that he isn’t using critical theory to deconstruct marriage as an oppressive system. Instead, he is motivated by a deep distrust — if not hatred — of queer-identified people.

Owens’ narrow-minded ideology has had violent consequences for queer people. By leading the fight against marriage equality in New Jersey, Owens sought to deny queer people access to healthcare, equal treatment in immigration proceedings, and access to an equitable tax system. These all constitute acts of violence against queer people that Owens should be held accountable for.

Damon Clarke Owens is a man who puts forward a worldview that is prejudiced and violent. This doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be able to espouse his views: Owens has every right to be a prejudiced, narrow-minded person in whatever forum in which he’s invited to participate.

However, I wonder why Owens would be invited to speak at a university-endorsed conference. How can Georgetown simultaneously justify this speaker while continuing to claim to be progressive on LGBTQ issues? What does the University have to say to queer students whose basic dignity has been challenged by this speaker? How can we as a community claim to “Care for the Whole Person” or, even more broadly, respect “Life” while endorsing speakers who spit on the dignity and physical, emotional, mental, social, and financial wellbeing of members of our Georgetown family?

I truly hope that Georgetown respects its students more than Damon Clarke Owens does. I hope that the University is ignorant of Owens’ views. If this is the case, I’d like to take a moment to make the University aware of the rhetoric they are endorsing: Hey Georgetown, your conference is homophobic!

Selected Tweets from Damon Clarke Owens

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Vincent DeLaurentis (SFS’17) is the Vice President of H*yas for Choice and a dedicated male feminist.