Category Archives: Sex/Sexuality/Reproductive Justice

10 Uterus-Having Folks On Not Having Kids

More people than ever in the US are choosing not to have children–for a wide variety of reasons. After my (and the internet’s) overwhelmed reaction to this piece I knew that I had to see how the uterus-having non-breeders around me felt about (not) having children. I would have liked to have heard from more people of color, more people on the trans spectrum and from people of different ages… I guess it’s time to make more friends! *Some folks have chosen to remain anonymous.

blue dotMW: Female, straight, single, 33, white, live in San Francisco, from San Luis Obispo, CA, able-bodied, atheist/least religious person, Bachelors in Art, US citizen, employed full-time.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I can not remember a time that I ever wanted my own children. I’m very selfish with my time and money, and like doing whatever I want, almost all the time. This sounds immature but I’m extremely grossed out by childbirth, c-sections, and the recovery from both (and ‘the business of being born,’ and how people in the US collect disability when taking maternity leave). I think the population is too large already, I am a ZPG proponent, and world resources are strained so in my eyes, it’s a selfish act (especially having like 4, 8, 19 children). I swear I’m not a huge pessimist but I don’t like the idea of bringing a sweet little innocent baby into a pretty fucked up world.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
I have received close to zero pressure from my parents about having kids, including my mom who wanted not much more for herself than to be a mother. My maternal grandma will point at a young family at a restaurant and say things like “Now doesn’t that look fun?” and will inquire about my dating life. Fortunately younger cousins have gotten married and taken some pressure off of me.
Some acquaintances will say “Never? Never ever?” but people generally understand that everyone is different and has their reasons either way. Now that I’m 33, and in a pretty child-free city, the window of time is closing and I don’t think I’ll be asked too much. Close friends are married or coupled but none of them are rushing to have kids.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
n/a

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
Money talks but I personally would never do it. I feel like it’d ravage your body and I’d get too attached to the baby growing in me to give it up.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I went to Planned Parenthood a few times in college, and other locally run health providers as a teen having secret (from parents) sex. Having free access was key (check-ups and prescriptions). I’ve never had any pushback and the thought of that makes my blood boil. I get happy when I read about free birth control for people.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
One boyfriend broke up with me (among other reasons) because he said he wanted to eventually have a family and knew that I wasn’t interested. I know other guys pressure girls into the idea but come on, there are billions of other women who want babies, be with them. There is definitely the thought in my mind, during the very early stages with a new partner, that the no-child thing could be a “deal-breaker” for him.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
Reading about things like Japan’s birth rate drastically dropping off, I think people might be scared of society coming to a halt (obviously not soon). People are little money-makers for a society. I know that most people do genuinely adore their children and want others to feel that same all-consuming love for a kid too. It does seem frowned upon to not have kids, but I think people are seeing what a true liability a child is, that it’s a huge time suck and of course expensive. It’s one of the most selfless things you can do and most people I’ve encountered in my generation and younger are not selfless. Seeing more people as carefree and focusing energy on careers or travel or other family members seems to help destigmatize lack of desire to parent.
I sincerely love children, (am the eldest grandchild on both sides, did lots of babysitting, have considered teaching young children, am attracted to adults with child-like enthusiasm) but also hand babies back to their parent when it starts crying or poops. A roommate said he’s not ready for something that he can’t control the volume on.
I feel like oftentimes people who “shouldn’t” have babies, do.
I’m incredibly responsible, stable, good at saving money, I’m a candidate for “should,” but have no interest. And, it sucks that the family name will die out with me. The whole point of life is to create more life so I feel like something is wrong with me. But I don’t care.
People think they have to, or think they should have children. Or they think having a baby will salvage their own bad relationship with their partner. Eek.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
People think it’s selfish to NOT have kids. I think it is selfish to have kids.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
Highly highly doubt it but if I met a partner that reallllly wanted kids and put zero pressure on me to do so, I might consider adoption. (That’s a whole other thing: “selecting” a kid is strange…)

11258974_10153192545376480_1870465006_nNicole Loschke: I am a 28-year-old, Caucasian, heterosexual female. I am currently in a relationship. I am originally from Parachute, Colorado and currently live in Silt, Colorado. I am spiritual and not religious, although I was raised Catholic and have been exposed to and studied as a Baptist as well as Buddhism and Islam. I have a BA in Journalism and a Master’s in Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies. I am a U.S. citizen and I currently work as a paralegal for an immigration attorney. I focus on victims of crime and hardship waivers. I have a large, loud red-nosed pitbull and I love spending time outdoors hiking, fishing, camping, and playing my djembe.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I never really had an “ah-hah” moment where I realized I didn’t want children, I just never wanted children. As I child, I never dreamed or imagined my wedding day or being a mother. As the years have passed, it hasn’t changed. That being said, the same answer can be applied to the second part of this question. It’s not necessarily that I don’t WANT to parent. I have about 11 god children and “nieces and nephews” (all children of very close friends) and I love them with all my heart. I love spending time with them and watching their minds expand. I value the time I spend with them and it teaches me a lot. I even worked in a preschool in the past. It’s not really a matter of NOT wanting to parent, but more a matter of wanting to be kid-free, if that makes any sense.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
The first time I had to come out and say it, I was at lunch with my mom, my cousin, and her daughter. My cousin lives in CA and we live in CO, so they came to visit. We never really got to know each other before this visit. While eating lunch, my cousin asks me, “So Niki, do you want kids?” I was stunned. I knew I didn’t, but I had never told my mom and I knew it would break her heart. I looked at my cousin straight in the eye and told her that I didn’t really want kids. I could see my mom’s heartbroken face out of the corner of my eye. When I broke eye contact with my cousin and finally looked at my mom, she was completely devastated. Since then, it hasn’t really been brought up. I only have one sibling: an older brother, who also doesn’t have kids, so the pressure is really intense right now. My brother is 31 and I am 28. Neither of us have the best track record with stable relationships, so my parents (who would be amazing grandparents) have been putting the pressure on us to give them grandchildren. We all just kind of brush it off without really talking about it. My friends reactions vary. Some of them tell me that I would be a great mother and some of them agree that I shouldn’t have children. Most are ultimately supportive of my decision and they know that I have a free spirit and I am terrified of commitment, so it is best for everyone.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
I’ve never really been offended by someone’s reaction. It is still pretty taboo in our society to talk about fertile women choosing not to reproduce, so I have grown a thick skin. I do have a coworker that hears me make my subtle (sometimes not-so-subtle) comments about not having children. Every time, she approaches me, caresses my shoulder, and tells me something like “Oh Nicole, one day you will find the love of your life and God will bless you with the fruit of your love in a child and you will be the greatest mother and feel the love only a mother can feel.” I usually give her a half smile and walk away. I don’t disagree that this is probably true for her and could be true for many people, but it is not my ideal future or is necessary for my happiness.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I don’t think I could be a surrogate. I think that if I was pregnant, I would grow too attached to the baby to ultimately give it up for someone else to raise.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
My reproductive health was fine until I was about 22 years old. I contracted HPV and the doctors found abnormal cells after a routine exam. I was living in Costa Rica at the time and it was horrible because my mom had to open the letter from the doctor and read it to me over the phone. I had to have my cervix frozen and eventually about half of my cervix was cut out. I have spoken to doctors who tell me that I shouldn’t experience any problems if I chose to reproduce, but I have my doubts.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I didn’t really talk about it with my boyfriends until a couple years ago. I was in a serious relationship; we were living together and had been together for almost a year. He wanted kids, and I didn’t tell him how I really felt. We actually tried to get pregnant for a couple months, and then our relationship ended abruptly. For three months after we broke up, I didn’t menstruate. I was terrified. I knew that I would be okay, because I was capable of raising a child, I had a stable home and a stable job, but the last thing I wanted was to be a single mother. Turns out I probably didn’t menstruate because of excess stress; it was a vicious cycle. My current partner also wants kids. At first when he mentioned it, I just changed the subject or passively agreed. It was weighing me down, so I finally told him how I felt. He was very sad at first, but then he decided that it didn’t matter because he loves me, so that’s the only thing that mattered to him. I think he still hopes that I will change my mind with time, and I feel horrible that he is having to sacrifice something that he has always wanted for me. I appreciate his stance and I have so much respect for him, but I still feel bad and I think it may be an issue in the future.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think since the beginning of time, the ultimate goal of society has been to reproduce. People want to feel like they have a purpose and that their legacy will live on. If you have a child, you can fulfill these things. Societal norms have always been questioned, but those doing the questioning are usually silenced, shunned, or deemed mentally unstable. I don’t know if it is just me getting older and maybe having conversations with like-minded people, but I would like to think that our society (at least the generations my age or younger) is shifting to embrace change and accept that the norms once accepted at face value should be questioned and deviated from. Still, a fertile woman choosing not to reproduce is taboo, especially in the older generations. I do have a couple aunts/uncles that are married and have not reproduced, and I admire them and look up to them. I can only imagine how hard that must have been for them during those years. I don’t really think that older generations will change. I also understand how an infertile woman could be mad or disappointed with a fertile woman consciously choosing not to have children, so I don’t think that will change either. However, I do think that the taboo is becoming less and less prevalent. As far as campaigns to reduce the stigma. I think that if climate change and overpopulation hasn’t convinced society, nothing will.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
People think that because I don’t want kids, I hate kids. This is completely false. Like I said before, I have around 11 godchildren/”nieces and nephews” so I am around children a lot. I love interacting with them and watching them grow. Their brains amaze me and I love taking them on even the littlest adventure and teaching them something (they usually teach me something too). I do enjoy children. Just because I don’t want children of my own, does not make me some child-hating monster.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I am never going to say that I will never have kids. I have never wanted to, but I realize that things could change. I am not sure of anything specific that would change my mind.

260160_10100207872793180_7757028_nLeslie Gordon: Female, hetero, single (never been married), 30 y.o., white non-Hispanic, currently live in Washington DC but from Cincinnati, OH.  Able bodied, not a veteran, agnostic beliefs, Master’s degree, US citizen and full-time employed.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I don’t think there was ever a single time when I decided that I didn’t want to parent, rather a decline in the number of kids I wanted.  Around 21/22 y.o. I was set on having 3, then over the years after learning about the cost of having kids and how much time it takes, it decreased to 1.  Now, I’m at 0.  I don’t want to parent because I generally have disinterest in it.  I’m also selfish, I want to spend the money I earn on myself, I want to spend my free time with my friends/family, I want to spend time making myself feel good (through working out, shopping, nails done etc.).  Travel is also a big part of why I don’t want kids.  I don’t want my vacation to be spent at Disney World or at a kid-friendly location.  As cliché as it is, I want to see the world and the best way I’ve found to do that is alone or with a small group of other adults.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
I recently told my mother that I didn’t want kids.  Luckily my parents don’t care, although I’m sure a part of them was disappointed they couldn’t tell their friends they were going to be grandparents.  I’m still holding out hope that my sister will want to parent…

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
None, yet

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
No way

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Good

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I think it definitely affects romantic relationships because our society puts so much pressure on having kids and a family.  I’m still in search of that person who won’t care either way.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I just think it’s expected, it’s expected that you will want to take on the identity of a mother.  For me, talking with others about their experience and choice to not parent has been the most beneficial.  It brings a sense of normalcy to the choice and it’s fun to chat about what fun activities people are doing with their free time and money.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That they hate kids!  I like to play with kids and think they do some really cute things, I just don’t want to deal with all of the un-fun stuff.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I’ve considered adopting an older child (like maybe 3, 4, 5).  I know for a fact that I don’t want to birth a child out of my body and that I don’t want to feel pressured by a biological clock to have a baby.  So this sounds like a good alternative (plus I don’t want to potty train or have to deal with excessive amount of crying at night).

11140403_10153225810490465_7713870024900851349_n

Briar Maverick: I’m a radical, poly, trans, queer non-binary. I share my life with four amazing partners, and I’m currently working on building a trans queer poly commune and learning ASL.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I’ve gone back and forth on having children most of my life. As a trans person, I’ve actively tried to distance myself from anything “maternal” or “motherly” and the idea of carrying a pregnancy to term makes me physically ill, but sometimes the idea of raising children in a queer and trans setting appealed to me. In college, I worked at a chain baby store, and I realized how draining children are on emotional and material resources, but I thought that I could have kids one day if I had enough money. As my future plans develop, I’ve realized that there’s probably never going to be a point in my life when I have the material or emotional resources to provide for a child, and I don’t have enough urge to procreate to overcome that lack.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
Most of my social group is fellow trans queer radicals, so even those who do want kids understand and respect the fact that I don’t see children in my future. My mom has alternated over the years from “oh, I was hoping I’d get a chance to have grandchildren” to “yes, good, don’t have kids.” Growing up Queer and Feminist, most everyone else in my family probably wrote me off for continuing the family line long ago.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
I distinctly remember being about 6 years old, talking to a family friend about how I didn’t want to have kids, and her telling me that my feelings about children would change some day, and how frustrated I got even then.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
The money is appealing to be a surrogate, but the idea of being pregnant, even if I don’t keep the child, makes me physically ill and incredibly dysphoric.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I’ve had a lot of problems finding a service provider that I feel comfortable with because I and the majority of my partners are trans. Any time I try to talk to someone about different forms of birth control, I or my partners end up getting misgendered directly or indirectly.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
At this point in my life, and for the foreseeable future, I’m only in polyamorous relationships, so if one of my partners want children, that’s fine, they can find another partner to have children with.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
The connection between womanhood, nurturing, and reproduction is a disservice to cis and trans women alike, regardless of reproductive capability. There are lots of different ways to create meaning in one’s life and women’s value goes beyond their ability and willingness to reproduce.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That this is an issue that only affects cis women pursuing careers.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption? 
I could see myself being part of a household/commune with someone who is raising children, and taking an uncle-type role, but I don’t think I’ll ever want to have a direct parenting relationship with a child.

HB headshotHeather Busby: I’m a straight, cis married white woman in my early 40’s. A native Texan by many generations, I was born in Houston, raised in Victoria and have lived in Austin, TX for a couple of decades, off and on. I’m a licensed attorney and currently director of a statewide reproductive rights advocacy organization. I’m happily married and we have two dog “children” that are ridiculously spoiled and our great loves.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent? 
I don’t remember exactly when I first realized I didn’t want kids. When I was a teen, I remember saying this, but I also assumed I would have children because that’s just what happens: you meet a prince charming, fall in love, get married, have kids, live happily ever after. I had a very unrealistic and idealized vision of relationships and life, basically.
When I was in my mid-20s and married for the first time, that assumption was always there, but my desire wasn’t. It was something I figured maybe one day we’d get to, but we had plenty of time. And the marriage was short-lived. After that I had a couple of brief and turbulent relationships and as I approached 30, I started facing the possibility that maybe my life wouldn’t follow the mold of love-marriage-kids and I realized that was okay. Then it really dawned on me that not only was it okay, but I really didn’t want to have kids at all, ever. Still, I thought maybe there was something that could change – like I thought maybe I’d adopt or be a foster parent – but the thought of pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding was horrifying to me. I had no desire to procreate. None.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
Until maybe my mid-30’s, some family members would say, “Well, don’t you want a little Heather?” It was mostly my grandmother and a little bit my parents. One day I explained to my dad how I just didn’t have the biological desire to have kids and after that, it seems like the comments and questions stopped.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received? 
Nothing really sticks out. I guess I wasn’t overly outspoken about how I didn’t want to have kids, especially when I was younger (when people are more likely to pull out the “you’ll change your mind when you get older” line).

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate? 
No. Freaking. Way. I do not want to be pregnant, ever. Do not want to give birth. No way.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns? 
Mostly my ob/gyn experiences have been fairly positive. When I thought I might be experiencing perimenopause, my ob/gyn seemed to brush it off and just recommended I stay on the pill because I didn’t want to get pregnant, so it wasn’t an issue. Despite my disinterest in my fertility, I still wanted to know what was happening with my body and I dwelled on that visit until the following annual visit, when I insisted that I wanted to know. This time the doctor took the time to talk about the symptoms I was experiencing and she actually recommended I think about getting off the pill, which, as it turns out, was causing my issues.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all? 
I think there were bigger issues in my previous relationships, but all my long-term boyfriends are married with kids now. In my mid-30’s, I was concerned about dating and being able to find someone who was on the same page as me about no kids. I was somewhat okay with dating someone with kids from another relationship, as long as they didn’t want any with me. Fortunately, I met my husband and he wants kids even less than I do.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children? 
Although I haven’t gotten the pushback some others have gotten, it’s still been difficult. And I think that stigma is specific to those with uteruses – I don’t think men get the same pressure. But I think there’s still this nuclear family ideal, regardless of the genders of the parents. US society is definitely geared toward settling into a monogamous relationship and then rearing children. And those of us who choose a different path – especially females – are viewed as unnatural.
I don’t have the answer to what we could do to reduce that stigma. Maybe when someone gets married, don’t start asking them right away when they’re going to have kids or don’t ask women, regardless of marital status, when they’re going to have kids. It’s always “when,” not “if.” Don’t assume.
Also don’t assume that people who don’t want to have their own children won’t love and be wonderful with your own. Sometimes I feel like some of my friends just assume I wouldn’t be interested in being around them with their kids or that I’m not happy going to the playground or their child’s activities or birthday parties. I feel like I’m often written off, even if I express that I want to see them at a time and place that’s convenient for them. But still, the only invites I get from many of my friends with kids are on the rare occasion they actually make it out to a bar. I don’t expect them to conform to my life and only do “adults-only” activities with me, but they also don’t hear me when I say, “Hey, I want to be in your AND your children’s lives and I’ll come do your family thing.” I’m not in the club. I’m like a remnant of their pre-kids life. And it stings sometimes.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children? 
That we’ll change our mind.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption? 
I would consider adopting a gay or trans youth one day. And if something were to happen to a member of my family, I would take care of their children if asked.

Axe-WomanNT: Heterosexual, 31, First-American-born African, raised as Greek Orthodox Christian, California raised, college educated and works for a crisis hotline.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
Probably when I was a kid. I didn’t like how toys and games were gender biased/stereotypes. I didn’t want to play house and hated being assigned to be a “housewife and mommy”. Yo, I want to cut down the tree and make dining table or something. Plus, I’m the only girl (all brothers) and the baby of the family (over-protected/spoiled?).

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
They didn’t seem to care nor strongly encouraged me to reconsider. My mom is the only person that wants to see me have children, “At least one.” I respond back by telling her that my eggs are all dried up. She did not like that, ha.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Them: “Do you have children?” Me: “No.” Them: (grasp) “Why not? You’re beautiful, God wouldn’t make you a woman if he didn’t want you to have children.” Me: “You’re right, my body is a complete waste.” Them: (Puzzled face). Me: (walk away).

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I have several friends that want to have children (they have gone through unsuccessful IVF, adoption didn’t go through, dealing with health problems, etc). There is this one great friend of mine, when I see how much it means to her and her husband to have children, it makes me want to become one for them just to see them happy and give them to chance to experience parenthood because I know they will make great parents.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I am not sure what you are asking here… My experiences have been positive overall. The only time the discussion of becoming pregnant/preventing pregnancy comes up is when discussing birth control methods. I had to ask them about it by bringing it up otherwise they wouldn’t mention anything.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
I don’t like the pressure of having to be with someone just so we could have a family together. I’m okay not living in a house with white fence, having a dog name Spot, being an active PTA member at a school, baking cookies (I do like baking cookies though), etc. See #9

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I want to say leave us alone but that won’t work. Let us be. 🙂 I would say the focus should not be about having your own children to fit that “American Dream” concept. You can still be part of it in a non-traditional way.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
They think we’re selfish and do not want to carry on our family legacy.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I am not sure, I haven’t really given that much thought until you mentioned it. I’m already an aunt to 5 nieces and nephew and a godmother to three kids. No matter what happens, I know I will always have kids in my life.

jackalope1Lauren: I am a cis lesbian woman in my mid twenties and hanging out in Texas. I am white and had the privilege of going to school for Women’s and Gender Studies. Currently I work as a domestic violence advocate and hope to go back to school for a Master’s in Social Work. I dream of traveling, getting an amazing Texas/Ray Wylie Hubbard tattoo, and one day being the mother of the most amazing garden in Texas.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
In my last year of college I started realizing that it wasn’t a priority and became indifferent to the idea of having children. The two years following college I found myself not wanting children. I think that supporting myself and seeing what having a child costs just seemed too much. It wasn’t so much the financial cost as the emotional cost. I am a fan of lazy mornings, doing what I want when I want, and being able to freely move through life. I do not think I would be a great mom because the baby would take away lazy mornings, always being able to do what I want, and would make adventures more complex. Although I know I would love a kid if I had one, I think I would resent it. I want to have a life where I can travel and go on random day trips without having to worry about another human.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent? 
I haven’t had much push back from friends. I have been told by one person that as a woman I need to be a mother. That is just the nature of woman and men are the ones that can choose to have children or not. Obviously I disagreed with him. I have had a few friends say that I would be a great mother if I did want them. I have been told by older family members that they can hear my biological clock and that I am running out of time to have children. They want me to have babies within the next few years which is not going to happen.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
My friend telling me that women have babies and that men are the only ones that can decide not to have children. That is just sexism.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I am not cool with the idea of being pregnant and I am repulsed by the idea of carrying any baby. I just feel that is for someone else. With that said, I would do it for my sister if she needed it but that is family so it’s different.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Since I do not use birth control and I am a lesbian, I haven’t had any interactions with doctors and nurses about it.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
So far, it hasn’t impacted me. I have only had one long-term relationship and we were both indifferent to children. I wouldn’t get in a long-term relationship with someone who really wanted kids because it wouldn’t be right for both of us in the long run.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think a lot of the stigma has come from tradition. Women didn’t traditionally have the option to choose not to have children for the most part. As culture shifts to treat women as whole individuals capable of contributing to society outside of family life, I think the stigma will start to dissipate. I have read really great feminist blog posts discussing why some choose not to have kids. As more women speak up and more discussion takes place, I think it will become more accepted.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That we are being selfish by only thinking about what is right for us and what we want. We are also thinking about what it would be like too for our potential new children. Whether our lives wouldn’t allow us to provide the proper care or the sacrifices that come with being a parent would cause us to resent having children, the child would suffer.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
If something happened to my sister and I needed to adopt her kids, I would. Other than that, nope.

11141119_10205893493670173_2504422191590383001_n

Heath Davis: I am a 39 year old, genderqueer woman. I strongly identify as poly and queer, and I am in a committed poly relationship with my anchor (female, femme-identified) partner. I am also great friends with and dynamically supported by her female, femme-identified partner and her genderqueer partner. I am white, fat, able-bodied, non-Veteran, U.S. citizen, and have two Masters degrees (with zero intent of pursuing any more education). I work full-time as a librarian at a technical college in Kirkland, Washington. I grew up in a Baptist household in Southern Maryland and have run as far away from religion as possible. I have not identified a religion that resonates with me, but I do think of living in the city as its very own religion. I currently live in Seattle, Washington in the Columbia City neighborhood and Seattle is a place I can call home. I have a ten-pound Chihuahua/Min Pin mix and share my house with a lady queer couple, one is a massage therapist and the other is a plumber.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I realized I did not want to have children when I was in high school. I was routinely humiliated and bullied for being fat and having facial hair by various classmates and on the bus to/from school. I made a conscious decision at that time that did not want to bring a child into this world because I could not handle the emotional pain of watching my child go through anything even remotely similar. I didn’t feel like I was strong enough to be there for my children if/when this were to happen. I really wanted to have children when I was much younger, played with dolls, treated my dolls like they were actual babies, sat with and held the babies of other people in my Family of Origin. Another realization for me was that I didn’t want to have babies unless I was financially and emotionally stable to do so. I also wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted and go wherever I wanted, and having children seemed like a barrier to that.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
Mostly it has been a non-issue since I have surrounded myself (mostly) with other queer folks who don’t want to have children. When I came out to my parents my mother said something to the effect of: “Well that makes sense because you don’t want to have kids.” This was really damaging to hear, but corresponded to my own assumptions that I COULD NOT have children because I was queer. Among my friends they usually get that I don’t want to have kids. My family of origin has sort of given up and I usually get exoticized as the “weird one” or the person no one bothers to really get to know because my life is so strange to them and outside of the traditional layout of family.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
The response I got from my mother when I came out to my parents as queer: “Well that makes sense because you don’t want to have kids.” Well before this and when I was newly navigating the GLBTQ community in Washington, D.C. I attended a women’s group in Dupont Circle neighborhood and there was a question or someone brought up something about having children and I shared, “I’m queer because I don’t want to have children.” One of the facilitators for the group pointed out that those two things were not mutually exclusive and not all LGBTQ folks feel that way, in fact quite the opposite. That was a bit of a revelation for me.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I have thought about that in the past. I think if a friend or family of choice/origin person was not able to have children I would serve as a surrogate. I’ve thought about this in terms of my family of choice as well, where if one of them could not have children I would offer to carry the child, but that is a moot point since adoption would be the next available option.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I haven’t had any issues in my healthcare history. The one thing that has been HUGELY frustrating is discontinuing the conversation about reproductive and sexual health when I inform a medical professional that I am sexually active with women and queer folks. This has changed somewhat, and sometimes I’m not entirely sure if concerns for my medical treatment aren’t flagrantly disregarded because I am a fat woman (whereas I have heard stories from women with more normed body size and femme presenting detailing how medical professionals hound them about STDs and pregnancy when they tell them they are only sleeping with women). I was on birth control pills off and on for a few years throughout my 30s (mostly to regulate my very erratic periods) and I switched to an IUD in August 2012. There has never been any pushback on this and has been supported by the medical professionals with whom I have worked. I have thought about, but have never sought to have tubal ligation, but it is something I am thinking about. At my age (39 years old) I don’t anticipate I would have a problem getting this done.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
As far as past romantic relationships my decision to not procreate has had little to no impact on my romantic relationships. I was in committed relationships with two women who were not interested in having children at all. Pursuing relationships with other folks once I began poly dating served as a bit of a challenge, because it seemed like (at the time) too much to take on at one time (along with a relationship). All of that said, at this time I am in a poly relationship/family structure where there is committed desire to building a large family that will include up to three children. How this will roll out is still in discussion, but there is talk of my partner carrying a child and/or adopting children. My decision to not have children did impact this relationship with my partner greatly since this is something she and her partner wanted and didn’t know how I would fit into that. I’ve flexed on my resolve to not have children because I feel like the family of choice I am in with my partner and her partner and her partner’s partner is committed to working through hard things and is deeply committed to each other and all of the members of that unit. It gets more and more solid everyday and my fears around stability and security for co-parenting and raising a child are mitigated by the love and solidity each of these people brings.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
One thing that has been truly damaging is the discourse in US society that myself and others who actively choose not to become pregnant or have children are somehow self-centered/selfish. The idea is that I’m so overly focused on myself and my own needs, material wants, desire for a child-free life, independence, freedom, sexual autonomy, you name it. I think this kind of thinking/stigma in US society is extremely sexist and the same concerns are not lobbed at men. No one thinks twice when a man doesn’t want to have children (or at the very least there is not as much of an extreme focus on it). The self-centered/selfish piece that I have been privy too in family conversations is particularly harmful because there seems to be a disconnect (for me) between making absolutely certain I can function and take care of myself before I bring another life into this world. As well, I view the choice to have children as just as self-centered/selfish as choosing to not have them. A child is (or will be) imprinted with your image and world view, and will be brought up to carry the same values and principles as the parent(s). There are lots of aspects of pregnancy and having children that is deeply inspiring and promotes growth and deepening commitments (to family, to the world), but I give a lot of side eye to anyone who tells me I am selfish for not wanting to have children. I think the only way to erase the stigma against women who don’t want to have children (and some women physically can’t have children and there is so much stigma and feelings around this) is to burn down the patriarchy and end sexism, allow women to be whatever the fuck they want. If they want to be mothers: GREAT! If they want to not have children and pursue their careers: YOU DO YOU.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
See selfish/self-centered statement above. I would add that it is someone’s responsibility to have children (and this is disproportionately the burden of women). Thinking this about me and other women flattens their experience and the richness of women making empowering choices for themselves. Many women are perfectly happy to not have children.
Note: I recognize my perspective on this is deeply rooted in my own privileges and comes from a very white, able-bodied, high socioeconomic class.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
See answer to question 6. I love my partner and my family of choice and I am relaxing my decision to not have children because there will be a family of (at least) four to support and lend hands in the raising of children. This alone makes me want to have children because there are multiple levels of support (and doesn’t even take into consideration very close friends who will also be a part of this support). The possibility doesn’t seem daunting to me and if my child comes home from school and has been bullied for one reason or another if I’m not emotionally ready or stable for that interaction there are at least three other people who are. This is the children/babies/pregnancy I’d like to see and am excited to contribute to.

11292902_10155628670165066_1725876614_nPatricia Sánchez: I am a woman who does not feel comfortable with identifying in an exclusive sexual orientation, since I believe that it should be me who defines my sexuality, according to what I decide to feel in the moment, rather than to be defined by my sexuality instead. I am 37 years old, Latin American, able, living in Colima, Mexico. I’ve been an atheist for about ten years now. I have a Master of Arts in Gender and Peace Building and work as a journalist in my country. I’m currently living in Mexico and visiting Houston, Texas as an occasional tourist.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I realized I didn’t want to have children about a year ago. The reason I don’t want to parent is because I don’t find a reason why I should. I don’t feel a maternal urge to have children, and have no problem with being with myself and my partner in solitude for the rest of our/my life. Having children would complicate my life so much that this would stop being mine and be completely of them, and this is something that I don’t wish to give up.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
My parents respect whatever I choose to do with my life or my body, but some distant relatives still bring the question up every now and then.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Offers of sex, or even semen, from some male friends that believe that my decision originates from not having a boyfriend. They never saw their offerings as an offense, but as a heartfelt gift.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I don’t have any interest in going through motherhood in any way, but I respect women who would do it for someone else. What I have problems with is with the fact that most women who would be surrogates are from undeveloped countries, that have huge necessities and are used as cheap vessels for couples from developed countries.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
I’ve been suggested to preserve my eggs by some reproductive healthcare providers, to have the option if I change my mind later in life.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
It didn’t have any effect, but I believe this should be a conversation couples should have from the beginning of their relationship, so they know they are in the same boat together.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I don’t have enough experience living in the U.S. to have an opinion on what Americans feel like about people who don’t want to have children, but I think that any stigma created about women who don’t want to have children is originated from the social construction of women as mothers, not as people with the option to become mothers or not. As Françoise Héritier mentioned in one of her books, “to use mother in the place of woman, implies assigning her a single function that nullifies the person within her.”

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
That they are making a mistake that will regret later in life, because our role in the society is to reproduce. This actually is a religious construction that is putting too much pressure over the world’s natural resources.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I don’t think so.

DSC00373Feminist Activist (aka Heather): I am a 30 year-old white, polyamorous, bisexual, currently nondisabled, atheist cis-woman from a small town in Northern California. I live in Austin, Texas with my monogamous cis-male partner of… gosh, 7? years and am employed full-time. I’ve never been married or in the military. I have a BA in Women’s Studies, Spanish and Linguistics and an MA in Gender & Peacebuilding… and I might be ready for more school soon. I LOVE to travel, learn languages and talk to people.

1. When did you first realize, know, or accept that you do not want to have children? What makes you not want to parent?
I never played will dolls as a kid and once my sister was born when I was five I begrudgingly played “house” with her, but aside from a few times when my partners’ half-desires to have children of their own clouded my judgement, I have never truly wanted to parent. I love the idea of naming a child, and have talked about how “if I was gonna do it” I would want twins, a boy and a girl, so I could raise them as gender-neutrally as humanly possible. But it’s totally unfair to have children for a sociology experiment. And even though I would be a great mother, it would be super unfair for me and the children if they started out life unwanted. There are so, so many things that make me not want to parent, I don’t think seeing how the experiment would turn out could ever outweigh the emotional, physical, financial, temporal and especially environmental factors that have shaped my decision.

2. How have close friends or family reacted when they learned you do not want to parent?
Most of the people I choose to surround myself with accept that I’m extremely liberal and feminist, and respect my right to choose if and when to procreate or not. I haven’t actually told my grandparents I don’t want kids–they may be too old to handle the shock. I’m the only woman in my family who has never been pregnant though, so there are lots of babies around. My partner though is his mother’s only child, and his grandmother’s only grandchild, so I think they still hope he’ll have kids. My dad still holds out hope that I’ll pass on his genes, telling me I have a responsibility to reproduce even though he waited until his late 30s to start. I told my mom I don’t want kids in a really roundabout way, hemming and hawing about how hard and expensive it is to raise kids, how I’ve seen what she and my grandparents and my sister have had to sacrifice, etc. until she said to me “Honey, you don’t have to have kids if you don’t want to,” and the whole weight of the world lifted from my shoulders.

3. What is the most interesting or offensive reaction you’ve received?
Now that I’m “past my prime” baby-making years I don’t get told as often that I’m going to change my mind, which is nice. When my 15 year-old sister had my incredible nephew when I was 20 and I was holding him for the first time my grandfather chuckled at me “Practicing, eh?” and I remember my stomach dropping. My partner’s mother, when I called her this year to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day, told me she hoped she could say the same to me soon–yikes! Most reactions I’ve had so far haven’t been offensive so much as people have been sad for me or lamented the fact that people who would be awesome parents choose not to have kids, but the women who tell younger women “When you’re X years old your clock is going to start ticking, you’ll change your mind,” infuriate me.

4. How would you feel about being a surrogate?
I included this question mostly to see how other uterus-owners feel about it, because I am entirely torn. One one hand I am completely fascinated by the idea of carrying a pregnancy to term and going through childbirth as a physio-social connection to all women throughout time who have carried on the human race. I would do the whole natural, midwife/doula childbirth thing, if possible. But I would have to be sure I was handing the kid off to someone/people who would raise it as gender-neutrally as possible, so there’s that. On the other hand all of the women in my family have hellacious all-day every day of pregnancy “morning” sickness, and I hate to vomit, so it’s unlikely.

5. What has your experience with reproductive healthcare been like? Have you ever had pushback from a healthcare provider over your reproductive healthcare choices or concerns?
Having been a reproductive healthcare provider for years I had the privilege of being able to pull my Nurse Practitioner aside whenever I wanted to ask questions about birth control. I’ve been the proud owner of three Nexplanon and will probably get another one next year. Before then Planned Parenthood was always where it was at, and just like any other franchise service, some experiences were better than others. I will say this, no matter how many times your provider rolls their eyes or tells you it’s unnecessary, if you want STI testing of any kind done, demand it. You are the one who has to live in your body so don’t be afraid to push for what you need.

6. How has your decision not to procreate affected your romantic relationships, if at all? How do you think it could affect future relationships, if at all?
It’s funny, my partner is one of the reasons I ever considered having kids, because when we got together he said one day he’d like to have his own offspring. I was totally against it at the time. As time went on I was more open to the idea but the pendulum swung and HE was the one who didn’t want kids. My partner is the last male with his surname, so I do feel a twinge of can’t-let-that-history/heritage-die, but he doesn’t at all, so I guess I’m off the hook. If his sister decides to procreate I may encourage her to give the kid their last name so I won’t have to worry about it. Luckily now my partner and I are on the same page that parenting is not for us.

7. What kind of stigma do you feel US society has created for people who could get pregnant but don’t want to? What do you think would help reduce the stigma for folks who don’t want to get pregnant/have children?
I think the stigma of being fertile and not having children is really closely linked to slut-shaming. Women are still berated for controlling our own bodies, sexuality and fertility. But the stigma is gradually reducing, and the more we all share our explanations of why we don’t want children I think the more society will understand. What I want to hear more of is people of color who have uteri and don’t want to procreate because, like this piece unfortunately, most of what we hear is from college educated white women. For me even if there was paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, excellent schools and socialized healthcare, I still don’t think I would want to parent, but those things would give people who do want to parent a chance to be the kind of parents children deserve.

8. What is one thing people get wrong about folks who choose not to get pregnant/have children?
What I always find missing from the conversation is that having a child is not a selfless act. People choose to have children for all kinds of awful reasons, and their motives are rarely questioned. The biggest factor for me in choosing not to have children is I don’t believe humanity can sustain life on this planet with how destructive we are, and I wouldn’t want my offspring (no matter how many generations down the line it may be) to bear the brunt of the end of the world as we know it. And as scared of death as I am for myself I can’t imagine the overwhelming fear or reality of losing a child.

9. Do you think there is anything that would make you *want* to have children, whether through your body or adoption?
I can’t think of anything specific that would make me want to have french fries in my backseat and to wipe snot and/or vomit off of every article of clothing I own. And even though genetics is supposed to take the “best genes” from both parents, what if the kid is a combination of our worst genes–illnesses, physical attributes, personality flaws? Plus you can be an awesome parent and still have your kid turn out to be a murderer…. Fostering and/or adopting an older kid isn’t 100% out of the question though, in the unlikely event I ever feel like settling down. And like Lauren and Heather if my sister’s kids needed a home I would absolutely change my life for them.

Hungry for more? Check out these 25 famous women on being child-free.

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Love ‘Em All: A Bisexuality-Affirming Playlist

March, in addition to being Women’s History Month, is also Bisexual Health Awareness Month. Bisexuals (pan/poly/omnisexuals et al.) of all genders face discrimination and health issues at rates way beyond monosexuals of any gender. If you want to check out #BiHealthMonth and some of the depressing statistics you can do that here. To combat all the shit bisexuals deal with I wanted to make a playlist of songs (in precisely zero order)–interspersed with art–that affirm bisexuality, whether they are performed by bisexual artists or not, so get your sewing circle together and enjoy!

Bi Cartoon

Some Days, Some Other Days by Jesus Loves Lesbians, Too

Rhythm by Tamara de Lempicka (1924)

Rhythm by Tamara de Lempicka (1924)

Las Dos Fridas by Frida Kahlo (1939)

Las Dos Fridas by Frida Kahlo (1939)

Fwew! That’s a lot of music to soothe, energize, and delight your bi little souls. What other songs would you add? Which musicians am I missing? Let me know in the comments, and here’s an infographic for your troubles. Be safe, be well!

BHAM 3 ts to safer sex


February: the Pinnacle of Intersectionality

For being the shortest month of the year February certainly packs a lot into its 28 days. I apologize in advance if some of this is discombobulated. Of course February is Black History Month, and it’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and a time for LBGTQAI+ visibility. So how do all of these factors interact? I’m glad you asked! Unfortunately the data on dating abuse amongst black queer youth is practically non-existent, so that’s something to get on before next February rolls around. Here’s a quick primer on why feminists need to talk about race (as if Black Feminists haven’t been), and a good list of books covering race, gender, sexuality, class and culture. Don’t tell me you’re colorblind either.

health relationshipsFebruary started off with 68 survivors of human trafficking being rescued before the Super Bowl, including sixteen teens between ages 13-17, with epic timing the nation’s first home for sex trafficked boys also broke ground this month. Of young Queer people who have sex for survival a startling 89% identify as people of color, with homelessness amongst Queer youth being a leading cause of needing to trade sex for food or shelter. Transwomen are especially likely to be targeted in prostitution stings, even if they are not actually sex workers. Even though transgender folks can safely use long-term hormones and can no longer be discriminated against in receiving help from federally funded shelters, the Ali Forney Center in NYC for homeless LGBT youth remains a rare safe haven.

Additionally rates of abuse and domestic violence in Queer relationships have increased, but help for Queer folks seeking shelter hasn’t. Here you can check out some things that make abuse and domestic violence invisible in the Queer community. And while reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence is low in most communities the fear of reporting is confounded by systems of racial and class bias, making Asian-Americans are very unlikely to report either. Luckily the newest (and second in history) Asian-American TV comedy Fresh Off the Boat has already tackled how to teach consent, and it was funny! In other domestic violence news NASCAR has suspended Kurt Busch indefinitely for violence he allegedly committed against his girlfriend in September. Abusers who strangle their partners are twice as likely to kill them, so to see NASCAR react in such a responsible way is refreshing.

#BlackLivesMatter, a movement that started more than three years ago with the murder of Trayvon Martin and was fueled by Ferguson, churns forward with San Francisco’s Queer #BlackLivesMatter Action today in the Castro, and Americans across the nation waking up to realize the Prison-Industrial Complex is a terrible idea. While the police in this country are killing more people than ever–unidentified womenveterans, Queer Latina girls, black boys, Native Americans, black women–Trayvon Martin’s murderer (like so many other killers who start with violence against the women in their lives) seems invincible.

Zimmerman Always Arrested AliveWhile trans visibility is becoming more of a reality and some women’s colleges are adjusting their admitting policies, the sickening rate of murder of trans women this year has been overwhelming. You can donate here to Sumaya Dalmar’s legacy. And while young people are more likely to see gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, trans kids are apparently ruining the bathroom situation for everyone else *massive eye roll* and high schoolsuniversities, and Indiana are still discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Kids throughout the Queer community are also committing suicide at alarming rates, which is one reason visibility matters. Hopefully something from the 2015 Rainbow List of books for Queer young people will help, and efforts like Transforming Gender and these photo essays on transgender elders can show young people that life after 25 is possible, for some.

leelah-alcorn-suicide noteNative American children have also been committing suicide at terrifying rates, and were showered in racial slurs and beer at a hockey game this month too. But Native American Queers are reclaiming history in pushing for marriage equality, and Native American women are reclaiming history in A Thousand VoicesDiane Humetewa made history this month as the first Native American woman appointed as a federal judge and other Native Americans are fighting back against assimilation in their own ways, quietly, everyday.

Black women in both the anti-racism movement and the unfortunately often separate white feminist movement are doing amazing things this year, like creating #WeAreBlackHistory, running companies in corporate America, sharing thoughts on being black women writers, launching the “Because of Them We Can” photo essay, examining the state of black girls in education and juvenile justice systems, spearheading the Manhood Development Program for black boys, defending their hair and their culture with nothing but class, dropping the mic on rape culture, and superimposing bell hooks quotes over 90s pictures. Check out a discussion on wage equality, glass ceilings and interracial dating here.

Here are some of the black feminist authors and Queer Black Women you should know, and here is an A-Z children’s book of Radical American Women, and a short history of four Queer African BAMFs. Here is an amazing Black woman scientist. Black girls are making history too, in sports, and in education. And an African-American military history museum in Mississippi is honoring women veterans through March in honor of both Black History and Women’s History months. Here you can take a look at what has and hasn’t changed for African Americans since segregation was law.

Catwoman-bi.0

Catwoman, like these badasses, is a bisexual woman of color now! And everyone is talking about her. High school girls are also talking about the subject of slut-shaming, and even though ridiculous violations of girls’ privacy are apparently legal and politicians don’t seem to understand sexual assault girls understand #TheresNoPerfectVictim. Twitter admits that they “suck at dealing with abuse” but the social media giant can do good, with #50ShadesOfAbuse spurring a movement to give to local domestic violence agencies.

President Obama’s immigration reform actions, expansion of FMLA, and creation of a Special Envoy for LGBT Human Rights have been good, but not enough. Freeing transwomen–hell, all women–from immigration detention centers, and granting amnesty to the women and girls fleeing violence, child marriage and abuse around the world is the right thing to do. New York is also finally doing the right thing by putting a stop to asking about students’ immigration status in admittance paperwork.

Although science has made massive leaps in reproductive technologies which benefit everyone, including the Queer community, Latinas are still dying from breast cancer at an alarming rate. Some thoughts on being Afro-latin@ address intersectionality in race and class that can compound discrimination in healthcare. Here are a few Latinas making history today.

10616064_812322468823418_3635888886299626207_nOne hand washes the other as some politicians are pushing for college campuses to take action against sexual violence while students are lobbying for a bill which would educate young people about sexual violence. Indiana is also in the news this month for punishing a(nother!) Asian-American woman for having a miscarriage. Want to hear black voices in the Reproductive Justice Movement? They’ve always been here, it’s time we stop silencing them.

Reproductive Justice is the term created by black women in 1994 to bridge the gap between reproductive rights and other social justice movements. Reproductive Justice, the human right to not have children, to have children, to parent the children one has in healthy environments and the human right to bodily autonomy and to express one’s sexuality freely, insists that we see abortion and reproductive health in the larger context of the overall health and wellness of women, our families and our communities. – Monica Raye Simpson, SisterSong

Female Genital Mutilation, a clear violation of human rights and good medicine, is a problem that’s not usually discussed in an American context, unfortunately that’s probably because it’s more likely to happen to immigrant women of color. This new law book on reproductive justice is the first of its kind and shockingly a Texan politician is pushing for medically accurate sexual health education in the Lone Star State, because as we learned in Colorado, it works. And we’ve talked about them before, but we really don’t need a reason to push the Native Youth Sexual Health Network‘s awesomeness on you, but Teen DV Awareness Month is a good excuse. Here’s a coming of age film centered on black girls for you and a short film history on Arab feminism, because after reading through all that’s happened this month, you deserve it.


Reflections on Being an Abortion Provider

After well over two years with Austin Women’s Health Center providing abortion care and reproductive healthcare to the women of Texas I learned many lessons I’d like to share with you, dear reader, and to leave for myself as a reminder why I must always remain in the fight for Reproductive Justice and bodily autonomy. It was a lot to learn, and will be a lot to take in, so bear with me.

AWHC

Austin Women’s Health Center

  1. All women have abortions. Every age. Every race. Every religion. Every class. Every marital status. Every sexual orientation. Every ability. Every education level. Everyone has abortions. Period.
  2. If someone does not want to be pregnant she will go to extreme lengths, even risking her health or life, to terminate the pregnancy. All the ridiculous laws do is make it more difficult for women to obtain a safe, timely abortion.
  3. October 3rd 2014 was the worst day of my life. On that day my colleagues and I were forced to call, and face, patients who had scheduled abortion procedures with us to tell them the state of Texas would not allow it. We referred them to what was (and could be) the only provider in Austin-Planned Parenthood, and providers in San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. It was utterly heartbreaking and many times many of us erupted into tears alongside our patients, because even though we were not the ones needing an abortion, we were also furious that Texas had allowed this to happen.20130712_195121
  4. While the cost of an abortion in Austin this year has gone up for the first time since the 1970s, the $600-1,200 it costs to have an ultrasound and terminate a pregnancy is insurmountable for so many individuals and families.
  5. Many, many women have more than one abortion. And that’s totally ok.
  6. A majority of women who have abortions already have children. They get it, they know how emotionally, physically and financially draining parenting is.
  7. The range of emotions around abortion is as varied as the human experience. For some women their abortion is the most difficult, tragic thing they have ever done; for others the idea of being pregnant is laughable and therefore their easy decision comes with overwhelming relief. I’ve learned that people who have abortions feel like they don’t have the right to grieve because they are choosing to end their pregnancies. This is just so wrong on so many levels. There is no “should” when it comes to emotions.
  8. Women expect to be treated like shit by their healthcare providers, both their abortion provider and their regular doctor, because they chose abortion.20130701_112707
  9. It takes an especially thick skin, a sick sense of humor, and a fierce passion to be an abortion provider, whether you’re “just answering phones” or the MD performing the surgery.
  10. All people deserve quality healthcare from providers who respect their choices and their knowledge of what is best for themselves, their families and their lives.
  11. Adoption is not an alternative to abortion. Adoption is an alternative to parenting. A huge number of women who have abortions do so because they do not want to be pregnant.
  12. The smallest bit of kindness, whether from healthcare providers, from friends or family, or just in general conversations about abortion, can make a huge difference to someone facing an unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy. Try compassion, I promise, you’ll like it.
  13. A majority of folks who have abortions were using birth control when they got pregnant. I’ve talked to patients using every single kind of birth control from the pill to vasectomy.
  14. Don’t trust doctors who tell you that you cannot get (someone) pregnant. The human body is an incredible thing and folks who were told that their endometriosis or bike accident as a kid meant they would never have children can and do. Tubal ligation and vasectomies can and do heal. The only way for sexually active folks to prevent all pregnancy is to only engage in homosexual sex. Now if only we could prevent rape….
  15. The Republican Party does not care about women’s health, nor respect our individual autonomy as human beings, therefore if someone votes Republican they are saying that they too do not care about human rights. If you think that women deserve to make their own medical choices, that all consenting adults have the right to marry whomever they love, and that education and medical care should be prioritized over border patrol and prisons, it’s time to vote with your conscience.Where are the women
  16. Laws restricting abortion, birth control, cancer screenings and access to general reproductive healthcare are not really about women’s health given that abortion is one of the safest procedures in the country. Hell, they’re not even about abortion, or god, or the church, they’re about greed. Forcing women to give birth to children they cannot afford ensures a cheap labor force by perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This ties into for-profit prison systems, lack of solid public education, etc. The whole thing is disgusting.
  17. Women trust their doctors… and the internet. Factual, reliable, medically accurate information around abortion and its risks is not easily accessible, especially when doctors are forced by the state to lie to their patients.
  18. Women who have abortions for medical reasons are generally truly heartbroken. They are not looking for understanding or blessings from the Religious Right but silence would be appreciated.
  19. Protesters just piss people off. With the exception of umpires, referees and prison guards I can’t think of any other profession where people are yelled at and have their lives threatened just for doing their jobs.1469799_780493158693927_3089968049188411259_n
  20. A huge number of anti-choice protesters and outspoken opponents of abortion have had abortions!
  21. Most patients who choose to view their fetal tissue after a surgical (machine vacuum aspiration) abortion are shocked by it. Early in the pregnancy, under 9-10 weeks or so, they are shocked by how small it is. Later in the pregnancy they are shocked by what they can identify. As we know many of the photos of fetuses that end up in protesters’ signs were late-term miscarriages so don’t think that at 12 weeks you’re dealing with a newborn, but being able to identify appendages and facial features is normal. Viewing the tissue is an incredibly personal decision, and one that most patients don’t even consider, but anyone reading this who is going to have an abortion, I strongly encourage you to ask yourself what it is you’re hoping to gain from viewing the tissue, and prepare yourself for what you might see.
  22. The medical abortion, abortion pill, Mifeprex, Mifepristone, RU-486, Misoprostal, Cytotec or Cyto–whatever you want to call it–is a long, drawn out process for many people. I would not choose it unless a surgical abortion was unobtainable but for many people, this very safe, very effective method of termination is the preferred choice. For women who live in places where abortion is illegal or practically unobtainable Cyto may be a lifesaver.
  23. The ONLY good thing about a mandatory waiting period and Texas’ requirement that the same doctor who will perform the abortion is the one who does the ultrasound is that it gives patients a chance to meet the staff and the doctor and take some of that initial fear of the unknown away.20130701_122950
  24. Many women do want to see their ultrasound, some even want a copy of it. There are medical reasons for ultrasound dating of the pregnancy, but politicians want to force women to have –and view– vaginal ultrasounds to embarrass, humiliate and shame them. Does humiliating someone into becoming a parent sound like a good idea to anyone?
  25. The sentimentality around getting “a picture of the baby” and the fetal “heartbeat” are overwhelming. We forget, or were purposely never taught, that a single cell can beat like a heart in a petri dish, so the idea that a five-week embryo has a “heartbeat” does not mean what politicians want us to think it means.
  26. LMP vs. conception: When dating the pregnancy the doctor want to know when the FIRST day of a woman’s last menstrual period was, thus LMP. Doctors date pregnancy from this point, not from when a patient thinks conception was, because the date of sex ≠ the date the egg was fertilized. Sperm can live in the human body for up to three days, that’s why Plan B can be taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex (but seriously the sooner you take it the more effective it is!). Therefore when your doctor tells you that the pregnancy is measuring 6 weeks and zero days, that means roughly one month from intercourse. And at that point the embryo is about the size of a single grain of rice.
  27. Most people feel the need to justify their decisions to the staff at abortion clinics because there is so much stigma around abortion. While I love hearing people’s stories, and they all matter, why you’re having an abortion is none of my business, all I need to know is that you don’t want to be pregnant right now.Bedsider-Birth-Control-Effectiveness-Poster
  28. Women will always have abortions. BIRTH CONTROL WILL FAIL, partners will change their minds or leave or die, pregnant folks will change their minds, illness will come up, jobs will go away, partners will be abusive, etc. Even for women who planned to get pregnant, things can and do and will always come up that make continuing the pregnancy a non-option. Abortion will always be a necessity.
  29. I want science to figure out a way to put a pause button on pregnancy. Of course if the pregnancy is with the wrong person or there are health reasons or if someone simply doesn’t want children pausing it won’t do any good, but if someone just wants to finish school, or get ahead in their career, or make enough money to pay for diapers, being able to pause the pregnancy could reduce the number of abortions.20130701_111334
  30. No one gets pregnant to have an abortion.
  31. Not wanting to be pregnant, or not wanting to parent, or not wanting to be pregnant or parent *right now* does not make you a bad person. Sometimes… a lot of the time, abortion is the responsible choice.

Day 16 of 16 Days of Activism: Nigeria

#Day16 of #16Days–our final exploration of resources around the world for those affected by gender-based violence–leads us to Nigeria. Thankfully the resources available to folks facing violence and discrimination in Nigeria are much more plentiful than yesterday’s exploration of The Bahamas! Unfortunately these resources are much-needed as statistics show that at least one of every three women in Nigeria suffers from domestic violence and in some areas even physical violence against one’s spouse is not considered a crime. As many as 56% of women in parts of Nigeria are also subjected to female genital mutilation-FGM.

International non-governmental organizations, like Pathfinder International and CEDPA, are working in Nigeria to provide reproductive and maternal healthcare due to the astronomical rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. Nationally the Women’s Rights and Health Project engages “community leaders, policy makers, religious/traditional leaders and other stakeholder[s] in the promotion of women’s rights and health.” Their “Gender Based Violence programme is a comprehensive rights and health intervention which engages community based social structures in mitigation, prevention and control, access to Justice for survivors and general support.” They offer counseling services to young couples, provide marriage counseling, and referral services, and hold workshops and training in

  • HIV/AIDS prevention and control
  • Planning and implementation of community level interventions
  • Economic empowerment
  • Gender sensitization and awareness
  • Leadership for community women
  • Conflict Resolution and Management
Prof J. Odey facilitating a Focus Group Discussion with representatives of Women’s Groups at CIRDDOC Community Information Centre, Ikwo

Prof J. Odey facilitating a Focus Group Discussion with representatives of Women’s Groups at CIRDDOC Community Information Centre, Ikwo

The Civil Resource Development and Documentation Centre (CIRDDOC) “is an independent, non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation established in 1996 for the protection and promotion of human rights and women’s human rights and the strengthening of civil society. CIRDDOC is also committed to the institutionalization of good governance, gender equality and the rule of law in Nigeria.” Through public outreach, training, capacity building, the media, seminars, conferences, research, public hearings, civic education, counseling, advocacy, litigation, advice on budgeting and MANY other projects CIRDDOC hopes

  • To promote human rights, women’s rights, gender equality, and good governance.
  • To facilitate access to justice and the rule of law.
  • To build capacity of civil society to demand accountability from leaders and policy makers.
  • To facilitate networking, collaboration and partnerships among civil society organisations, and between government and civil society organisations.
The Gender and Transformative Leadership Training in Nigeria from WOCON

The Gender and Transformative Leadership Training in Nigeria from WOCON

The Women’s Consortium of Nigeria holds a United Nations special Consultative Status for their work to enhance the status of women and their commitment to “related feminist goals and ideals.” They focus on human trafficking (in women and children), gender violence, civic education, grassroots advocacy, conferences and meetings, and political empowerment. They also offer a number of resources and explain how you can help. The aim of their work is

  • To monitor the implementation of Women’s Rights for the attainment of equal status of women in all aspects of social political and economic development within the community and the nation at large.
  • To organise and establish resource centres from which individual and organisations committed to feminist goals can share space equipments facilities and information on women issue or matters.
  • To monitor and ensure the implementation of all commitments made by Government Bodies and Agencies through conventions charters regulations geared towards the welfare and enhancement of the status of women.
  • To educate the public on the rights of women and the means of enforcing such rights for the achievement of equality, development and peace.
  • To co-operate with National and International NGO’s and agencies by networking and co-alligning for the achievement of specific goals for the welfare and development of women.
  • To set up temporary abode for distressed girls and women including battered women and to prepare such girls and women psychologically be counseling and other forms of therapy and education for a re-orientation towards attaining a better and more purposeful life in the society.
  • To work for peace Women’s Rights and economic and social justice.

Regionally the West African Women’s Rights Coalition and in Nigeria WACOL– WomenAid Collective, was formed “to promote and advocate for the rights of women in the West African Sub Region using the African Union mechanisms, in particular the African Commission and ECOWAS.” They “are dedicated and committed to helping women and young people in need,” and envision “A democratic society free from violence and abuse where Human Rights of all, especially Women and young people are recognised in law and practice.” They provide shelter and legal aid to those affected by abuse and offer free legal aid hotlines at: 042-303333, 09-2340647, 084-572948 +234-0704-761-837, and +234-0704-761-839. 

seyi law

Project Alert on Violence Against Women opened the first battered women’s shelter in Nigeria, Sophia’s Place, back in 2001. In addition to shelter they offer legal aid and counseling services. Other work focuses on research and documentation and human rights education. They can be reached by phone at 234-1-8209387, 08052004698, and 08180091072, and by email at projectalert@projectalertnig.org and info@projectalertnig.org. Check out their blog here and join the conversation on Twitter with #speakupendabuse. 

So many inspirational organizations exist in Nigeria and around the world that are striving everyday to end gender-based violence. The message of today’s International Human Rights Day is #HumanRights365 because everyone deserves all their human rights every single day of the year. It’s truly been my pleasure to virtually travel the globe as your tour guide over these past 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence! If you or someone you know needs help escaping abuse what we’ve learned is that it’s imperative you speak up. There is help- it’s here.


Day 15 of 16 Days of Activism: The Bahamas

#Day15 of #16Days focuses on another Caribbean country, the islands of The Bahamas. Shockingly 45% of all homicides in the 20 years leading up to 2012 could be attributed to domestic violence in the islands. The government, under the Ministry of Social Services, does operate the Bureau of Women’s Affairs which presumably handles the Assistance for Persons Experiencing Domestic Violence where assistance is free to those who are willing to comply with the eligibility requirements: willingness to attend and participate in counseling and “willingness to share information.”

The government also offers community development like support groups and classes for the disabled in Braille and sign language, counseling, rehab and welfare services including rent assistance and discounted daycare. A two-day Symposium on Gender Equality and the Law in The Bahamas was held in September of this year, yet a constitutional referendum has been ongoing since 2002 to try to make citizenship laws and gender equality in The Bahamas more in line with the 21st Century. You can find a document outlining laws in The Bahamas regarding sexual assault and domestic violence here.

Men too

Of note is the legal definition of spousal rape: “Any person who has sexual intercourse with his spouse without the consent of the spouse —
(a) where there is in existence in relation to them — (i) a decree nisi of divorce; (ii) a decree of judicial separation; (iii) a separation agreement; or (iv) an order of a court for the person not to molest or co-habit with his spouse, or any other order made under Part II; or
(b) where the person has notice that a petition for judicial separation, divorce or nullity of marriage has been presented to a court, is guilty of the offence of sexual assault by spouse and liable to imprisonment for a term of fifteen years.” Yet the sentence for “unnatural connection with any animal” is twenty years….

According to the US Department of State 2013 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in The Bahamas “The law does not provide women with the same right as men to transmit citizenship to their foreign-born spouses. The law also makes it easier for men with foreign spouses than for women with foreign spouses to transmit citizenship to their children but more difficult for unmarried men (even if able to prove paternity). The law does not include gender as a basis for protection from discrimination. Women were generally free of economic discrimination, and the law provides for equal pay for equal work.” Additionally, pregnant girls in state-run schools are removed and put into special programs until after they give birth, and “The legal minimum age for marriage is 18, although girls may marry at 16 and boys at 17 with parental permission.”

There is no specific law protecting persons with physical or mental disabilities from discrimination in employment, education, access to health care, or the provision of other state services. Provisions in other legislation address the rights of persons with disabilities, including a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. Although the law mandates access for persons with physical disabilities in new public buildings, authorities rarely enforced this requirement, and very few buildings and public facilities were accessible to persons with disabilities. Advocates for persons with disabilities complained of widespread job discrimination and general apathy on the part of private employers and political leaders toward the need for training and equal opportunity. In one case authorities denied access to public educational facilities for a mentally sound child with only physical limitations confining him to a wheelchair.

Societal discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals occurred, with some persons reporting job and housing discrimination based upon sexual orientation. Although same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal, the law defines the age of consent for same-sex couples as 18, compared with 16 for heterosexual couples. No domestic legislation addresses the human rights concerns of LGBT persons. LGBT NGOs can openly operate in the country. The 2006 Constitutional Review Commission found that sexual orientation did not deserve protection against discrimination. LGBT NGOs reported that LGBT persons faced some discrimination in employment, and victims were frustrated at the lack of legal recourse.

Stigma and employment discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS were high, but there were no reports of violence against persons with HIV/AIDS. Children with HIV/AIDS also faced discrimination, and authorities often did not tell teachers that a child was HIV-positive for fear of verbal abuse from both educators and peers. The government maintained a home for orphaned children infected with HIV/AIDS.

All Saints Camp claims to be a refuge for those affected by HIV/AIDS in The Bahamas but the US Human Rights Report cited deplorable conditions and extremely substandard care. Their Facebook page argues that they do not have access to government funding but through the generosity of donors “the daily life at ASC has become worth living on a very very basic level – to maintain this goal is a constant and revolving challenge for all involved.”

Bahamas Crisis Centre

The Bahamas Crisis Centre is not easy to find online, and their Facebook page doesn’t offer a lot of insight either, but they do operate a 24/7 hotline at 242-328-0922. It’s difficult to gauge how active they are currently but it looks like they have participated in a number of community events from toy drives for children at Christmas, to their Silent Witness Campaign to Take Back the Night. They and others throughout the Caribbean are listed here under Caribbean Crisis Centres and Women’s NGOs. Similarly elusive is the Bahamas LGBT Equality Advocates, or BLEA, but it is unclear what their role is or how they go about advancing equality.

Silent Witness

Unfortunately for a country facing incredible amounts of gender-based violence and general inequality there are few organizations or resources there to help. Let’s hope the situation in Nigeria–for the last day of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence–is less bleak.


Day 14 of 16 Days of Activism: Belize

From the multicultural islands of Singapore we head to the equally multicultural, albeit exponentially smaller, Central American country of Belize for #Day14 of #16Days. With an estimated 340,000 people in its borders statistics on Belize are much simpler to attain than many countries. One shelter in Belize sees 40-50 walk-in clients per month. A 1998 study stated that 50% of all women in Belize have been subject to domestic violence.

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According to the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Gender Gap Report Belize ranked 102nd of 135 (the third worst in Latin America) in gender equality, despite tying many countries for first place in health and survival, because it ranked 77th in Economic Participation and Opportunity, 100th in Educational Attainment (the lowest rank in the region) and 131st in Political Empowerment. (The US ranked 8th, 33rd and 55th respectively, to give you a comparison.) Unfortunately for Belize since 2006 their score has just continued to fall.

The Women’s Department of the Ministry of Human Development aims to promote gender equality and equity. They propose doing this through:

  • Community Development- The Department develops and coordinates services that are primarily aimed at assisting women to take on greater roles and responsibilities within the local community and enhance their skills and economic independence.
  • Education- The Department organizes and facilitates educational workshops throughout the country on issues of interest to women and men. It participates in radio and television programs and hosts a resource library that houses books, reports and magazines and research papers that relate to women.
  • Policy Development- The Department works along with NGO’s and other Government Ministries to lobby and advocate for the development of gender-sensitive policies and programs that will enhance the lives of women.
  • Training- The Women’s Department offers course in Computer Literacy, Sewing, Cake Decorating, Arts & Craft,Personal Development and Gender Awareness.

banner

The National Women’s Commission–appointed by the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation–”is a body of individual women and men appointed by the Government to function as a strategic guidance and oversight mechanism for the achievement of gender equality, equity and women’s empowerment in Belize.” A number of publications regarding women’s rights and gender equality are available on their website.

The Ministry of National Security operates the Belize Police Department Family Violence Unit. Their goal is to “assist the public in dealing with issues of family violence by offering direct services or in doing referrals to other relevant governmental agencies and NGO’s as the case may call for based on needs and the victim’s decision.” They can be reached at 501-227-2222. The government also provides a list of emergency numbers–city-by-city–here

BODinvitation

Two shelter programs are available to those seeking freedom from violence in Belize. “There is no direct line for Haven House shelter, however members of the public can contact the shelter through the women’s department at the Domestic Violence Unit, Police department. The numbers are 011-501-227-7397 and o11-501-227-3888.” Mary Open Doors also provides shelter to survivors of all genders who have faced abuse and violence. Their office is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm and their Emergency Number is 629-6315. They offer:

  1. Education on the dynamics of domestic violence and your rights
  2. Immediate temporary shelter
  3. A fresh start to an independent and positive future
  4. No less than 21 days stay with basic needs
  5. Initial meeting with qualified social worker/ counselor
  6. Basic counseling
  7. Supportive parenting classes
  8. Referrals
  9. Court Advocacy
  10. Skills Training

The Cornerstone Foundation offers a number of programs. In addition to its Women Program which focuses on financial dependency, inadequate education and vocational skills, size of families, and domestic violence, they also have programs dedicated to Health, Youth, HIV/AIDS, Relief & Aid, Literacy and Community Linking.

WIN Belize

WIN Belize–the Women’s Issues Network–hosted a 12-week National Women Leaders Training this year for women interested in a political career. “Over the years, WIN-Belize has worked on programs in the areas of: Organizational Development, Community Outreach and Communication, and Advocacy. The Network has, for example, implemented a successful Minimum Wage Campaign to raise the minimum wage for female-dominated jobs and eliminate gender disparities in the minimum wage levels for men and women. The Network has created awareness nationally, on the impact of globalization and trade issues on women. Several joint women’s empowerment projects involving the constituent groups of member agencies were also implemented.”

For such a small country the quality of their resources is impressive. Let’s hope their capacity continues to grow and that equality in Belize outpaces all other aspects of development. Keep up the good work!


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