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Archive for the ‘Reproductive Justice’ Category

Post By Gloria Malone

The Care Center is “an alternative education program for pregnant and parenting teens who have dropped out of high school. The Care Center seeks to “provide access to arts and culture [while] supporting struggling young families as they move toward self-sufficiency.”

 

Walking through the house was amazing, they had artwork from the teenage mothers all over the halls, positive messaging, and helpful resources from wall to wall for all their students. 

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The young women who were there for the workshop were very friendly and open but once Leydi and myself started opening up about our personal experiences as teenage mothers the room became a lot more comfortable for all of us. 

 

The workshop included a brief history of the systemic oppression all women face and how women of color have been disproportionately affected by this, a mock office visit with an elected official, and a lesson on legislative affairs.

 

We shared stories of triumph and pain while learning and teaching one another how to channel all of our stories into advocacy. 

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The real shame that surrounds teenage parents is not our lives but the fact that societal stigmas diminish our lives while simultaneously refusing to hear our powerful stories. 

 

Hearing the stories from my peers inspired me and helped remind me why we should all be proud to be who we are despite the flaws society says we have. 

 

The young mothers in the room were ready to learn more about the social constructs in place that have the ability to keep us in a certain place unless we work to change that. They put their all into learning how to speak to their audience and how to identify their audience. 

 

NLIRH is doing great work with teenage families in an effort to help them help themselves work for their communities and families. 

 

The distinction is important. 

While some organizations are more interested in “fixing a problem” with out ever listening to the person, NLIRH wants and understands they need to hear from you to know where to meet you. 

 

When you know that a person, an organization, or any other group of individuals what’s to help you help yourself in a judgment free way that makes a world of a difference. 

 

This is what NLIRH has done for me, my peers, and the fact that they asked Leydi and I to help them facilitate a workshop further proves to me that they are interested in working with teenage families and not just prescribe a one size fits all “fix.” 

 

I hope that the young moms at the care center left feeling the same way and feeling empowered to create the change they want to see. I know I left with their stories in my head and my heart.

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Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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Activists across the country are making sure that their voices, and their stories, are being heard. We refuse to stay silent. A perfect example of strength, courage and determination is Samaria Johnson. She’s an organizer at the Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice, which was created out of our Southern Regional Latinas Organizing for Leadership and Advocacy Training. Her dedication to reproductive justice and the empowerment of Alabamians has made her the activist of the month.

Read her story here:

I’ve always gotten a bit of a thrill for bad girls. Whatever their faults, they stepped out of bounds and made their own decisions. The drive to support women and challenge misogynistic, patriarchal institutions and attitudes was jumpstarted early in my life, inspired by the bad girls of history and legend. In daily Bible study at my Christian elementary schools I questioned the assumptions that Eve’s forbidden fruit consumption was fundamentally morally wrong, and in college considered the social structures that condemned Helen for not conforming to traditional feminine roles and behaviors. These women and others took initiative – to encourage their own education and intelligence, to freely express their sexuality without guilt or hesitation, to control where they ended up in life and how.

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson

Amanda Reyes and Samaria Johnson


I was raised and surrounded by generous, strong, complicated women at home, my mom and grandmothers and aunts. Most of my cousins are women. All of my closest friends are women. I grew up in a world of women, reading about them and looking up to them and learning from them. I have spent my entire life loving and being loved by women. There was never any question about my life’s purpose, once I realized it. My own strength has come from generations of women nurturing and fighting for each other. It continues to grow by relentlessly doing the same.

Over the past year I’ve become especially active in the pro-woman community. As a student at the University of Alabama, where I study history and am on track to graduate in Spring 2015, I joined the newly-formed Alabama Alliance for Sexual and Reproductive Justice. I’ve organized

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

volunteering, collected signatures for sex education laws, attended potlucks to network with fellow student progressives, hosted documentary screenings. I serve as an escort at the local Tuscaloosa clinic and, standing outside the clinic in front of anti-choice protestors, have incredible leverage to explore and confront anti-woman attitudes. Being on the ground is incredibly important to me. It’s easy to get trapped in an ivory tower, and forget the nitty-gritty of actual people and the very real reasons why I’ve chosen the work that I do. At last March’s National Advocacy Weekend, I was able to connect with people whose experiences with society’s ubiquitous misogyny, heterosexism, and racism absolutely horrified me. At the same time, their stories reinforced my personal convictions. That horror was necessary in reminding me of why I work.

This summer I’m interning at the Feminist Majority Foundation in Arlington, Virginia. I’m working on a few different projects, including creating a sexual assault toolkit for universities and colleges. I’ve taken on as president of AASRJ at the University. For the next year, my fellow officers have adopted “sex positivity” as our theme. With that in mind we’ll be spotlighting black and queer intersections in sexual and reproductive justice, focus on religious outreach, and educating other students about safe expressions of sexuality and relationships. These kinds of opportunities are what dreams are made of. Thanks to the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, FMF, and a number of other organizations and fellow activists, as well as the ladies in my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to have them and the strength of conviction to take advantage of them!

Samaria Johnson

Samaria Johnson

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By: Eduardo Martinez

Lucha, a social justice student activist group, hosted a screening of Entre Nos on Columbia University’s campus in New York on a Thursday evening. luchaWe had a group of about fifteen students comprising a variety of ethnic, racial, and gender identities watch the film and then discuss the issues it raised. We began the discussion by sharing a scene that stood out from the film and why; one common theme across the different choices was the solidarity expressed with Mariana. Members of the audience reflected on how this solidarity was crucial in her experience of homelessness, unemployment, and of having an abortion, even when abandoned by her partner and struggling with her religion. The film demonstrated how solidarity between people in working class communities of color is developed and sustained as a necessity.

One important point that came out of the discussion of this theme emerged from a comment by one individual that the support Mariana received in her decision to have an abortion and to make money by collecting cans showed that differences in gender, ethnicity, and class do not matter as long as we have solidarity. However, other members of the audience jumped in to explain how shared struggles between different individuals and communities lead to bonds of solidarity while still acknowledging the importance of different identities. Mariana was in these particular circumstances partially because of her social position as a woman, as a recent immigrant, etc. and we need not erase these identities to support one another. It was very exciting to see this level of awareness and analysis emerge from a discussion on our campus where many students fail to understand these kinds of discussions as a result of their privileged social position.luchabanner2

It seemed that our entire audience already held progressive views with regards to reproductive justice, so our discussion of Mariana’s abortion turned towards the institutional and economic factors affecting her experience and alternative outcomes. As a recent immigrant without employment, Mariana had neither the security nor the income to have an abortion under the supervision of a healthcare professional. However, she would have faced further economic, social, and economic hardship had she not received the help from her neighbor, as some women do not have access to reproductive health information or resources. Our audience members also pointed out that the particular life outcomes for Gabriel and Andrea are not necessarily common and are not necessary to speak of “success.”

We discussed many other ideas raised by the film, but I think the examples here demonstrate how our audience was very receptive to the possible message(s) of the film. We were very encouraged by everyone’s excitement to discuss these topics and work through how we should and often do support one another in our different communities. We hope that this screening will serve as a catalyst for similar discussions in the future so that we can gain a better understanding of how to support one another, especially through difficult experiences like those depicted in Entre Nos.

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By: Desiree CaroImage

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.  Groups could use this opportunity to educate our youth about sexual health by providing information about and promoting safer sex.  Instead, the Candie’s Foundation has decided to release an ad campaign that shames teen mothers and devalues motherhood.  These ads, which stigmatize mothers of all ages, are endorsed by various celebrities who seem to be clueless about the message they are sending to mothers across the globe.

One of the more appalling ads states: “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers.”  Since when did changing the world and changing diapers become mutually exclusive?  Plenty of women of all ages have changed the world and changed diapers. Just take a look at some of the amazing young mothers that work with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), such as Leydi and Gloria, who are powerful women and young mothers. The young mothers highlighted here will provide you with plenty of examples of young women standing up for their rights as young moms and working to make a collective change.

It’s important to think critically about the purpose of these ads.  Are these ads really going to keep anyone, especially teenagers, from having sex? Likewise, are they teaching anyone how to have safer sex?  It’s quite clear that these ads humiliate and stigmatize teen parents without offering the ideas, information, or resources needed to actually prevent teen pregnancies. 

Shaming our youth into a state of fear and hate for teen parents is not an effective way to prevent unplanned teen pregnancies.  Instead, we should focus on providing access to information and resources; we should ensure that all teenagers have access to comprehensive sex education programs.  Radical idea, I know. Groups such as the Candie’s Foundation and the New York City government are so quick to use shaming tactics to attack young parents, and yet, emergency contraception and comprehensive sex education are still inaccessible for so many teenagers.   We need to look at unplanned teen pregnancy as a societal issue.  To prevent unplanned teen pregnancies, we need to address the broader educational, economic, and health disparities that contribute to these outcomes.

               So, what can we do to prevent ads like this from popping up again while still addressing the issue of teen pregnancy in this country?  First, sign this petition that requests a meeting with the founder of the Candie’s Foundation to discuss the harmful impact of their campaign and offer suggestions to improve their approach by increasing comprehensive sexual education, putting a halt on shaming tactics, and using messaging that supports and empowers all young people to make the best decisions for them.  Then, educate yourself about these issues. The internet is full of great resources such as Sex Etc., Planned Parenthood, and Advocates for Youth that can help answer any sex-related questions. Lastly, join NLIRH’s counter-campaign and help us show the Candie’s Foundation that their ads are not the right way to prevent teen pregnancies.  Use the hashtag #NoTeenShame on Twitter and Facebook to let the Candie’s Foundation hear what you have to say.  Let’s break the cycle of shaming young parents and start supporting them.

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Originally posted on Feministing- http://feministing.com/2013/05/16/will-the-teen-mom-shaming-ever-stop/

By VERÓNICA BAYETTI FLORES | Published: MAY 16, 2013

May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, which basically means it’s the season for teen mom shaming. And damn if the Candie’s Foundation doesn’t deliver! On May 1 they revealed their new celebrity-endorsed PSAs, which include lots of messages that provide the super useful combo of shame and no actual helpful information whatsoever. I want to throw up all over these:
 
Hilary Duff with a caption saying: "You think being in school sucks? You know what sucks a whole lot more? A baby - almost every 2 hours for feeding time. And breastfeeding isn't always easy, so if you choose to use formula, you're looking at about $1,500 a year. Guess school doesn't suck that bad huh?"
 
Did you know being a mother totally sucks??? What’s interesting to me about that one is that it’s actually not specific to young people at all – infants have to eat every couple hours regardless of how old their mother is. Does the Candie’s foundation think that motherhood just sucks in general?
 
And OMG, this one:
 
candies psa hayden

A lot of these ads include the stuff about the cost of raising a child, which once again, is not particular to the age of the mother. What gets to me about these are the class implications of this kind of approach – i.e. if you don’t have this kind of money, then you have no place being a mother. Sure, young folks likely have less independent sources of income, but we can’t decontextualize this from the class status of their families, and thus their access to financial support. Economic arguments like this one serve to reinforce racist, eugenicist notions that poor folks are unfit to parent.

But the maybe worst one, the one that gets the most under my skin, is this one:
 
 
 
Picture of Carly Rae Jepsen w caption: "You're supposed to be changing the world...not changing diapers."

This one makes me wanna flip tables and take off my earrings because I am ready to step. There is so much wrong here, but let’s start with the idea that mothers can’t change the world. WHAT! Yep, too busy changing diapers, you can’t possibly use that little brain of yours for anything else amiright? The sheer absurdity (and, oh yeah, sexism) of that notion is really beyond comprehension. Was nobody involved in this ad campaign a mother? But we know this ad is targeted at youth, and perhaps the idea is that YOUNG mothers can’t possibly create change. Of course, this is no less ridiculous – young mamas are resisting shameful messageshitting up their  representatives in DC to demand the support they need to raise their families, fighting for paid sick time and the right to stay in school. Young mamas are making it happen y’all! They’re changing diapers and cooking dinner and organizing the protest, they’re securing childcare and figuring out how to make ends meet, and that survival is resistance in the face of bullshit like this ad campaign.

How about some real solutions? How about increasing access to contraception and abortion for young women who don’t want to become parents but can’t afford these options? How about acknowledging that these even exist and are safe and effective? How about working toward a world in which young parents have the support they and their children need to thrive? We need less shaming and more expansion of health care access, less useless PSAs and more support for young parents to stay and do well in school. This isn’t a new concept – communities of color have been calling this out for years. It’s obvious that these initiatives serve only to add stigma and do nothing to address the material conditions that actually affect young families and the poor outcomes that they can face: access to things like education, affordable health care, childcare, housing.

No one has any business telling people when or how it is appropriate to start their families. Reproductive justice at its core is about bodily autonomy, supporting people’s reproductive decision-making, and making sure that folks can raise the kids that they have with dignity. We cannot meaningfully stand for these values and shame young moms at the same time.

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