A is For All of Us
I was incredibly honored to have been asked to join the advisory board of A Is For a few years ago and I’m sure it’s obvious but I have to say it: I am writing this solely on behalf of myself and would never claim to represent any of the communities with whom I ally myself. I hope that anyone reading this is not offended by any terms that I use. I’m just a long-time listener, first-time caller.
Although I have always been pro-choice, there was a time in my life when I didn’t feel comfortable expressing my opinion on the subject. I felt that it wasn’t appropriate as it would only be in the most awful of circumstances that I would ever need the services of a women’s reproductive health clinic. Let me clarify: For most of my life I was a cisgender lesbian and I had never been with a man (either trans* or cisgender). At 25 I began my transition and I started taking testosterone to balance myself out. But now this has become about me…and it isn’t. At least not solely.
The reality is that reproductive rights issues are about ensuring safe and legal healthcare for people with uteri, cervices, and ovaries regardless of how they identify. Research has shown that lesbians and bisexual women are less likely to get regular sexual health checks including Pap smears and breast exams, a dangerous statistic because along with risks of STDs, studies have also shown that individuals who have not given birth, breastfed or taken oral contraception are at higher risk of reproductive-related cancers (Diamant et al., 2000). There is also growing research revealing that lesbian and bisexual teens are more likely to become pregnant (Lindley & Walsemann, 2015). I would never speculate on the reasons for this but researchers have and those of us who are lucky enough to have experienced one will know that effective medical examinations require patients to disclose sensitive information to their healthcare providers. In the case of “sexual minorities” there can be a fear of prejudice (at worst) or lack of knowledge (at best).
At a dinner in London a few years ago I was talking about A Is For. I was with two women I’ve known for over 15 years: one is the creative director of an international PR agency, one is a literary agent, both are successful and well respected. I was explaining that A Is For raises both funds and awareness in support of organizations that provide or protect reproductive health care as a right. Needless to say, neither of my friends got where they are by being ill informed or apolitical nor are they shy about asking questions on an unfamiliar topic. There was a pause and a question: “Reproductive rights. What exactly is that?”
To quote The Golden Girls’ Sophia, “picture it”: Two well-educated, sexually active, heterosexual women in their mid-30s appeared to have never doubted that they had autonomy over their bodies and weren’t familiar with the language that so many of us use on a daily basis. I am grateful to currently live in a country where certain “single issue” polemics that are so prevalent in the US are not treated as political footballs but as private matters. If you can’t tell by now, I believe that everyone’s bodily autonomy must be an inalienable right. The work that A Is For does is integral to bringing these rights to the people who need them. By raising funds for grassroots organizations across the United States and drawing awareness to these issues, A Is For helps to ensure that everyone is provided with the life saving and life changing healthcare they deserve as human beings. No one seeking these essential services wants special treatment; we just want treatment. A Is For all of us.
Luke Warner is a dyed-in-the-wool volunteer, pro-choice feminist and Indigo Girls fan. He has worked for nearly eighteen years in nonprofit communications, development, governance and operations in both paid and volunteer positions. His roles have included Associate Director of Development & Communications at Honor the Earth, personal assistant to Winona LaDuke, editorial assistant at Women's Aid and a mentor at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. He has a Master's degree in Risk Analysis from King's College London and is currently a research volunteer at the Small Charities Coalition and a volunteer officer at The Conservation Volunteers. He votes in Los Angeles and in London where he currently lives with his wife, Sarah, and their 2 uteri.