By David Ward, Legal & Legislative Council with Legal Voice and Chair of the GSBA Public Policy Task Force.
I’m a gay man who works for Legal Voice, a non-profit organization in Seattle that advances women’s rights in the Northwest. The issues I focus on include gender-based violence, family law, and LGBT rights. Sometimes, I’m asked why a women’s rights organization would make LGBT rights a core part of its mission, which Legal Voice has done since the 1980s. And the answers show how closely intersected the women’s rights and LGBT rights movements are – or should be.
First, both movements challenge gender stereotypes. The women’s rights movement fights the idea that women and men should act in certain ways based on their gender and that their roles in society should be defined (and limited) by their gender. The LGBT rights movement challenges the same gender stereotypes – like the idea that a marriage should only be between a man and a woman, or that men should be “masculine” and women should be “feminine.” Because such gender stereotypes often find their origins in religious doctrine, both movements must fight against allowing religion to be used as a license to discriminate under the law.
Both movements also must focus on ending gender-based violence and harassment. Violence against woman and violence against LGBT people are both the result of a culture that permits violence against “others” to be normalized. When a trans woman is murdered or a gay man is attacked on the street, it is often because the attacker feels a privilege over a person who is marginalized in our society. The same is often true when women are harassed on the street, sexually assaulted, or victimized by domestic violence.
The two movements are also linked in our efforts to protect bodily autonomy – the right to control your own body. In the women’s rights movement, this includes the right to decide whether to have an abortion. In the LGBT rights movement, bodily autonomy includes the right to decide how to express oneself sexually, as well as the right to have a body that matches your gender identity. To achieve bodily autonomy, the women’s rights movement must fight for insurance coverage for abortion care, while the LGBT rights movement must fight for insurance coverage for transition-related care for transgender community members.
These are just some of the reasons why the women’s rights and LGBT rights movements are so closely linked – and why both movements should support each other and work closely together in our common fight for equality.