#Access4All: Intersections of Reproductive Rights, Voting, and LGBTQIA+ Rights

By Edwith Theogene
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On Sept. 10, All Access, a national coalition of organizations fighting for the right to abortion, put on their Cleveland Concert to celebrate and advocate for access to abortion across the nation. The concert was organized around the 5-3 ruling of the Supreme Court in mid-summer that killed a Texas abortion access law that had previously threatened the shutdown most clinics in the state.

In North Louisiana at Northwestern State University, Texas is not far from home for any of our college students. Not to mention the fact that Louisiana faces its own problems with proposed trap laws and a state government that passes LGBTQIA+ friendly and anti-choice legislation almost at the same time.

In partnership with the New Orleans Abortion Fund, NSU’s FMLA chapter hosted one of over 40 live stream events for All Access. We received a grant from All Access, the first time we have ever been funded!

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NSU Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance poses with community partners.

When Sept. 10 finally came, I realized that we had done all we could to invite the community to our celebration. We provided food, vendors, and a space for community organizing for those interested.

We strived to make the event intersectional, just as All Access did with their Cleveland concert. Louisiana Trans Advocates, New Orleans Abortion Fund, Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America, and of course the Feminist Majority Foundation all tabled at our event. We also had our university sexual assault awareness organization and ASL organization table.

It was an exciting event, and an honor to be able to host something so “radical” in a small northern Louisiana town. Towards the end of the night, there were talks of follow up actions for FMLA. What could we do to keep this momentum going?

chelsea-tabling-nsu

With the November elections approaching (something I try to forget about due to its daunting possibilities), most of our talks revolved around the voter registration drives. After much thought about this election, I applied for the Campaign for Southern Equality’s #queerthevote grant. As an organization that sees the connection reproductive justice offers us in these issues, it was exciting to partner with an LGBTQIA+ organization as a follow up to our event advocating for abortion access.

Less than a month after the All Access concert, FMLA was given the funds to travel to six cities across Louisiana and register queer voters for the upcoming election. This was not an easy task; planning back to back actions for change can become exhausting and isolating. I began to forget the why of what we were doing, and just powered through to the finish, not really thinking about the passion and impact behind the kind of work we all do.

However, I was able to overcome that through an added aspect of FMLA’s Queer the Vote Louisiana (QVLA) campaign: the collection of personal narrative. From the beginning of our travels until Oct. 31st, QVLA is collecting the personal narratives of all LGBTQIA+ individuals in Louisiana. We are asking for stories that capture each individual’s life as a queer person in Louisiana. These narratives can range from a positive interaction at a business to getting kicked out of a home for identity reasons. As different and diverse as the queer experience in Louisiana is, we hope to form strong solidarity through these narratives.

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FMLA is looking to publish a literary magazine-type online document of these voices. We want to spread and push for political and social change across the state. It is this aspect of the project that grounded and grounds me throughout this challenging process.

Advertising strategically, meeting people where they’re at, contacting queer organizations to plan events, building coalitions, budgeting for travel expenses… all of the logistical work can really make you lose the message. It’s important to keep these ideas that ground you at the forefront of your actions. I’m still learning how to do this, and I’ve got a long way to go.

By Edwith Theogene

Edwith is an intersectional social justice activist and advocate passionate about issues that impact women and communities of color. She is a Washington D.C. based South Florida Native who loves people, quotes, coffee, and pop culture, especially 90’s tv shows.

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