It’s Not My Body, It’s Not My Choice: What A Queer Male Has To Say About Abortion

Monday, August 26, 2013

By Jonathan Dsouza
I stood there, completely underdressed for the occasion. I looked down at my denim jeans, a t-shirt, and a hoodie (AKA the Non-profit uniform) tugging at them like an uncomfortable toddler in his first suit. My gaze shifted nervously to the battalion of intelligent, well-quaffed women before me. Each one standing tall and strong, surrounded with air of gravity that only truth presents. There I was, literally, the odd man out. We were waiting to stand before the California State Senate Appropriations Committee, waiting to voice our opinion.

Four hours earlier I was situated in the back seat of a car heading to Sacramento from San Francisco. There was a light tension in the air. A light nervous electricity that buzzing field of anticipation mixed with expectation and uncertainty.

The three women in the car and I all exchanged pleasant conversation, mostly about current politics and idle gossip. We all were there with a common goal, a common thread that connected us together. All of us were headed to voice our support during the Senate vote on AB 154.

Presently, I stood in the quickly diminishing line to voice my opinion. I was nervous. The waiting was getting to me. My heart was racing. Step, wait, step, wait, step, wait. By breath was a little more shallow with each step. I could feel the flop sweat gathering on my brow. All I could do was look down and pick at some loose threads on my sweater while the women in front of me spoke.

I could feel the strength and conviction in their voices, “I completely support the expansion of reproductive health care in California and I support AB 154.” Each word rang in my ears, as random thoughts randomly exploded through my head.

What was I doing in this line! This is no place for me to be. This is not my story to tell. I should be supporting from the trenches. I started looking around for a way to slip out of the line, collect my thoughts, and then decide on how to proceed. It was far too late for that. There were only three women, five yards, and one microphone between me and the members of Senate.

My head was awash with thoughts. I couldn't help but think that as a queer male certain segments of the population on both sides of this discussion would make the claim that my voice, my thoughts, my view on abortion—no matter the alignment—would be unimportant to the larger discussion. The most used reasons to ignore my voice are: You are a man, you have not and will not impregnate someone, and you won’t ever get pregnant. 

My mind shifted back to the ride up to Sacramento. The I-80, for me, is memory lane. As the scenery hurried past us in a green blur, I remember the time I spent on that road driving to and from UC Davis. All of the organizing I had done, the protests, the funding drives, the information campaigns, and activities with social justice organizations I had been part of over the years. I remembered that I worked to strengthen many causes that did not, and would not ever directly pertain to me. Each one was an important piece of the larger social justice puzzle.

My train of thought jumped another set of tracks. I thought, It’s not my body; it’s not my choice. And it’s not my body, or my choice, but I support the right for women to be able to decide for themselves what is best for them.

Because it is not my body, who am I to tell women what they should or should not do with theirs. That’s how I’ve always approached the topic. It will never be my choice, it will never be a choice that I have to make, and I am so thankful for that. For the women who have to make that choice, I want to ensure that they have access to safe, reliable reproductive healthcare and abortion close to them.

As I inched closer to the stand I felt more and more tension in my back. I could feel all of the eyes of the room burning holes into me. My personal outlook on publicly voicing opinions is that if it does not directly engage in my life I should hand the microphone off to someone who is directly engaged and support from behind. Support through my actions, not my words. My nana always would say, “Show me, not tell me—words vanish into the air as soon as you say them. If you do it, it will last forever.”

I felt a soft buzzing in my pocket. I slid out my phone and read the text set in the small blue bubble.

“You’ll see that plenty of men are comfortable speaking for the other side . . .”

I was next. I could feel the wake of the wind as the women left the space in front of me. I didn’t know what I was going to say, or how I was going to say it. I just knew why I was going to say it.

I looked back and one of the women organizing the day smiled and waved at me as she put her phone back in her pocket. Before I could wave back I felt a cold weight in my hand.

I thought back to the actions that I have taken to help ensure women are able to make healthy life choices. I thought of the women in my life that I wanted to have that choice. I thought about the stupid sunflower seed that was currently crammed between my teeth digging into my gums and how badly I needed to floss. I swung the heavy microphone up, mu mouth opening, ready to speak.

I realized I had swung it up with a little too much gusto, as it collided with my face. A dull thud echoed through the silent room. I took a moment, took a breath, and said, “I am Jonathan D’souza, here on behalf of Strong Families and Forward Together. I live in San Francisco. I work in Oakland. I fully support women, their right to choose, their right to safe and reliable local health care, and I fully support AB 154.”

It was all over . . . I was perched in my car seat, before I knew what had happened. I had used my voice that day as an action, to speak for those who could not be there, and it felt strange, but it felt good.

Jonathan joined the Forward Together team in early 2013 as the Manager of Online Engagement. He has been a native of the San Francisco Bay Area since birth, spending a few of his childhood years living abroad with his extended family in Bombay, India. 

He has never been more than 10 feet from a computer since the first time he powered on his Commodore 64. At the University of California, Davis, while earning B.A.s in Gender Studies and English, he created grassroots campaigns to advance and increase awareness of Women’s and LGBT rights.

Professionally, he focuses his technical aptitude to help increase the capacity of organizations to connect with current and prospective members and to organize more efficiently. At home you will find him cooking, organizing his unusually large music collection, and spending some quality time with his partner and Phoenix, their dog.

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