A few days ago, Geoff from Geoff’s Shorts got in touch with me to let me know about a bit of research he was doing on a Twitter account calling itself @aliveGPN, or Alive! Gay Pro Life. Geoff’s done a thorough analysis of the groups’ Twitter account over at his blog- I’d strongly recommend checking it out. He’s found some truly delicious stats on the group’s followers- did you know, for example, that the most popular other accounts among people who follow @AliveGPN include such notable LGBTQ allies as Ann Coulter, Paul Ryan and Pope Benedict himself?
As Geoff did such a spectacular job analysing Alive’s Twitter followers, I decided to take a slightly different tack and look at their blog.
Who are you?
As someone who spends far too much of my time reading and writing blogs, one of the first things I tend to do after finding someone new is head to their About page. It’s good to know a little bit more about the person, group, collective or organisation behind a page. To find out who they’re connected to, who’s on their blogroll, who they link to. Seeing how a blog fits into our wider network is interesting. I always say that blogging is as much about who we say things to as what it is we’re saying. When it comes to the internet, our geographies are made up of the connections between us.
Unfortunately it seems that Alive doesn’t have any. They call themselves a Gay Pro-Life Network, but their level of publicly visible networking, on the blog at least, is non-existent. There are no commenters. Their About page is still on WordPress’s default. Using the word ‘Network’ in their name implies that they include a number of different people or organisations, but there’s no author info and no links or blogroll. Clicking through their posts I thought I could find some sense of the network from their commenters, but they have none. Finally I went through their posts- only three of these, although the first was in July and the second was a few weeks ago on January 2nd. There were two links. One to an article in Politico and another as part of a post asking readers to contact their representatives regarding an abortion bill. This is a blog with the tagline “bringing together LGBT Americans in support of the right to life” which is entirely without faces, names or even references. It feels strange to be in a site so cut off from the rest of the internet.
Reading through Alive’s posts, some details in writing style felt slightly ‘off’ to me. I am not, by the way, saying that these tell us anything for certain about whoever it is that writes this blog. But it felt strange.
A Question of Gender
Let’s talk about language. The word ‘gay’ came up 21 times in Alive’s posts. ‘LGBT’, eight times. ‘Lesbian’, once. Bi or trans not at all. For a page that claims to be about LGBT people, that’s an awful lot of G and practically nothing about the people who are more likely to be involved in (not) having abortions. This reminded me of Alive’s Twitter background- it’s a couple of men with a baby. Now, I’m not saying that men never get pregnant- of course they do. Loads of trans men have uteruses and some of them grow babies in them. But of all the families within LGBT communities, isn’t it the queer women who are more likely to have a uterus (or two) around? It seems strange to me that a group embedded in LGBT communities with knowledge of our families would pick a picture of two men with a baby to talk about abortion. Cis male couples’ involvement in parenting generally starts in earnest after their babies are born. The men in that picture are far more likely to have in-depth knowledge of sleepless nights from feeding and changing their baby than from getting up to pee every 20 minutes while having their vital organs pummelled by an acrobatic fetus. It’s strange that a group claiming to focus on an issue that is overwhelmingly about women and trans* men doesn’t talk about either and uses a gay male couple as its background image.
This bizarre erasure of women continues. While the word ‘mother’ appears 10 times in the blog, ‘woman’ is entirely absent. And look what happens when they talk about a pregnant person:
In every abortion there are two victims, an unborn child who loses his life and a mother who is often left with immeasurable pain and regret for the rest of her life.
An unborn child. Who loses. His. Life.
I have straight ally friends and acquaintances who write and talk about queer issues all the time and who do a damn good job of it. I’ll often get a call or an IM asking if I wouldn’t mind taking a quick look over someone’s latest article, if there’s anything I think should be added to their talk, or what the most polite way to refer to something is. I often do the same when I write about groups I’m not a member of myself- have a quick check-in with someone in the know, or give it a google if it’s something basic or there isn’t anyone around with the time, spoons or experiences to help. While there’s a fine line between checking-in and expecting oppressed people to be your personal PA and teacher, people who live their lives in a particular category tend to have an awareness of nuances that the rest of us mightn’t be aware of. It’s like the difference between a canned pop song about love and something that someone wrote about a person they’re actively smitten with.
To my queer woman’s eye- and this ain’t scientific- this blog feels canned. It talks, for example, about the two biggest topics in the news relating to LGBT people these days- marriage and bullying. Things we’re all aware of. Let’s take a look at how they discuss bullying:
Far too often LGBT youth particularly are targets of bullying and tragically in some cases it has led LGBT youth to end their own lives. With the advent of new public awareness campaigns and new anti-bullying laws, it’s clear our society cares about protecting children’s lives. Yet every year over one million unborn children lose their lives to abortion.
Doesn’t that feel a little off to you? Yes, they acknowledge that bullying happens and that LGBT kids are targets of bullying. But there’s a lot that’s missing. Where’s the acknowledgement that this is still happening? It’s implied that public awareness and campaigns are making bullying of LGBT kids a solved problem. If you think this is the case, I invite you to take a moment. Open up a new tab and pop “gay teen suicide” or “lgbt teen suicide” into google. Check out the news results and a few statistics. And what about the fact that bullying and harassment of LGBT people doesn’t stop when we graduate? Or that queer kids are often victims of bullying at home and in their communities as well as in schools? I’ve never seen a queer person write about homo/bi/transphobic bullying and harassment without mentioning either some anecdata or statistics or hinting at an understanding of the nuances of the experience. And I’ve never, ever met a queer person who hasn’t encountered it at some point. Even if we escape ourselves, we live our lives embedded in communities of friends and partners who haven’t been so lucky.
Let’s take a look at a similar passage in another post:
Gay people are familiar with these tactics. In an affront to our very existence, misguided and sometimes hateful people insists that gays and lesbians are deficient, broken, diseased, and worse…less-than-human.
These categories would sound immediately familiar to a pro-life activist.
Isn’t it interesting how “a pro-life activist” is situated as different to “gay people”?
I’m not saying these people, whoever they are, aren’t queer. I am saying that the way they write bears no resemblance to the way any of the queer people I have met, spoken to, heard of or read do. The GSM people in my life are a motley bunch of bis, aces, trans folk, lesbians, the odd gay man, a bunch of people who could pick a few categories from the above, and shedloads who just go by ‘queer’.
There are antichoice members of the LGBTQ community. I’ve met plenty- I wouldn’t forget arguments like the ones I’ve had with some of my fellow queer folks about abortion. For activists embedded in our LGBTQ communities, finding people willing to share real and nuanced views of all kinds on abortion isn’t that hard. Although I disagree with them vehemently on this, it’s still sad to me that the people who claim to speak for them and to be a network of people like them… don’t.
Check out Alive! Gay Pro Life and the Minority Report over at Geoff’s Shorts to take a look into Alive on Twitter and find out where their followers are coming from.
Edited to add: I’m hearing that this post, despite my statements to the contrary, is being taken to imply that I don’t think that LGBT antichoice people exist. Or that they have organisations. Of course they do! PLAGAL have been around since 1990 and are still going strong, from what I can see. As far as local groups go, the LGBT Life Alliance seems to be defunct but it does look like it was set up in good faith.