A group of young disabled women of color, some sitting, some standing, one in a powerchair.

Badass young women with disabilities create sexual health guide

What does sexual health look like for young women with disabilities? A group of badass young women of color in Chicago are here to answer that question: they’ve created a sexual health guide for other young women like them.

The Empowered Fe Fes are a young women’s advocacy and peer support group who are truly living into the potential of the reproductive justice framework. Using reproductive justice as a frame, these young women have created a guide for sexual health and self-determination that centers the needs of a community too often overlooked in conversations about sexuality.

Sexuality and reproduction are charged issues for everyone, but especially so for people with disabilities. A history of reproductive coercion, forced sterilization, institutionalization, and other eugenic practices stemming from the ableist devaluation of disabled bodies colors every day perceptions of those with disabilities — by family members, medical providers, and society at large.

The guide tackles these complex issues for young women with disabilities, who are positioned in dominant narratives as asexual, as victims, and as unable to determine the course of their own lives and reproduction. From topics like access issues at the doctors’ office to mothering with a disability, the guide covers a wide range of issues. I found the coverage of abortion especially refreshing:

The authors of this guidebook reject the use of disability as rational for or against abortion. We call out the ableism in pro-choice moments that frame fetuses which may be born with impairments as cases where abortion is obviously necessary. Disability as the rationale for abortion fails to see the complexity of this issue, undermines women’s right to make their own decisions, and perpetuates the ableist stereotype that disabled lives are not worth living. At the same time, we reject being framed as people whom pro-life movements are saving. Disability as a reason to deny women rights will not be tolerated. We support educating all people about disability and the ways people with disabilities lead fulfilling lives, but we also understand that these are incredibly complex issues and that abortion is a personal decision.

Sadly, the guide is a bit lacking on LGBT content; it does not tackle trans women’s issues or address sexual orientation directly (though it does include a local LGBT center as a resource). While there is some room for improvement on this front, the guide is nonetheless a crucial and exciting new resource.

Find it here!

Header image credit: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune

New York, NY

Verónica Bayetti Flores has spent the last years of her life living and breathing reproductive justice. She has led national policy and movement building work on the intersections of immigrants' rights, health care access, young parenthood, and LGBTQ liberation, and has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, and demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color. In 2008 Verónica obtained her Master’s degree in the Sexuality and Health program at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She loves cooking, making art, listening to music, and thinking about the ways art forms traditionally seen as feminine are valued and devalued. In addition to writing for Feministing, she is currently spending most of her time doing policy work to reduce the harms of LGBTQ youth of color's interactions with the police and making sure abortion care is accessible to all regardless of their income.

Verónica is a queer immigrant writer, activist, and rabble-rouser.

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