Gay men’s lives are shaped by the oppression we experience in a still decidedly homophobic society. Homophobia often makes its most pointed attacks when gay men assert our right to control our bodies – how we move, how we express our desires, how we protect ourselves – with self-determination and pride (Plummer, 1999). We should therefore be the natural allies of women’s demand for reproductive rights, which is, at its core, about the right of women to control their bodies.
But the reality is that we are not. At a time when women’s reproductive rights are under renewed legal, political, psychological, and often physical assault (Ernst, Katzive & Smock, 2003/4), gay men, collectively, have not taken a pro-women, pro-feminist stand for women’s reproductive rights (Miller, 2000). To the contrary, some currents in the – progressive and welcome – move toward gay male couples parenting are starkly misogynist.
This disturbing, and dangerous, emerging reality is all the more critical to understand at the current historical juncture. Backlash against advances in the rights and safety of gay men (Bronski, 2000) and backlash against advances in women’s rights and safety, especially the right to unencumbered reproductive freedom (Faludi, 2009), are both on the rise. Hard-won gains are eroding, and at heightened risk of eroding further – most especially, women’s right to reproductive freedom (Greenhouse & Siegel, 2011).
In our book A Womb of Her Own (Routledge, 2017) aspires to contribute to turning this situation around, by examining how the disjuncture between feminism and gay men, and the gay civil rights movement, has developed, in the years following the launch of the gay movement in the US following Stonewall (Duberman, 2013), and by examining some threads of misogyny in the move toward gay parenting as they uniquely become visible through the lens of a psychoanalytic case. He begins the essay with a historical perspective.
The focus on what was, in the 1960s and 1970s, called the women’s liberation movement (Evans, 1979) and is now called second-wave feminism (Baxandall & Gordon, 2002) had, as its primary focus, women’s rights and freedom in a society then even more rigidly and oppressively patriarchal than US society is now. There was nothing subtle about it – the status of women’s oppression was not a matter principally of attitudes, but rooted in the objective denial of women’s legal and economic rights, violence against women, and patriarchal power. (There are distinct intersections of women’s oppression and racial/ethnic oppression that now lead many to speak of feminisms, rather than feminism; for examples of analyses of these analyses, which lie largely outside the scope of this paper, see Chow ; Collins ; Garcia [`997]; Hooks Hull, Scott, & Smith ; Smith ; Thompson . Similarly, this chapter will focus mostly on developments in the United States.)
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Ellen Toronto is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Spring, Texas and has been practicing since 1980. In 2017, she was elected a Fellow in Psychoanalysis by the American Psychological Association. In 2016, Dr. Toronto's practice was recognized as one of the top Ann Arbor Psychology practices. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Toronto is married to Robert Toronto, Ph.D., and together they have four sons and eleven grandchildren.