Transgender and Choice: Can We Start a Conversation?

30 Aug

Working for the summer to provide direct reproductive and family planning services, the question of who gets pregnant (and who doesn’t… and who needs those services, whether they do or do not get pregnant…) has started to play a role in how I think about outreach. The language of the last reproductive justice wave was about women, “women’s health,” “women’s needs,” and “women’s rights,” and with good reason, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that that language is exclusionary – too exclusionary, to my mind, for the movement I hope to be a part of building. We’ve had the start of this conversation several times on this blog. Women are no longer the only ones who get pregnant. Many people now can and do get pregnant who do not identify as women. This war on reproductive justice may in many ways still be the “war on women” it is often referred to as, given the narrow gender identities the antichoice community too often ascribes to, but it is not only a war on women when so many people suffer in a silence imposed by language and many kinds of violence. (And what else? What else imposes this silence? Please tell me. I am writing this in the hopes that I can learn.)

So I am wondering, how do we begin to address trans issues, particularly trans reproductive issues, outside of transitioning itself? How do we make prochoice about more than the gender binary? How do we work with language? How do we do direct outreach, how do we make clinics and doctor’s offices and family planning centers truly safe spaces? What other questions do you have? I have so many!

I do not want to see hard-fought cisgender identities subsumed to political correctness. Cisgender identity is valid, and I fight to know and love myself as a woman every day. But that fight has a name and words and acknowledgement; I believe the fight for transgendered identities is silenced a billion ways. So I’m asking you to talk to me. I’m also asking you to talk to me, and to each other, respectfully. If you feel I have already made grave errors in the way this is written, please let me know and I will address them. I know sometimes there is a lot of pent-up anger that, given a release point, can feel very good to vent, but ideally, if people want to talk about this, I would love to see a productive conversation get started here.

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9 Responses to “Transgender and Choice: Can We Start a Conversation?”

  1. Danielle August 30, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I volunteer at the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, where I assist people who need financial resources to access an abortion.

    We make a point of referring to these people as “callers” and when we take demographic information we include a question about gender identity, which is a blank line left to be filled in, not a choice of boxes.

    Just a small step forward in making choices more real and services more accessible for people of all genders.

  2. Deva August 30, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I am 100% guilty of using woman centric/gender binary rhetoric in abortion discussions, and I take this is a much needed and great reminder to be conscious and inclusive, thank you!

  3. Renee August 30, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    As a trans woman, reproductive health isn’t something I’m likely to have much need for, but still this issue is important to me, both because my trans brothers and many non-binary sibs need this stuff, and because the inclusion of our identities in these conversations is important beyond the single issue of abortion. Any opportunity to move a conversation towards recognition of trans identities is important…to date, the greater feminist movement has been pretty bad about that. And so that seems like the first step to me; internalizing and practicing acknowledgement so that it becomes common and natural, rather than exceptional, will pave the way to the wide-scale policy changes that need to happen.

    Education about trans issues wouldn’t hurt either. For example, you perhaps don’t know that there’s quite a lot of controversy surrounding the term “transgendered”, and the trend for several years now has been towards simply “transgender” without the “-ed”. Not that everyone in our community agrees (hence the controversy), but it’s the sort of the thing that allies should be aware of. The information is out there and cisgender people who are serious about trans inclusion are going to need to extend themselves a little. Especially because even blog spaces such as this aren’t necessarily safe places for us.

    And since you asked, your whole last paragraph reads as pretty ciscentric. Cisgender identities weren’t fought for, they’re the established norm and as such, they’re granted out of hand. Certainly the recognition of womanhood *was* fought for, but conflating that with cisgender-ness is just terribly problematic, as if trans women are a separate beast entirely. And you do it again when you say “Cisgender identity is valid, and I fight to know and love myself as a woman every day”; well yeah, cisgender identity *is* valid, and certainly it shapes how you experience your womanhood, but I struggle similarly to know and love myself as a woman everyday too, and I’m trans. It’s this kind of othering that is the root of the problem. No one is trying to subsume your identity or tell you that it isn’t valid, and to say so is needlessly defensive considering the power exchange that exists between cisgender and transgender people. If this were a real problem, you’d be on my blog commenting about the need for greater cisgender inclusion in activist circles, but that just isn’t the case.

  4. ProChoiceGal August 30, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Kaitlyn,

    I think you make some great points. I do believe that it’s essential to include trans men in our discussions about pregnancy. I also believe, however, that most (if not all) of the reason that anti-choicers are attacking our rights in the first place is because they are aiming to attack women. I think that we can and should include trans men while still recognizing that this issue has a lot to do with gender, sexism, and misogyny. I also think that the pro-choice movement needs to actively include trans women. While they may not be able to get pregnant, they are still fighting desperately to have their bodily autonomy respected, and to me, that’s right in our ball park.

    One thing, though; there’s some debate about this in the trans community, but a lot of the trans people I know find the term “transgendered” equivalent to saying “gayed” or “lesbianed”. Generally “transgender” is preferred

  5. Kaitlyn August 30, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

    Thanks guys! This is great. Any more thoughts on transgender vs transgendered?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. via abortiongang: Transgender and Choice: Can We Start a Conversation? « The Rambling Feminist - August 30, 2011

    [...] -abortiongang [...]

  2. Transgender and Choice: Can We Start a Conversation? | Abortion … « Enfemme - September 1, 2011

    [...] Read more: Transgender and Choice: Can We Start a Conversation? | Abortion … [...]

  3. We Won’t Go Back: Raising Youth Voices in Reproductive Justice | ChoiceWords - October 7, 2013

    […] individuals and people of color disproportionality, and those who become pregnant do not always identify as women. This is just one part of the conversation of identity and abortion access among […]

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