A case for trans inclusion in reproductive rights

Both the abortion rights movement and the trans rights movement are rooted in a struggle for bodily autonomy. Both are based on the belief that people should be able to make the choices that are best for them. Both go against society’s patriarchal assumptions and norms concerning what people should do with their bodies and their lives.

However, movements for reproductive justice have historically not been the most trans inclusive spaces. Whether it’s been explicit in the form of hateful vitriol from transphobes, or implied through gendered language, the experiences of trans men, AFAB non-binary people and people who simply don’t fit into the box of ‘women’ have gone unrecognised and unmentioned.

Trans people can face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, including when trying to access healthcare, regardless of whether it’s treatment for a cold or an abortion. Using gender neutral language and not equating genitals with gender sends a message that trans people are welcome as part of your campaign or can seek treatment at your clinic.

The common statement thrown around in outrage to this suggestion is that it takes the movement away from women. But, it’s not a zero sum game. Such arguments against trans inclusion are actually deeply rooted in the patriarchal thinking that makes abortions harder to access than they should be in the first place. It’s an essentialist way of thought that not only conflates genitals with gender, but also womanhood with child-bearing, reducing a woman to her womb and her ability to reproduce.

Just as not all women, whether cis or trans, have wombs and can become pregnant, not all people with wombs and who can become pregnant are women.

Including people who may seem different from you doesn’t dilute your message and doom your campaign to failure. If anything, it means more people can get involved in the work and support you. This way of thinking has excluded women of colour from feminism, trans people from the LGB(+T) community and non-binary people from the trans rights movement.

At the end of the day, both movements aren’t about body parts and biological functions. They’re about people’s lives. The focus should be on centring people’s experiences and stories. We should all be campaigning for individuals to have the power to decide on the most appropriate course of action for themselves.

Hopefully one day soon we’ll win.

Sascha Amel-Kheir

Gendered Intelligence

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