By Anthony Belotti (he/him)
I am a queer trans person. My activism focuses on local political organizing for policies that better the lives of marginalized people, and I use social media as a means to spread ideas and visibility for trans folks. I am 19 and studying Political Science, Nonprofit Management, and LGBTQ+ studies.
The abortion “debate” is on the forefront of American political mainstream thought, but as advocates scream “women’s right to choose”, it is obvious that a majority of people are still leaving trans people out of their activism.
Creating a cultural shift away from the narrative of cis women under attack, which neglects the fact that some white women in power also support anti-choice legislation, involves exploring the complexity of gender, sex, and the way American legislators seek to police bodies. The anti-choice laws we see being passed and proposed around the country are about stripping the bodily autonomy of specifically marginalized people, those that are assigned female at birth or can be pregnant (some intersex people can carry a pregnancy). For transgender AFAB and intersex people, bodily autonomy is taken from us early on. Intersex people are often forced into “corrective” surgeries, while they are still too young to consent. Transgender people across the gender spectrum are barred from making choices around their own transitions, due to financial reasons, the medical providers in their area, or if they have insurance that covers transition related care without extra, expensive requirements. Transgender people, especially transgender people of color, are more likely to live below the poverty line which creates a barrier to accessing care in general. From creating criteria in order to allow trans people to change documents or receive care, trans people are not given bodily autonomy. Our activism must include all these intersections of gender, race, and class, we cannot only center cisgender white women.
As people who are able to get pregnant, our bodily autonomy is legislated away. This is something that impacts all AFAB people, and as advocates we must change our language to include all people affected by these laws and the possible overturning of Roe V. Wade. Trans people, just like cis women, need access to abortions, and the stigma created when we are left out of activism is yet another barrier to care that we face.
When I bring this up in my own activism, I am met with resistance. I am told that trans people are not the target group, that we are distracting from the main issue. But as people who already have our bodily autonomy taken and can become pregnant, we are just as impacted as cis women. To imply otherwise is to say that trans people do not need access to abortion and that our existence in activism is nothing more than a distraction, which is dehumanizing.
While this issue impacts AFAB people, trans and cis, the most. It is important to point out that the underlying issue of centering our reproductive justice activism around the idea of womanhood is that it equates birthing and pregnancy to womanhood. Simply put, trans women are women without being able to birth, and trans men are men with the ability to become pregnant. Therefore by exclusively using the term “woman” in reference to abortion access we leave out transgender and gender nonconforming people.
The best way to include transgender folks who are impacted by abortion access restrictions is to change our language when discussing the issue. For example, change “women’s right to abortion” to “reproductive rights/justice” and change “women’s bodies” to “AFAB bodies”. These distinctions are important in order to include trans men and AFAB non-binary folks in our activism, but also to ensure we are not excluding trans women from our definition of woman.