Pro-choice means pro-female, regardless of identity. #profemaleprochoice

Previously published at Liberation Collective.

Huffington Post and Autostraddle both ran articles on January 27th, 2014 about the hashtag #protransprochoice and a petition started by three young adults: Beck Martens, Alice Wilder, and Calliope Wong–a transwoman who caused a media flurry in 2013 about being denied application for enrollment at a female-only college while Wong was still legally and anatomically male. The Autostraddle article is entitled #ProTransProChoice: Launching A New Reproductive Rights Movement. That’s right, a whole New Movement to accommodate gender identities! I consider this a particularly disturbing example of conflating ‘gender identity’ with physical sex and a stark reminder of what “sex not gender” means.

The #protransprochoice call for a New Reproductive Rights Movement demands that NARAL and Planned Parenthood spend their precious, limited funds[1] on media campaigns that explicitly cater to the gender identities of trans* people:[2]

The rhetoric of the pro-choice movement is typically based around the assumption that only folks who identify as women are hurt by restrictions on reproductive health care – such as abortion and contraception. #StandWithTexasWomen took the stage in 2013; “Trust Women” has been the mantra of this movement for decades. This language excludes trans* and gender non-conforming (GNC) people and thus, the movement has failed to address our reproductive and sexual health needs.

The offense is that speaking of “women” generally does not affirm or validate the identities of trans* people. Referring to abortion as a “woman’s” issue is unacceptable because, one, it does not include reference to female-born transmen who might need abortions and, two, not all “women” have vaginas. It makes trans* people feel unimportant and left out of the conversation. The #protransprochoice hashtag is just the latest iteration of on-going attempts from the pro-trans lobby to de-sex the way we speak about reproductive rights.[3]

Now, for the sake of preempting any false assumptions: I agree that all people deserve safe and affordable access to all necessary healthcare. That is not under debate. If you need a mammogram, you need a mammogram. If you need an abortion, you need an abortion. I don’t care who you are. Or what you call yourself.

JaneDoeMD_vagina1

However. If you need an abortion then you have a vagina. And a uterus. Because you are female bodied.

Identity politics cannot change the fact that reproductive rights are an not issue of identity, but one of biological sex.

While transmen may live as “men,” they retain their female genetic and hormonal systems. If transmen require abortions, it is because they have not surgically removed the uterus they were born with. On the other hand, while transwomen may live as “women,” they will never be impregnable because they were not born with female reproductive systems. Transwomen will never need abortions.[4]

Reproductive sex is the relevant factor here, not identity.

In the United States

To say this and to know this–that transwomen will never need abortions– is not carefully calculated social exclusion, cissexism, or genital essentialism. It is simply a fact: only female bodied people need abortions. Further, to say and to know that transmen need abortions because they are female bodied people is not transphobia. It is simply a fact.

Male and female bodies have completely different reproductive organs and systems; these organs and systems have completely different reproductive functions. Males have penises and testes. Male reproductive rights and services include vasectomies, viagra, and sperm storage. Females, on the other hand, have uteruses and vaginas and fallopian tubes. Female reproductive rights and medical needs include abortions, birth control, and maternity services.

The kind of reproductive services you need depends entirely on your body’s sexual organs, not your mind’s gender identity. Everyone who needs an abortion has a female reproductive system. Being pro-(abortion)-choice means being pro-female regardless of (the female’s) gender identity.

VAGINA

Another sticking point in the rhetoric of abortion and reporductive rights revolves around the ability to name female body parts. Any attempt to further limit the already restrained space allowed for political and social discussion of female reproductive organs is unacceptable.

JaneDoeMD_vagina_reductiontogenitals

@DrJaneChi on “Night of A Thousand Vaginas.”

This is especially important in the context of a political climate where, as incisively noted by transsexual blogger Snowflake Especial, you’re not allowed to say “vagina” during certain congressional debates about abortion. [4] Whether it is misogynistic revulsion for female bodies or the fragility of the trans ego, we must not sacrifice or silence the ability of females to talk about female body parts and how they relate to reproduction. Especially abortion.

This is not genital or vaginal essentialism. It does not mean that all females are is their vaginas. It simply means that we recognize the undeniable relationship between sex-specific (reproductive) organs and their (reproductive) functions.

If there is a necessary adjustment to terminology regarding abortion and reproductive rights, I suggest that we sharpen the focus from “women” to females— this constitutes a much more accurate description of the subject of our concerns. More importantly, it would avoid the elephant in the room: widening the scope of abortion rights to include people who should not be included.

Men matter too!

The broader implications of including “men” and “people without vaginas” in the language of “women’s” reproductive rights is that male bodied people are also included. It eliminates any difference between male and female interests in reproductive rights and, specifically, access to abortion. It moves the focus from female bodily autonomy back to the general audience of “all people.” Including male people.

Instead of “it’s her decision,” now it’s “his and/or her decision.” Instead of “women’s bodies are impregnable,” it becomes “all bodies might be impregnable.” This is patently false. Further, it plays right into the hands of MRAs like Greg Fultz. Click the infamous billboard image to read the back story on this charmer.

Greg_Fultz_abortion

The autonomy to choose whether or not one will bear children is a human right. It is a human right that all males have always enjoyed. It is a human right that all females are also entitled to. Yet for as long as patriarchy has reigned, females have fought– and died– for the right to reproductive control over our own bodies. The “right to choose” is already on tenuous legal and social ground in the US; we are already battling males in power who deludedly imagine that females have special ways of “shutting down” unwanted pregnancy. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. A recent Atlantic article details our pervasive cultural ignorance about female sexuality, including basic biology:

…myths about virginity, sex, and basic biology still pervade even among sexually active adults, and when those myths get reinforced by vacuums of reliable information and sexist messages ingrained in popular culture, they can have serious consequences for women’s health.

The suggestion that females should include men or males of any kind in the rhetoric of reproductive rights and abortion “choice” is ultimately a very privileged one. Feminist writer Glosswitch expressed similar concerns in an article exploring the intersection of gender identity and sex at The New Statesman (bold not in original):

The current drive towards de-gendering [sic] references to pregnancy and abortion thus strikes me as fundamentally anti-feminist. Anti-choicers do not seek to deny people abortions; they seek to deny women abortions. The needs of these women are dismissed not simply due to some abstract expectation of what people with wombs do, but due to an enormous matrix of highly gendered expectations. … For the sake of both cis women and trans men it is important to identify the contested ground and to hone in on where the dehumanising impulses come from.  This requires an understanding of intersectionality as contextualisation rather than a shifting of hierarchies, something which is essential if we are not to mask structures of oppression in a desperate attempt to be non-specific.

Identity politics is a distraction, not a clarification, to reproductive politics and abortion rights. I refuse to “mask structures of oppression in a desperate attempt to be non-specific,” nor in a desperate attempt to avoid triggering people whose social identities do not match their genitals. I will not talk about reproductive rights as if impregnation affects all bodies equally. The fact that some females wish they were not female and some males wish they were female does not require the rest of us to pretend that abortion is anything but a female-specific medical procedure that only female bodied people have a right to request or refuse.

#profemaleprochoice

It’s one thing that some people identify with the opposite sex and wish to socially pass as such. Fine. It’s quite another thing to demand that gender identity displace accurate terminology about “sex” and “vaginas” in law and public policy. Not fine. And it is yet another thing to demand that organizations like NARAL and Planned Parenthood reframe their entire public discourse about reproductive rights to include “men” and “people without vaginas.” Completely asinine and unacceptable.

The call for a New Movement centered around the politically correct terminology of identity theory is a deliberate diversion from sex-based reproductive difference and the politics of control. It is also a diversion of funds from the provision of abortions and other vital reproductive services to feel-good rhetoric that has nothing to do with the social mechanics of reproductive exploitation.

Being pro-choice means being pro-female. You can be pro-trans or pro-identity-politics too. But in the context of reproductive rights and access to abortion, being female is what really matters– regardless of identity.

No uterus, no opinion.

no-uterus_no-opinion

____________________________

[1] Remember that whole Susan G. Koman mammogram funding scandal? Reproductive rights organizations are constantly under attack from conservatives, they should not also be under attack from pro-choice people demanding a diversion of funds to accommodate subjective “gender identities.”  See http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/alarmed-saddened-komen-foundation-succumbing-political-pressure-planned-parenthood-launches-fun-38629.htm

[2] I’m using the asterisk here for the sake of brevity, not as a matter of political correctness. It refers to any and all people who self-I-dentity as “trans,” whatever that label means to the user.

[3] For another instance, please see this article from July 2013: http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/17888-not-everyone-who-has-an-abortion-is-a-woman-how-to-frame-the-abortion-rights-issue

[4] Snowflake Especial’s coverage of the #protransprochoice issue should not be missed. Bookmark this blog! http://snowflakeespecial.tumblr.com/post/74963151096/more-trans-activism-derailing-female-reproductive

7 comments

  1. Wow.. you like.. really hate us huh?

    Can I just say I never transitioned with the thought “HEY I GET TO JOIN THE WOMAN ONLY TREEHOUSE CLUB”.

    I mean honestly…

    We could care less about your politics.. and your hate mongering.. I just try to get through the fricken day without bothering anyone and go home to watch some anime…

    I only become an activist when I have no other choise.. like im sure every other trans girl. Cant get my drivers liscense changed because someone feels I cant without loppingoff my penis? Great now I gotta go and explain that some of us are fine with keeping it. Oh look another trans girl beaten to death because she dared to buy groceries… guess we gotta tell people that should be against the law..

    So what? You finally scored some big equal opportunity rights for women and decided “hey.. lets be the exact thing we fight against and oppress another group!! They dont deserve the same rights as us, they arent even female.”

    =\ puh lease. If everyone around me sees me as a woman.. and I see myself as a woman.. and no one bats an eye … what are you fighting us for exactly? Exclusivity?

    Is this the fox news of feminism or something?

  2. I published Reika’s comment because this is what women deal with when we know the difference between sex and gender. We’re hateful. And we must be told how wrong and stupid we are.

  3. Tobysgirl · ·

    I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear about someone’s driver’s license. I had an illegal abortion at age 16 with no anesthetic, an experience beyond the ken of any transwoman. Planned Parenthood and NARAL have NO (NONE!) responsibility to provide health care for biological males who think they’re women. And when I read a comment such as the one above, my sympathy for people who are obviously at odds with their biological selves diminishes dramatically.

  4. Reika has completely missed the point of this article. It isn’t transphobic at all, it doesn’t even denounce transwomen being women. It states the fact that transwomen and other non-female bodied people do not need the same medical/reproductive rights as female bodied people because they do not have biologically female bodies.

  5. WE are not excluding anyone from declaring their sex. WE are simply stating that no one, Male or Female gets to choose their sex. You don’t have to explain why you don’t want to “lop off your penis” when you apply for a driver’s license, because as a male, you don’t have a legitimate reason to check “female” in the box, other than the fact that you think you are one. WE exclude men from the definition of women. The Trans Agenda is taking things way to far, it’s time to push back. WE don’t legitimize your definition of woman. A woman is a woman. XX, female, born with a vagina. Obviously we believe Transmembrane are women too. Enough with the bullshit. Your “brain” can possess wide variations from masculine to feminine in “thinking style” based on the traditional stereotypes of how men and women are suppose d to act. But what you “think/feel” has nothing to do with the fact that your body is either XX or XY and you either have a vagina or penis. (And this is not a discussion about true intersex people).

  6. Lizzy Shaw · ·

    Good post! Also, I agree that Reika’s comment is exactly what happens whenever women point out the difference between sex and gender. It’s really not that hard of a concept to understand.

    It is the height of conceit to expect women to pander to identity politics when even though abortion is technically legal in the US, women are still needing to have illegal abortions like Tobysgirl because access is difficult. The willful ignorance that goes into completely missing the point of this article is astounding.

    And even the article itself doesn’t say that it’s wrong to wish to live as the opposite sex. It just points out that people have different reproductive health care needs based on their biological sex.

    I am also strongly against making this a “what about the men” issue too. Any organization that does that loses my support full-stop. Men don’t have to carry the pregnancy to term, which by the way can kill a woman, currently in the US it’s safer to get a (legal) abortion than it is to give birth. Society looks the other way a lot when men bail on their kids too (the reason why so many women get full custody is because they men didn’t want to be parents.) My cousin got pregnant, and thought about getting an abortion, but her boyfriend said the he loved her forever and would raise the kid with her. Then he bailed out and disappeared a few weeks before she went into labor and we haven’t heard from him since.

    Everyone deserves access to basic healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. However, abortion is distinctly a woman’s issue and so it the ability to use birth control. Just look at the Hobby Lobby Case. I recommend that the left collectively get their shit together and stop arguing about stupid post-modernist semantics.

  7. I’m in a pro-choice group that is rushing headlong down the path of erasing the words “woman/women” (etc.) from all its content because of complaints about these words erasing trans people. Like you, I want all people to have sovereignty over their own bodies — men, women; lesbians, trans, children — and would join any fight for their rights to do so. But I do feel abortion is quote-unquote primarily “a woman’s issue”, for all the reasons articulated here. Have I challenged the move to erase “woman/women” etc.? No, I’m too cowardly, I’ve just “melted away” as they say. The idea of instead using the word “female” is a good one, though I’m not sure I have the courage to dive in and suggest it. Half of me thinks, this too shall pass and I’m in this struggle for the long game. And, in a group like the one I’m in, how much damage can efforts to “erase” woman/women when “everyone” (whoever they are) knows what the facts of abortion are. Or everyone who cares, anyway. I also feel like spending my precious energy on this would be misdirecting that energy, and is likely to make me feel even more alienated than I already do at the moment from the group, and some people in the movement. Looking at the history of progressive movements, it strikes me that having this fight over language (in the activist realm anyway) would only be destructive — that is, do more damage than would simply letting those committed to changing it do as they wish. (All of this, I realize, is probably just an over-thought-out justification for above-mentioned cowardice. And, yes, I am very definitely afraid of some trans activists and their allies and don’t want to put myself in their line of fire.) So, I sit on my hands and don’t do anything. Well, about this anyway. I do try to keep doing the usual stuff I do and have always done in the struggle for reproductive rights. I suppose I’ve just decided to try to wait this particular issue out, but remain unsure both about that decision and about the issue in general. And I’ve realized lately that as this particular manifestation of “inclusivity” has become more of a priority for the group I’m in — and even the reproductive rights movement at large — I have contemplated quitting. And I feel a kind of despair. I’m not sure quite where this despair comes from. But thanks for the site and the calm, considered posts.

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