Recently Ophelia Benson added to the TERFY hole she’s been digging by tearing into an abortion provider who chose to use inclusive language when discussing issues surrounding pregnancy and access. It’s an issue that comes up surprisingly often. The discussion around genitalia is so needlessly gendered, that people often fall into the trap of equating body parts with identity.
The equation of women with “having a uterus” or the ability to have children is obviously exclusionary to both trans men and trans women. Not everyone who can get pregnant is a woman and not every woman has the ability to get pregnant. It is also exclusionary to many of us with disabilities.
The social equation of women with having a uterus is extremely damaging to women who, for one reason or another, have lost their ovaries, or uterus. Many of them struggle with feelings of inadequacy or identity loss for this reason. Harmful concepts, like those established by patriarchy and outdated feminist concepts that reduce women to their genitalia, only make the struggle more difficult.
It’s not just loss of organs that can result in this feeling of inadequacy. There are many reasons why someone who wants kids may be unable to have them. When illness or disability put your fertility in question, it’s just another confirmation of why we are inadequate.
I’ve always wanted kids, and even though I don’t know for certain that my Crohn’s has made me infertile, it is a possibility that I’ve struggled with. Even if it hasn’t, I might be too sick to ever be able to handle pregnancy, let alone childcare. It’s bad enough that I struggle with my gender identity, without the added stress of feeling like my womanhood is undermined because of my disability.
Whenever TERFs insist that womanhood is equated with child rearing ability, they add to that struggle. They add to my disability.
When a so-called feminist activist harasses an abortion provider to the point that the doctor feels the need to block them, it makes access more difficult. It scares away more doctors from becoming abortion providers.
Ophelia made the joke that “If men were pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” as an explanation of her point. What her point missed wildly is that the influence of trans people to get anything declared a sacrament is non-existent. Moreover, not all the non-women who can get pregnant are men. Many are also non-binary.
Trans men often do not get recognized as being “real men” and often for the same reason spurring Ophelia’s objections: because they have the ability to get pregnant. What influence that being male might bestow upon trans men, which could be wielded to further the cause of access to abortion, is undermined by outdated patriarchal notions.
The issue of abortion isn’t really about abortion. It is about whether people who can get pregnant and women have the right to bodily autonomy. This is a matter that trans people know even more intimately than cis women. While 1 in 3 women might need an abortion in their lifetime, every trans person will experience blocks to their bodily autonomy as they try to transition. Even those who are lucky to find a supportive doctor, have to deal with the fear that their request for hormones, or surgery will get denied. In Canada, every trans person wanting to have their surgery covered has to prove that they are “trans enough” for it.
Bigotry never just has just one victim. Feminism often intersects with issues of race, class, gender identity, and more, and so do other social justice issues. When a person like Ophelia makes transantagonistic statements like those she made on twitter, she isn’t just hurting trans folk. There are disabled women caught in the splash damage. When someone thinks that the middle of an abortion debate is the right time to bully an abortion provider for not being sufficiently trans-exclusionary for her taste, then they probably don’t care who else they’re hurting.