Feminism | Posted by Jack Quemi on 09/28/2016

We Need To Make The Way We Talk About Abortion Access More Gender Inclusive

http://wetestify.org/

http://wetestify.org/

I’m that annoying person on Twitter, Facebook, and basically any outlet that will let me type out my ideas who keeps saying we need to make the reproductive justice movement more gender inclusive. A lot of people like to yell at me on the Internet because they assume I’m talking about including cisgender men. But I don’t ascribe to the “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE MENS?!” narrative. That’s not what I mean when I say “gender inclusive.”

In order to explain once and for all what I mean by gender inclusivity, let’s start with some basic background. Hi, I’m Jack Qu’emi. I’m a nonbinary transgender person. That means that when I was born I was assigned a gender based on the appearance of my genitalia, but as an adult I’ve come to realize that assignment wasn’t an accurate one. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I don’t identify with any gender. We often are told there are only two gender options: man and woman. I don’t fit in either of those categories, so even though I am trans, I’m not a trans man or a trans woman. On top of that, I don’t fit into any third gender categories (think genderqueer, neutrois, bigender, gender-fluid, etc). This means (you guessed it), I exist as a gender neutral person. I don’t use inherently gendered pronouns (they/them/theirs please), titles, or words to describe myself, and ask that others refrain from gendering me as well. This is my truth. I’m trying to keep it simple. Come with me down the rabbit hole.

Now that we’ve established who I am, let’s rewind a bit. As I’ve stated, there are more than two genders. Additionally, one’s gender identity doesn’t necessarily mean that their anatomy, presentation, or sexual orientation all align in the ways we are traditionally told they do. This means you can identify as a man, be heterosexual, wear lipstick, and have a uterus. Yes, I know that’s probably confusing, but imagine how much harder it is to be that person navigating an incredibly normative world with an incredibly non-normative existence.

Regardless of how strange you may find gender non-conforming identities, individuals who identify this way — individuals like me — still need access to healthcare, just like anyone else. We need pap smears, mammograms, STI/STD testing, sexual health education, and yes, abortion access. For those of us who can become pregnant and are having the kinds of relationships that can lead to pregnancy, it’s vital that we have an inclusive and safe environment in which to obtain reproductive healthcare.

For example, while I may not personally have a gender, when I was 20 I needed an abortion. I deserved to walk into a clinic and have my lack of gender respected, my pronouns respected, and my autonomy respected. And this isn’t just a job for clinical staff: There are so many pro-choice, reproductive rights organizations that don’t take into consideration the fact that not everyone who has an abortion is a cisgender woman. Even beyond abortion, reproductive health isn’t limited to this one service and access to it— yet the dominant conversation about it appears to have historically exclusively appealed to the needs of cis women.

Feeling excluded from the narrative was one of the main reasons I jumped at the chance to be an abortion storyteller for WeTestify.org. They’re a new program of the National Network of Abortion Funds that aims to “[increase] the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere.” I attended their storyteller retreat in California this past August, and have never been in a space with so many people from diverse backgrounds and identities who all had a common experience. I was in a space filled with people who readily accepted my lack of gender and were completely unfazed that someone who exists in such a non-normative space could also need an abortion. We Testify makes it obvious and imperative that the voices of those not usually given the opportunity to be heard are just as important as those with the most visibility. It’s programs like We Testify that are carving out space for marginalized communities and making the healthcare experience a positive one for people like me.

When I talk about ‘gender inclusivity,’ therefore, I mean the deliberate acceptance of transness, queerness, and all nonconforming identities. I mean cultural competency and sensitivity training that includes discussions about working with trans and gender nonconforming communities being mandatory. I mean a complete overhaul of how we are taught about sexual health, reproductive health, and gender in order to offer comprehensive care to everyone.

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