It’s been—to put it mildly—a difficult few days for those who believe that trans and nonbinary people are (gasp!) deserving of health care. Public figures including New York Times columnist Pamela Paul, actor Bette Midler, and singer Macy Gray have all come out with statements indicating that the role of women in society is somehow imperiled not by the overturning of Roe v. Wade but by the push to include everyone (including those who don’t identify as women) under the umbrella of those affected by Roe’s fall.
These may seem like isolated incidents, but make no mistake: These women are buying into a dangerous narrative that has helped more than 100 anti-trans bills (and counting) make their way through various state legislatures in the last year alone. Trans kids in Texas face family separation if they choose to live openly, trans adults in Florida risk losing their access to gender-affirming health care, and trans women of color continue to face skyrocketing abuse and murder rates around the country. But instead of rallying behind any of these causes, some of the most powerful and visible women in media and entertainment are busy using trans people as a straw man to express a nebulous fear that the word woman itself is somehow under threat.
It’s an incontrovertible fact that women’s rights are currently in jeopardy across the U.S., but the struggles for abortion rights and trans rights aren’t at odds nor have they ever been. As furious as it might make the Bette Midlers of the world to admit, people of all genders do seek abortions, whether or not incendiary New York Times columns make them out to be a “relatively tiny” minority. The GOP certainly sees the commonalities between cis female abortion seekers and trans and nonbinary people fighting for their rights—that’s why they’ve attacked the rights of both groups consistently for years. Why, exactly, can’t we work together to fight back?
As the ACLU’s AC Facci recently wrote, “The fight for abortion rights and LGBTQ+ rights go hand in hand because they are both ultimately about protecting our bodily autonomy. But they’re also intertwined because lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, queer people, and, yes, some trans gay men can experience pregnancy and deserve control over if, when, and how we become pregnant and whether or not we stay pregnant.” Are gender-critical feminists really unable to make the distinction between the Republican crusade to strip as many people as possible of their rights and the desire to make the experience of everyone seeking abortion care as inclusive and minimally difficult as possible?
If wanting everyone who walks into an abortion clinic to be respected and affirmed in their gender identity on what is already a potentially painful day makes me a far-left woke crusader, then so be it. If those of us who profess to believe in abortion on demand and without apology are rushing to sow dissent within our own ranks instead of focusing our collective anger at the Supreme Court justices who view us as nothing more than fetal incubators, what are we even fighting for? We owe more to our trans and nonbinary siblings and the generation coming up beneath us—one of five of whom, by the way, identify as LGBTQ+. Don’t they deserve a pro-choice movement that accurately reflects who they are?
Ultimately, the abortion providers who continue to operate after the fall of Roe aren’t banning the word woman. They’re too busy doing their best to get the best health care to the most people, regardless of gender, to worry about these so-called debates over semantics. What if all the people doing their best to cause a trans panic over the phrase pregnant people shifted their seemingly boundless energy to helping those providers stay in business? What if they allowed themselves to accept that inclusive language doesn’t detract from the fight for bodily autonomy but instead adds more people to its ranks? What if we all stopped letting the loudest voices on the so-called left dictate what’s possible for all of us and instead sent a clear message that we won’t be divided—and we’ll never stop fighting for the protection and equality of the most marginalized among us?