I have long been bothered by the way in which the transgender movement has disconnected female from woman. Gender, gender, gender clearly oppresses women as it defines them by adherence to social roles. Substituting gender for sex is the antithesis of feminism which attacks the way gender is used to oppress women.
Anyone who doesn’t get that one needs to spend a while wading through Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex.”
Placating the transgender movement shouldn’t require the redefinition of feminism.
We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people without erasing women from the fight for reproductive rights.
March 13, 2015
Who has abortions? For most of human history, the answer was obvious: women have abortions. Girls have abortions. Not any more. People have abortions. Patients have abortions. Men have abortions. “We must acknowledge and come to terms with the implicit cissexism in assuming that only women have abortions,” wrote feminist activist Lauren Rankin in July 2013 in truthout.com. She went on to criticize as exclusionary slogans like “the War on Women” and “Stand with Texas Women.”
Such claims may sound arcane to most people. One area in which they have been quietly effective, though, is in reproductive-rights activism. Abortion funds, which offer help paying for an abortion when Medicaid or insurance won’t, have become a thriving hub of grassroots feminism. They draw hundreds of activists, young and old, to donate countless hours to provide direct service and advocate for better funding for abortion. In the past few years, a number of the funds have quietly removed references to “women” from their messaging in order to be more welcoming to trans men and others who do not identify as women but can still become pregnant. The New York Abortion Access Fund changed its language in 2012. Its mission statement now mentions “anyone,” “every person” and “the people who call our hotline.” The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund helps “callers,” the Lilith Fund helps “Texans.” Last year Fund Texas Women, which pays travel and hotel costs in the wake of the closing of many clinics in the state, became Fund Texas Choice. (“Choice” is a problematic word too, but that’s a subject for another day.) In a message to supporters, co-founder Lenzi Scheible wrote, “with a name like Fund Texas Women, we were publicly excluding trans* people who needed to get an abortion but were not women. We refuse to deny the existence and humanity of trans* people any longer.”
I’m going to argue here that removing “women” from the language of abortion is a mistake. We can, and should, support trans men and other gender-non-conforming people. But we can do that without rendering invisible half of humanity and 99.999 percent of those who get pregnant. I know I’ll offend, hurt and disappoint some people, including abortion-fund activists I love dearly. That is why I’ve started this column many times over many months and put it aside. I tell myself I might be wrong—it’s happened before. “Most of the pressure [to shift language] comes from young people,” said one abortion-fund head I interviewed, whose fund, like many, has “Women” in its name. “The role of people in our generation is to give money and get out of the way.” (Like many of the people I interviewed for this column, she asked to remain anonymous.) Maybe in ten years, it will seem perfectly natural to me to talk about abortion in a gender-neutral way. Right now, though, it feels as if abortion language is becoming a bit like French, where one man in a group of no matter how many women means “elles” becomes “ils.”
From the perspective of providing care, I understand it. “The focus should be on access,” NYAAF board member Rye Young told me over the phone. The primary purpose of abortion funds is to provide immediate financial and other help to individuals in crisis, whom funders usually know only as voices on the phone. If wording on a website makes people feel they can’t make that phone call, that’s not good. We women have had enough experience with being disrespected by healthcare and social-service providers not to wish that on anyone else. Does presenting abortion as gender-neutral need to be part of that welcoming procedure, though? The primary sources of abortion data in the US—the CDC and the Guttmacher Institute—don’t collect information on the gender identity of those who seek abortion, but conversations with abortion providers and others suggest the number of transgender men who want to end a pregnancy is very low. I don’t see how it denies “the existence and humanity of trans people” to use language that describes the vast majority of those who seek to end a pregnancy. Why can’t references to people who don’t identify as women simply be added to references to women? After all, every year over 2,000 men get breast cancer and over 400 die, and no one is calling for “women” to be cut out of breast-cancer language so that men will feel more comfortable seeking treatment. If there was such a call, though, I wonder what would happen. Women have such a long history of minimizing themselves in order not to hurt feelings or seem self-promoting or attention-demanding. We are raised to put ourselves second, and too often, still, we do.
The real damage of abolishing “women” in abortion contexts, though, is to our political analysis. What happens to Dr. Tiller’s motto, “Trust Women”? There was a whole feminist philosophy expressed in those two words: women are competent moral actors and they, not men, clergy or the state, are the experts on their own lives, and should be the ones to decide how to shape them.
Continue reading at: http://www.thenation.com/article/201289/who-has-abortions#