Abortion Rights and Trans Rights Are Two Sides of the Same Coin

In many ways, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is not unlike the decision to go through transition: It is a fundamentally private choice that can be made only by the individual in question — a person who alone knows the truth of their heart, who alone can understand what the consequences of their choices will be in the years to come.

Mara Keisling, former head of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told me this week that — along with the Veterans Health Administration — Planned Parenthood is one of the top providers for trans people’s health care nationwide. So when conservatives talk about defunding Planned Parenthood, ostensibly because of the abortion services it offers, they’re also talking about denying a major resource for the well being of trans people.

When I read about the seemingly endless efforts to deny people the kind of care they get at these clinics, I wonder what is actually motivating them, at their core. Are anti-abortion activists really driven by a concern for the “unborn?” Is anti-trans sentiment really driven by an understanding of the complex science behind gender variance?

Or is it, as I suspect, a fear of difference, a fear of women, or a fear of sex itself?

It may also be a fear of nonconformity and difference. A direct consequence of this fear is the harrowing experiences pregnant men and nonbinary people can have in seeking health care. Nick Lloyd, a nonbinary trans person, has described the lack of gender-inclusive language when they tried to get an abortion as “dehumanizing.” But being different doesn’t mean that an individual is less deserving of respectful reproductive services — including abortion — than anyone else.

Being different simply means that you are human. The only constant in our experience of sex and gender is variation.

To be sure, the trans rights movement isn’t embraced by all feminists. Over the last decade, a fringe movement of feminists has grown in Britain and the United States, resisting the call for trans rights, claiming that only cisgender women are women. You can call them “gender critical” feminists, some go further and call them TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists), or simply people whose hearts — like the Grinch’s — are two sizes too small.

Regardless, the current moment demands that trans women take their rightful place in American feminism. In this fight, everyone believing in the right of all people to control their own bodies ought to be on the same side. Is it so impossible to suggest that we all might look out for one another?

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