Medically Gendered: The Language of Abortion Access

This is a post I never thought I would write, for several reasons. First of all, I, unlike many other trans* people, have never felt erased by the use of the term “women’s rights” to refer to abortion access or other phrases that imply that abortion access is solely a women’s issue. And second, I never thought there could possibly be anything at all about abortion that would make me uncomfortable.

I’ve said for years and years that I’d never see a gynecologist. Long before I began exploring my gender identity I knew that seeing a gynecologist was just not something I was going to do. It was only recently that I realized that I feel the same way about gynecologists that I do about menstruating: dysphoric. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize that my feelings about gynecologists were feelings of dysphoria. Probably because I’ve never actually been to see one and don’t often think about the prospect.

Last week, I attended a workshop called “Demystifying and Destigmatizing Abortion” put on by a friend of mine who runs a clinic. The work shop was basically a walk through of the procedure and all of the stuff leading up to it (paper work, counseling, ultrasound, etc.). I found it hugely informative as someone who’s never had an abortion and had no idea what the process would actually entail. Unfortunately, the workshop also forced on me the realization that an abortion is an actual medical procedure that involves a doctor looking at and messing around inside my genitals.

Upon hearing the words “pelvic exam” and “speculum” my brain started going “no. no. NO!I realized that my conception of an abortion as a relief from the horrific dysphoria of pregnancy and my unfamiliarity with the actual procedure allowed me to overlook (or not think about) the fact that realistically the experience of getting an abortion would in actuality be much like the experience of going to the gynecologist, an unpleasantry I was dead set on avoiding.

The longer the workshop went on and the more people talked, the better I could see myself sitting in a recovery room full of women at my friend’s clinic at some point in my life, feeling uncomfortable and dysphoric and utterly isolated. If I ever have an abortion my experience will be utterly different from everyone else in the recovery room because I will not perceive the experience through the lens of womanhood, and so long as abortion remains a thing that belongs solely in the domain of women it will never belong to me. It will be a jarring experience that forces a gender on me that is incongruent with my self perception. That was how I left the workshop feeling, isolated, alienated, dysphoric and unable to relate.

I came away from that workshop understanding why so many trans* people feel strongly about the use of gender inclusive language in the struggle for abortion access, because they want to be able to receive basic, necessary medical care without being misgendered or experiencing intense dysphoria, because they don’t want to have their identities stripped away from them the moment they enter the waiting room. So, yeah, here I am saying it: the language surrounding abortion rights and abortion access needs to be more trans* inclusive. I want to fight for access to a procedure I will actually feel comfortable getting.

All that said, I still feel weird acknowledging that I would be uncomfortable getting an abortion. I am unapologetically pro-choice, and in my mind, abortion is not a morally complicated issue. Hell, for me abortion is the only option, its not even a question. Lastly, I want to add that I thought my friend’s workshop was brilliant. This post is not a reflection on her or her work, its about the gendered nature of reproductive health and related medical procedures and how my dysphoria effects my comfort levels in accessing them.

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What’s in a name?: “Masculine-of-Center” and White Queer Theory

…And here is one of the biggest problems I see: in many white spaces of resistance, the focus becomes a question of naming something and how proximate that name is to the core of what is being named. The prioritization of the name/naming does not allow for a meaningful engagement with the work that is actually being done under that name. This is one of the most insidious products of (middle class) white culture, the desire to name people and communities in a way that speaks for itself, without having to see what has led to the naming and what are the effects of the actions of those named. It is with this logic that major multinational corporations can carry mantras of “do no evil” and “spreading progress” while simultaneously wreaking economic, political, and social havoc across the globe. There is so much more than what’s in a name. …

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Via FCQ! by Mauro Osborne

Intersex Fertility

My daughter was not of woman born. That is a concept that has fascinated people through the ages.

My daughter’s gestation was perfectly “natural,” I should point out–but I carried her, and I was never of the female sex; I am diagnosed as “true gonadal intersex.” I was assigned female at birth, and was living as such when I gave birth to her, but I never identified as a woman, and am now legally male.

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Via The Intersex Roadshow

Intersex Genitalia Illustrated and Explained

There is a lot of variation in how the genitalia develop from person to person in all of us. Nature provides us with a wide spectrum of forms, onto which our society imposes two absolute categories of male and female. In my last post, I described how all people start out with the same genitals in the womb, and how the phalloclitoris differentiates during development. In this post I will discuss the range of natural genital forms, explaining how they develop from the shared embryonic phalloclitoral structures.

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Via The Intersex Roadshow

How Common is Intersex Status

If you poke around the internet trying to find out how common it is for a person to be intersex, you may well wind up frustrated that nobody seems to have a precise figure to give you. You’ll probably encounter some commonly-cited odds: 1 in 2000, or 1 in 2500. People have passed these figures around for a number of years, until, by repetition, they’ve come to seem generally accepted. I used to repeat these figures myself, before I learned more about how they were generated. Being born intersex is presented as rare; less common, say, than being born with Down’s syndrome.

I don’t think there’s anything I can really say here to appropriately preface this… I’d call it “powerful and eloquent” but even that wouldn’t do it justice.

malintZINE

“Are you a boy or a girl?”

I walk into a gas station convenience store, pick up my Snapple and head to the register to pay. “Good evening, Sir. How are you doing today?” I ask, with a smile on my face.  “Good, how are you?” the clerk responds.“I’m doing well” I say. He tells me my total and I hand him a $20 bill. While making my change, he keeps looking up at me. I know this look. He is trying to figure me out. My baggy clothes and fitted hat are making it hard for him to identify me.  He looks me in the eye and says “are you a boy or a girl?”. I hate this question. It makes everything awkward. “Does it matter?” I respond “I just need my change”. I can see my change in his hand. I can see the look on his…

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The Phalloclitoris: Anatomy and Ideology

The Western medical establishment is deeply invested in the ideology of sexual dyadism: the idea that there are two very different sexes with two very different sets of genitalia. When children are born with genitals that are intermediate between the two, it is called a “malformation” and treated as bizarre and in need of immediate “correction.” My earlier posts explain how this causes great suffering for intersex people. What I want to write about today is how the language we use and the diagrams doctors draw to illustrate genitalia hide the similarities between everyone’s genitals. I believe that if we use more accurate language and diagrams, not only will we all understand each other’s bodies better, but the treatment of intersex individuals will improve.

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Via The Intersex Roadshow