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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