Guest post by Anonymous in Pennsylvania
Trigger warning: sexual assault
The recent debates about defunding Planned Parenthood have gotten me really riled up. At first I just assumed it is because I know the array of services they provide and how often they are the only point of access for people to obtain reproductive healthcare. I understand that Planned Parenthood often needs to step in to fill in the gaps where people have had woefully inaccurate (or no) sexuality education and find themselves in need of care to become healthier and stay that way. Unlike some people engaging in the discussion, I actually recognize how much would be at stake if Planned Parenthood were to lose its federal funding.
It took me a while to realize that while all of this stuff was contributing to how I felt, a big part of why I was upset was because of the whole abortion issue.
Yeah, you know, that little thing.
It doesn’t matter that federal funding is already not used for abortion services provided by Planned Parenthood, and it doesn’t matter that abortions are just a very small segment of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. Neither of those facts take away from how important access to abortion is. And the truth is that if Planned Parenthood loses its federal funding, it will likely no longer be able to provide any services – including terminating pregnancies.
If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion, the brainchild of Lindy West and Amelia Bonow. Their campaign stemmed from this notion that those fighting for defunding Planned Parenthood at least partially crafted their speech and arguments around the idea that abortion still needs to be whispered about. People who oppose often portray those who have terminated pregnancies as being always tormented and regretful about the choice that they made. And, of course, some people do feel some level of regret (even if they still believe that abortion was the right choice for them) – but then again, many people feel nothing but relief.
And yet, we never hear those stories, do we? We never hear about the people who are happy about the fact that they had an abortion; we never hear about the people who walk away from terminating a pregnancy without experiencing any remorse or regret. Somehow, those stories are still taboo. #ShoutYourAbortion offered a safe space for individuals to be open about their abortion experiences, allowing them to break that socially-enforced silence.
Not everyone has the same experience with abortion, but so many people still feel the need to remain quiet about it. Watching the #ShoutYourAbortion stories spread across social media and seeing how varied they were helped me to put my own experiences into context. I realized that it might be helpful to other people if I added my own voice to the mix, and shared my own particular story.
I’m a man. And I had an abortion when I was 27.
I’m trans, and I was sexually assaulted by a group of armed men who apparently could see past two years of testosterone treatment and wanted to “prove” that I was “really” a woman. It happened in broad daylight in a park. There were people within earshot, and no one did anything. Among the many other issues that arose out of the assault, I got pregnant.
I never thought I would have to worry about that. After all, I’d been on testosterone for two years and I felt sure that my whole reproductive system had been suppressed by the male hormones. But, hey, apparently that wasn’t the case. It doesn’t really make sense to me even now; by all scientific rights, I should not have been able to conceive. Nonetheless, there I was, a man finding out that he was pregnant.
Getting that abortion probably saved my life.
It’s understandable that transmen can be left out of the conversation around abortion, though I think it’s unfortunate. I know I’m not the only transman to experience an unwanted pregnancy. At the same time, though, I don’t feel like I can go to Twitter and shout my abortion. I don’t want to seem like I’m pulling a what-about-the-men. And yet it’s difficult to see trans people so frequently left out of discussions about reproduction.
I believe in choice. I believe in bodily autonomy. I believe that people should have the right and opportunity to make choices about their bodies that are best for them. I don’t think there’s a litmus test for what qualifies as an “acceptable” abortion. I don’t need someone telling me that my abortion was sort of ok because it was due to a sexual assault, but someone else’s is not. That’s not how choice works.
Those are my beliefs, and certainly we all have the rights to our own. If abortion is not the right or acceptable choice for you, by all means don’t have one. But, to me, it’s really difficult when others want to get all up on my uterus and tell me what I can and can’t do with it, or what kind of person I am based on the choices I make and action steps I choose to take.
I wish we didn’t need a hashtag, no matter how powerful, to help break the silence around abortion. I wish there were less secrecy about it, including among transmen. But here I stand with those beliefs and I still can’t bring myself to shout my abortion on Twitter. Stigma is so pervasive; it’s hard to work through it even when you understand intellectually how it works and how it stands to silence individuals and take away their power.
Trans liberation and reproductive justice movements must go hand in hand. Social justice movements in general need to be intersectional; struggles never just impact one kind of person. Trans individuals and those fighting for reproductive justice–and there are already plenty of people falling under both categories doing the work–probably agree that we’re all working toward the same goal: the ability for each of us to inhabit our own bodies and be supported in doing so. Lack of control over our bodies, sex and reproduction are huge issues for both trans and cisgender people. There’s commonality in the fight for liberation.
My abortion was and continues to be the least traumatic part about my experience with being assaulted. Abortion was 100% the right choice for me and I have never regretted it.
However you can do it, whether it’s shouting on Twitter or not, if you’re willing and safe to do so I hope you can be open about your experience with abortion, whatever that experience was. Silence can truly be deadly. Isolation doesn’t ever help.
My hope is that any individual–regardless of gender identity or expression–would be able to make choices about their own bodies without coercion and judgment, be supported in doing so, and have the freedom and ability to access the resources to get the vital, and sometimes life-saving, care that they need and deserve.