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Reproductive Rights Aren’t Just Women’s Rights

HelloFlo is a womens health company committed to normalizing the conversations we have about womens bodies so that we can all live healthier lives.

Not everyone with a vagina identifies as a woman — it's time for a more inclusive take on reproductive rights

I die a little bit inside whenever I see something like, “Women’s reproductive health is under attack #IStandWithPP” on my Twitter feed.

I cringe when people chant in protests about “a woman’s right to choose!” I feel completely invisible when gynos and contraceptives are framed as being important women’s health priorities only.

This isn’t because I don’t support birth control, abortion and gyno visits covered by insurance. It’s because the language surrounding reproductive health activism is completely reductive — that is, all the exclusively feminine stuff like “women,” “vagina,” “she” and “her.”

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The thing is, the futures of Planned Parenthood and reproductive health policies in the U.S. don't affect women exclusively. Men, nonbinary and trans people need reproductive health access just as much as their cisgender female counterparts.

While cis women may make up the majority of clients at Planned Parenthood and in the nation as a whole it’s counterproductive to exclude trans folks from these conversations time and time again. There are trans individuals who also get their period and need doctors and sometimes abortions.

As a trans man with a vagina, reproductive health care is essential. I have abnormal periods that I’ve needed constant gynecological care and birth control for since I was 12. I often develop cysts on my ovaries, which require medical attention. Now, I’m looking into getting a hysterectomy (for pain and gender-affirming purposes) and will be setting up an appointment at my local Planned Parenthood this month to explore taking testosterone.

I don’t have a lot of money, so Planned Parenthood in New York City's new services for transgender clients interested in transitioning is so exciting to me. Not only because I can afford it, but because Planned Parenthood seems like a less intimidating space to start this journey than in a specialist’s office hundreds of miles away from me.

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While helpful in some areas, there are many other areas where reproductive health care seriously needs revising when it comes to gender-expansive clients. For example, there are lots of hoops to jump through in order to schedule a hysterectomy (since being trans isn’t a good enough excuse in most cases). Doctors in the reproductive health field, like gynecologists, repeatedly misgender patients like me despite my corrections. They ask me questions about my sex life, assuming I have straight/cisgender-typical sex and frown when I tell them I’ve never had vaginal sex. With their behavior, many doctors make it very clear that these spaces are “cis women only.”

It’s funny how so much of the focus for some feminist activists stays on “women’s reproductive health,” when there is a whole slew of things that urgently need to change regarding trans and intersex reproductive health. Sure, advocate for women’s rights to choose, more power to you! But then also advocate for the rights of intersex babies and children, who are so often forced into genital reconstructive surgeries that rob them of their right to choose what they want later in life. Question doctors that are committing violence against children’s reproductive organs and essentially playing God by trying to choose intersex babies’ genders for them.

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Cis women and women in general are not the only people with reproductive organs. I feel like I’ve been saying this nonstop lately. Abortion and birth control and safe medical procedures aren’t just important for women, they’re important for all people (children included). I understand the polarizing is in reaction to the need for unity under a president who has openly expressed hatred toward women, but let’s remember who the latest executive order, the one about bathrooms, targeted.

Let’s try to remember that as we go forward with our feminist activism people of all gender identities are oppressed and affected by our reproductive health systems being compromised. An attack on reproductive health is an attack on us all.

By Meg Zulch

Originally published on HelloFlo.

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