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The Importance of Gender-Inclusive Language

Lauren Bell gender inclusivity language

It was just a few weeks ago that the Supreme Court made the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which immediately prompted a public outcry. My social media feeds were flooded almost entirely with words of outrage: declarations that the government should stay out of women’s uteruses, that women’s bodies are more regulated than guns in this country, and that women deserve the right to choose what they do with their bodies were just some of the sentiments I saw across my feeds. The overwhelming sense of fear and anger inside of me was calmed slightly by this near universal support from friends and family, but simultaneously a feeling of exclusion began to grow upon reading these words. Because the overturning of Roe v. Wade affects me, but these sentiments left me out of the conversation entirely.

It wasn’t intentional, of course. I don’t believe I have any TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) on any of my friends lists. But still, their (as well as just about everyone else speaking up right now) use of gendered language excluded myself and the entire trans and nonbinary communities. Because gender is not equal to sex or anatomy; because trans men are men and nonbinary people are nonbinary and both may be capable of giving birth; because the presence of a uterus does not make a person a woman. So by using gendered language in this discussion, the trans and nonbinary communities are being excluded from the conversation, ignored in a situation that directly affects us. When discussing your outrage about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, talk about how it impacts pregnant people or people with uteruses, rather than making it an issue that solely affects women. 

Because there are some people who will always be able to have access to safe abortions, and there are some people who won’t. Cisgendered, middle-class white women will have more ease in receiving an abortion than women of color or trans/nonbinary birthing people. She will be able to afford to take time off work to travel out of state and receive a safe abortion. It won’t be easy, by all means, but it would still be possible. Yet this is not the case for so many others. It’s no secret that trans people face several barriers in regards to healthcare, from blatant medical discrimination to being more likely to live below the poverty line - which affects access to transportation, health insurance, and job stability (barriers that are further exacerbated for trans people of color).

Reproductive healthcare and trans healthcare are closely related; people claim to be anti-abortion for the same reason they deny trans youth gender-affirming and lifesaving healthcare - to “save the children.” The topic of abortion - the right to an abortion - is not a gendered one, and to make it so would be to further ostracize and stigmatize an already marginalized group of people. It’s an issue of bodily autonomy, something with which the trans and nonbinary communities are quite familiar. Don’t exclude us from the conversations, the protests, the debates. Go go out and vote, protest, donate money to local abortion funds, and support everyone impacted by this decision, not just cis women.

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