Now is the time for the larger progressive movement to connect the struggles for LGBTQ and reproductive rights more deeply, especially for those who are transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary.
Trans people get pregnant. Trans people need abortions. Trans people deserve access to culturally competent medical care. Trans people must have the freedom to live, something that is currently under unprecedented direct attack through hundreds of pieces of legislation across the country. Despite all of this, trans people have been marginalized in the mainstream fight over body autonomy. That must end. The reasons why are right in front of us.
Take Idaho as a recent and obvious example. Headlines there within two days of each other make the point: “Idaho House passes Texas-style abortion ban” and “An Idaho bill would criminalize medical treatments for trans youths. It echoes abortion bans.” These links are undeniable.
As is often the case, the forces opposed to body autonomy for cisgender women also oppose it for trans people. It is clear that this is one fight, but for decades, there has been an over-emphasis on cisgender women in the reproductive rights movement and transgender people have been left out and left behind. Restricting a women’s right to choose, curtailing sexual freedom, homophobia and transphobia are all inextricably linked with common roots.
The right wing mainstays of the anti-abortion movement, including The Heritage Foundation, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, the Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Liberty Council are at the forefront of the anti-trans movement, especially the ability for trans people–including children–to have equal access to health care.
TransLash’s investigative series last year, the Anti-Trans Hate Machine: A Plot Against Equality discussed how these very organizations, many of whom have been designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, are targeting the trans community as the next wave in the war over who gets to control our bodies.
For these organizations, the fight against abortion and the fight against trans rights are increasingly one and the same. And as was detailed in a recent Time Magazine piece, anti-trans forces are borrowing tactics from the anti-abortion movement in targeting doctors who provide gender-affirming healthcare.
By missing these obvious connections and denying a broader civil and human rights frame, the mainstream reproductive rights movement is playing into the hands of the right wing.
At the December 1, 2021 protests outside the Supreme Court hearing on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Task Force witnessed hundreds of protesters but the ones hoping to see Roe v. Wade overturned were not just holding anti-choice signs, but also anti-LGBTQ placards. They clearly get the connection.
Each of us who wishes to decide what we do with our body is in the crosshairs. As individuals, we know that our humanity is larger than the physical forms we are born into. A coalition of people with this understanding, in addition to a deep commitment to racial, disability and economic justice, would create a powerful force for human rights grounded in body autonomy. And that force is needed now to preserve and extend hard fought gains made over the past fifty years.
But there is a solution. Visibility. Conversation. Education. Advocacy. The need for us to end this erasure is why Translash created the “Trans Bodies, Trans Choices” short-film series. Putting transgender people and their stories at the center of the discussion is essential if we are going to create the understanding necessary to bring people together both cis and trans. This is about transgender people rather than “transgender issues”.
“Trans Bodies Trans Choices” tells powerful stories of trans people whose lives were changed forever because they had access not only to abortion but also reproductive services and trans-affirming medical care. These are stories that tens of millions of people can relate to, and they bind us all together in a common cause.
Telling our truths and leveraging our collective power is how we will create the change required for us all to live whole and with dignity. Storytelling is the first step in creating a common bond but there are so many other steps that must follow.
The only way we will make progress is if we are in it together.
Imara Jones is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist, intersectional-news producer, and creator of TransLash. Kierra Johnson is the Executive Director of the National LGBGTQ Task Force.