PHOTO BY Ted Etyan

Roe V Wade: Nightmare for the Trans Community

Op-ed

Thumbnail credit to Ted Eytan under CC BY-SA 2.0 license. http://gg.gg/yg4iq.

On July 24th, US President Joe Biden expressed his sorrow on the overturning of Roe v Wade in a public broadcast, claiming the "landmark case protected a woman's right to choose, a right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor," and added that with Roe gone "the health and life of women in this nation are now at risk." Such remorseful appeals have been common in the post-Roe avalanche; for example, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan spoke on the catastrophic decision, "with sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection."

Even with the progressive degradation of US abortion legislation since the Texas Heartbeat Act and the overturn drafts leaked by Politico in May, the event has still occasioned a precise impact on both the everyday lives of American citizens and the cornerstones of the constitutional "libery" the American image prides itself on - the average American is now more free to buy a gun than to secure safe access to an abortion. The backwards precedent of Roe's capitulation to the Republicans is a significant backwards precedent to the regression of US legislation on womens' rights by at least 50 years, but are women the only ones directly impacted by it? Could it be possible that most media is obscuring another side?

Trans protest in 2021, courtesy of Ted Etyan. http://gg.gg/yg4iq. No changes were made.

The Pregnant Man Emoji and the US as Dystopia

Earlier this year, Apple launched a collection of 35 new emojis with their iOS 15.4 update. Among these was the emoji of a pregnant man and masculine-presenting person complete with variable skin tones, opening the eyes of previously oblivious users to the fact that women may not, in fact, be the only demographic with the capacity of getting pregnant. As the floodgates of Twitter opened for discourse, conservatives ridiculed the decision - Fox News Host Greg Gutfield sarcastically remarked: "yes, thank God finally, it's here. A beer gut emoji has arrived to Apple iPhones with its latest voluntary update!" while others responded to what they perceived as the absurdity that someone not assigned female at birth could get pregnant, many fully ignoring the existence of trans people in the equation. If a poll by Pew Research Center found that 42% of Americans personally know a trans person, how is it possible that we are still seeing replies such as "news flash … no man has ever had a baby and never will. Just plain nonsense." More importantly, if women are not the only ones at risk of getting pregnant, why are they the only ones being considered by the vast majority of Roe v Wade discourse?

Americans and non-Americans alike have compared the current situation to the 1985 novel The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, set in the near future in a Christian-fundamentalist totalitarian United States, at the time of its publishing criticized for being too extreme. Now, over a month after the end of the constitutional right to abortion, the prospect of an evangelical fascist regime in the US has been eroded from entertainment, to concerning prediction and, to some, reality. Among these are the trans men and nonbinary folks frequently forgotten and obscured from discussions on abortion rights, all while being one of the groups most affected by this new legislation, especially in the use of non-inclusive language.

While some, such as AOC, have made use of gender-neutral language to refer to the people affected by Wade, stating: "pregnant people are in more danger in the United States today than we were yesterday," this principle is more an exception than a rule - President Biden being the case in point. For instance, Kamala Harris views the overturning as restricting constitutional rights "from the women of America." So, when she accuses the US Supreme Court of "stealing a constitutional right from the women of America," or newspaper articles like The Guardian write: "today, the sword that has long been hanging over American women’s heads finally fell: the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade," the majority of readers take for granted that the word "women" is the most accurate and correct term when discussing the types of US citizens that might be in need of an abortion. The consequence is the erasure of trans voices and experiences from debates on reproductive rights through simple binary language, reinforcing the idea that only women can get pregnant - this is in fact untrue.

Trans protest in 2021, courtesy of Ted Etyan. http://gg.gg/yg4iq. No changes were made.

Trans Healthcare (or Lack-Thereof)

In the US, as in the rest of the world, trans people continue to struggle for integration and acceptance both in the cultural and medical spheres. Mass ignorance of trans identities - pronoun use, gender expression, physical sex, and proper etiquette - breeds incompetence in medical systems on how to classify trans people legally and how to treat them. As a result, a large number of trans individuals in the US were already struggling with healthcare accessibility when Roe was still institutionalized.

A study from the American Public Health Association has shown that over 30% of trans people in the US have delayed or discontinued seeking medical care for fear of discrimination, and 25% have been outright denied treatment, because most doctors face difficulty diagnosing treatable diseases, much less treating them. According to activist Ruby Corado, "it is very likely, if you are a transgender woman of color, that you will die from HIV. That you will die from AIDS. That you die stabbed or killed. You'll die from some kind of cancer, or suicide." The binary nature of medical systems means there is no standardized way to treat trans folks the way cis people are, especially considering that most have to endure being asked highly personal and uncomfortable questions, sparking discomfort and, at times even dysphoria. Nonetheless, these questions are relevant to ask: how many books have been written on how to treat a post-op trans man with breast cancer? How about a transfemme with prostatitis? How many educational resources have been written by the state to help doctors use the right language with trans patients? The answer is worrying.

Protest on trans troops in 2017, courtesy of Ted Etyan. http://gg.gg/yg4iq. No changes were made.

In short, the state of trans healthcare in the United States even before July 24th was nothing short of appalling, almost on par with that of developing countries in the Global South, in a nation with more than the capacity to afford appropriate care. Add to this the fact that in the US, trans people face 3 times the unemployment rate of cis people, and that their poverty is disproportionately high at 29.4% compared to 15.7% otherwise. The absence of both medical and cultural pluralism means that if transmasculine people faced difficulty getting abortions before, the overturning of Roe has restricted this access to a point of culmination, especially considering the number of trans-competent abortion providers was already slim.

Trans people are not only as endangered now as cis women, but in many cases are even more at risk, not only of losing access to a vital procedure but many risks losing their most essential healthcare services. Many AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) trans people "can often only get safe and inclusive care at clinics that provide abortions," says ABCnews, "so limiting abortion access also decreases overall access to healthcare for the community". Because abortion clinics are one of the few American healthcare institutions that provide sensitivity training for their staff on dealing with trans patients, the loss of their accessibility and the closing of these clings not only causes one isolated problem for trans-Americans, but rather interferes with the entire network of care on which many in the community rely on, leaving ripple effects outside of even its original scope. The old saying is horrifyingly true, in this case, that one can never ban abortion, only safe abortion.

New York City Women's March 2017, courtesy of Ted Etyan. http://gg.gg/yg4iq. No changes were made.

Conclusion

In the end, if the Supreme Court's goal was to encompass, tentacle-like, and permeate the lives of people they do not understand, whose struggles they do not share, with the justification of absolutist dogma and outdated principles, the trans community has been one of the groups that have felt this effect the most acutely, most horrifyingly, most dystopically. In the absence of any other adjective, most disgustingly. It needs to be emphasized again and again: Roe is not exclusively the domain of cis women - just as not everyone who gets pregnant is female, not all women get pregnant.

Though clarification has become redundant, it must be reiterated that discussing trans and nonbinary rights in terms of reproductive healthcare does not mean women are being erased from the conversation, especially given that in absolute terms, there are disproportionately more cis women in the US than AFAB trans people. Rather, we must all help make visible a group that has historically been omitted from debates on the healthcare and reproductive rights that concern them, but that, paradoxically, they have been thought to be "immune" to. Reactionaries and classical liberals will foam at the mouth at the chance to declare the accommodation of trans people, in particular trans men, into the cultural conscious such as saying "pregnant people" or using certain symbols restrict their free speech and liberty. In reality, they will have a wider positive effect than the comparatively small effort it takes to reconsider certain essential ideas about gender, sexuality, and class. The pregnant man emoji is not out to claim anyone's freedom but that of the trans community - after all, are the Republicans really pro-life when 40% of trans Americans have attempted suicide?

Martino Fabbri
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Martino is a junior in high school currently studying in the UAE. They are involved in journalism and debate circles both locally and virtually, with particular interest in the political sphere and international relations. They enjoy playing various instruments, reading, drawing, writing and listening to music.