How To Be Gender Inclusive When Writing About Abortion

I haven’t been in the past, and there is no excuse not to change that.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Women aren’t the only people who need access to abortions. So do part of Trans men and non-binary people, whose bodies are equally controlled by anti-choice legislation. It’s a question that has long been playing on the edge of my mind when writing about abortion and issues concerning the cis-female body, but which I have guiltily set aside, procrastinating to a later date the day when I would write in a more inclusive way. I justified it to myself by saying that Trans-men surely face even more extensive issues in accessing abortion, that it was a question I knew little about and should therefore not let myself talk about. There is no excuse for this: it is clearly the result of my cis-privilege, that I could set aside this dimension of the issue. It reveals that deep down, I wasn’t giving enough importance to it, I was not caring enough.

I’m not writing this to self-flagellate nor attract sympathy, I am writing it to be open about how easy it is when in a position of privilege to dismiss those that don’t have the same privilege, to put it off as a secondary issue in the same way that society ingrains in each of us that the oppressed are second class citizens.

Since a reader kindly took the time to point out in a couple of my articles that I was writing as though only women have abortions, I finally decided to educate myself on how to write in a more gender inclusive way when discussing abortion.

Realize that you are guilty by omission

Trans men and nonbinary people are severely underrepresented by the mainstream dialogue about reproductive rights, and each time, as a writer, that you talk about abortion as a “woman’s right”, you are becoming part of the problem. Omitting to mention trans-men and nonbinary people is not a neutral gesture, it is a cissexist microaggression. The first step is to realize that not actively being offensive is not enough to not be harmful.

Use Gender-Inclusive Language

Actively question your use of the word “women” as a catchphrase for “all people with active uteruses”. Your writing might flow better when keeping it short, when making hashtag friendly phrases like “war on women”, but it also inaccurate and exclusive. The catchiness and flow of our writing should come second to not being cissexist.

So instead of “women”, here are some suggestions:

You can write “those with a uterus” or “uterus bearer”, although these are quite dehumanising terms. Jack Qu’emi in Everyday Feminism suggests the terms FARS and MARS — meaning Female/Male Assigned Reproductive Systems respectively.

Mention the specific issues faced by trans-men and non-binary individuals

Interview trans and non-binary individuals concerned by the matter, and get their take, understand the additional difficulties faced by those who are directly affected by abortions, and all too often forgotten.

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