Traversing transgender medical care is a handful. When I started out, you had to go to two different therapists for evaluation — which took months if you were lucky — before you could even access hormones, and you were required to live at least one year in your “chosen” gender before surgery.
While I had good therapists to work with, who had a better grasp than most regarding transitioning, many were not so lucky.
In some cases, transwomen had to exist in a pastiche of femininity in order to meet the expectations of their provider — profressionals even focused on the artifice of womanhood, having an often-regressive view.
Think skirts, dresses, and makeup, as well as having to talk about societally imposed feminine topics in order to unlock the door to care.
Some people were required to not associate with other transgender people, not be gay or lesbian, and even to cut off contact with anyone or anything from their past. In the worst examples, you would face probing — literally and metaphorically — about your sexuality, or even be held hostage by doctors who must find themselves attracted to you before you could access care. If they did not find a given transwoman attractive, they would refuse care, saying that she wasn’t somehow “real” or “committed.”
A lot of that has changed, and many — including myself — receive what’s known as an “informed consent” model. As long as I am given all information about what may happen due to the hormones I ingest, and, as long as I still want to take those hormones, then I can get a prescription of pretty, blue estradiol pills.
The place I go for care is one of the local Planned Parenthood clinics. They treat both transmen and transwomen, as well as those who are gender fluid or nonbinary. They’ve been pretty good to me.
Planned Parenthood, for the uninitiated, provides reproductive medical-care services targeting women. This can range from checkups, birth control, cervical cancer screenings and STD testing to — at some locations — abortion services. At the clinic I visit, people with signs decrying abortion stand outside, even though that location doesn’t provide such services.
In the last couple of weeks, states across the country have geared up to destroy Roe v. Wade and usher in another era of restrictive, anti-abortion laws. The gloves are off, and restrictive bills are passing across the country, outlawing abortion at six weeks or so — long before most people even realize they might be pregnant — with no exception for rape or incest.
Many of these bills put criminal penalties on medical providers who provide abortion-related services and, yes, that includes providers like Planned Parenthood.
I don’t think it’s a mistake at all that transgender people are being attacked by the same people who attack others and care providers over abortion rights.
Really, both groups are seeking the same thing: body autonomy.
I doubt the concept is foreign to many of you reading this, but just in case, I’ll explain. Bodily autonomy is the right a person has over their own body, and personal control over what their body is used for.
It is thanks to the notion of body autonomy that one cannot be forced into donating blood, or having one’s organs harvested after death without consent. This same right is why a person shouldn’t be forced to undergo a pregnancy they don’t want, or why a transgender person should not have care withheld because their appearance did not give their care provider an erection.
Plenty of people will try to justify why body autonomy might apply when it comes to a blood transfusion, but why it doesn’t when it comes to transgender people or abortion care. They’ll talk about pregnancy and cells forming a new body. They might tell you transgender people are “delusional” and therefore not able to make decisions for themselves.
The same people may say that those providing transgender care and abortions are going against “God’s will,” as if they have the right to speak for the whims of their deity.
I’ve said it before: the number one right any person has is the right to exist. Part of existence surely involves the body you inhabit and what you choose to do with it. Those choices should not be up to any religion or political party or, frankly, anyone but me.
Transgender people, in spite of what some might tell you, don’t make the decision to transition lightly. We often try everything we can to avoid a transition that can alienate us from family and friends, make it hard to gain and keep jobs and housing, and force us to face a far greater chance at death. We do it anyway, because for us it is the best.
Likewise, those seeking abortion are not rushing headlong into such a decision. It’s not such a careless thought as some might want you to believe, but something agonized over. It’s something chosen because the alternatives are not bearable.
I stand very much opposed to any law that would take away the body autonomy of any person. It is unnecessary and cruel.
Gwen Smith may not be fond of her body, but it’s still hers. You’ll find her at www.gwensmith.com.