With the Trump administration’s recent moves against the trans community, along with the UK’s discussion of the Gender Recognition Act, transgender issues is one of the hottest media topics lately. Among the many breathless screeds against this new “dangerous” threat is one particularly misconstrued accusation against supposed trans ideology. “Pregnant people”. Radical feminists who exclude trans people claim that use of the term erases women and their reproductive labor. It’s time to set the record straight on why the trans community asks for gender inclusive language like “pregnant people”.
First of all, this is not a language change to include trans women within womanhood. Anti-trans activists in the UK press are fond of claiming that trans women are oppressive men wanting to erase womanhood, and cite “pregnant people” as the prime example. “Trans women can’t get pregnant, they’re excluded from pregnancy” or “we shouldn’t redefine women’s experiences on the basis of men’s perversion” are the common anti-trans refrains in this discussion. Except, we know trans women can’t get pregnant and we’re not trying to redefine women’s experiences around pregnancy. The most frustrating part of this argument for us trans women is that…. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TRANS WOMEN!
Trans men and non binary people who were assigned female at birth can get pregnant. They can menstruate. Using gender inclusive language like “pregnant people” or “people who menstruate” is inclusive for them. I understand why this is such a culture shock for people who aren’t familiar with the trans community, pregnancy is such an intensely gendered activity in our culture. With a long, dangerous history of oppression and exploitation of women’s reproductive labor, a culture of celebrating womanhood has emerged within reproductive health settings.
And for 99.7% of the clientele of those spaces, that’s a wonderful experience, but it can be intensely hostile for those that need those services but aren’t women. No one is trying to erase womanhood or women’s experience with pregnancy, trans men and non binary people simply want to feel included within repro spaces that they may need. You can call a woman who’s pregnant a “pregnant woman”, no one is telling you not too. We’re simply asking that you don’t call a pregnant trans man a “pregnant woman”.
It’s this struggle that lays at the heart of this language debate. Anti-trans activists want everyone with a uterus classed as a woman and everyone with a penis classed as a man. That’s why there’s such a pushback against “pregnant people” and other instances of gender inclusive language. But the thing is, this blowback, thanks to structural transmisogyny, is falling heaviest on trans women.
Transmisogyny is the word used to describe the specific ways in which trans women are discriminated against by society. Different in itself than homophobia, and also slightly different than misogyny directed at cis women, transmisogyny is a deadly force that’s constantly treading on the necks of trans women who simply want to live. Transmisogyny is an outgrowth of misogyny in that it specifically seeks to invalidate the womanhood of trans womanhood while simultaneously oppressing trans woman on their femininity, their womanhood.
Under structural transmisogyny, it’s trans women who are most targeted, by the media, with slurs, with violence. Transmisogyny runs so strong in English-speaking society, that trans men and non binary people and their needs are practically erased in popular discourse, as is the case with this “pregnant people” outrage campaign. An easy way to tell a bigot is if they’re always just banging on about trans women. Bigots are obsessed with us, derisively describing our genitals, calling us “failed men” among other more awful terms. But their own hate belies their own misogyny.
Unlike their so-called radical feminist opposition, trans women know that women aren’t “failed men”, and we understand that motherhood is not a prerequisite for womanhood, that women are more than just barefoot and pregnant. In the end, using terms like “pregnant people” etc has nothing to do with trans women. It’s simply an easy way to include trans men and non binary people in the health and reproductive services that they critically need. Let’s slow the roll on this particular hate campaign.