#ProTransProChoice: Launching A New Reproductive Rights Movement

Three young activists have come together to usher in a new reproductive rights movement – one that reflects the experiences of trans* folks.


Beck Martens, Alice Wilder, and Calliope Wong launched a petition on Change.org today asking that NARAL and Planned Parenthood produce more trans*-inclusive campaigns, using the eons-old mantra of “Trust Women” and 2013’s #StandWithTexasWomen showdown to highlight how the reproductive rights movement has previously excluded the trans* community. Their letter encourages the two organizations to take the lead on making a real commitment to trans* inclusivity in their work, thus influencing a huge arm of the reproductive rights movement:

By becoming trans* inclusive – and by demonstrating this through campaigns, educational literature, and in services provided – NARAL and Planned Parenthood will prove their commitment to trans* folks’ health and wellness. By using inclusive language they will make the trans* community more visible and therefore creating a safer environment for trans* and GNC [gender non-conforming] people. NARAL and Planned Parenthood have raised awareness and taken part in activism on behalf of trans* and GNC folks in the past, but it’s time for them to fully commit to being allies to the trans* community.

We know that NARAL and Planned Parenthood are #ProTransProChoice; we just want them to show it.

Wilder came away with the petition idea after a Trans* Day of Remembrance event in Durham, North Carolina, which she attended with some friends who work at NARAL. “My whole day I was marinating on all of the violence,” Wilder explained to me in an interview. She later reflected with her friends about how their own work needed to do better by trans* folks, and she approached Martens and Wong to make it happen. “I came to Beck with this idea, because they’re one of my oldest feminist friends – we went to high school together and got into feminism around the same time and they felt like a natural partner. Then I asked Calliope, who is in SPARK with me, if she would be interested, because Calliope is a fuckin’ rockstar and I love her.” 

Martens, who identifies as genderqueer, and Wong, a trans woman, have a lot at stake in this ask – their own stories. “I’ve been behind this movement with my cisgender sisters since I was sixteen,” Martens told me, “and it’s time for these organizations to recognize that the trans* community is affected by reproductive and sexual health injustices just as cisgender individuals are.” Wong echoed the sentiment: “The modern notion of sexual and reproductive rights has evolved far beyond the limited notion of pregnancy in cisgender women,” she said. “Trans women… have unique health needs – from STI and anatomically-specific cancer screenings to contraceptive education that is gender-affirming – and their health concerns must be addressed in culturally competent ways. Similarly, trans men and gender-nonconforming individuals who have the capability to reproduce must have access to modern reproductive health care services that respect their gender identity.”

“Also,” Wilder added, “I think that this will piss off Cathy Brennan and in my honest opinion making her mad means you’re doing the right things.”


All three activists behind the petition have been working within the reproductive rights movement for years, and know from their experiences that NARAL and Planned Parenthood could play a huge role in creating a more trans*-inclusive future for it. “2013 was such a difficult year for reproductive rights,” Wilder said, “but it was also very energizing. We had so many incredible inspiring moments. Wendy Davis, obviously, but then my favorite moment was Planned Parenthood and NARAL organizing, like, 600 people overnight in North Carolina. If we can bring 600 people to Raleigh in the space of six or seven hours, we can do this! There’s been a lot of innovation in the pro-choice movement, and this seems like the natural next step.”

“Reproductive rights have evolved far beyond the limited notion of ‘women’s health,'” Wong said. “My understanding has always been that modern pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL pride themselves on a culture of fair service and equitable representation amongst the diverse population of people they serve. My work with Alice and Beck is asking for these organizations to show their commitment to trans* individuals’ sexual and reproductive health.”

Wilder added that “Planned Parenthood and NARAL are popular with a lot of folks who might be feminist and/or pro-choice but aren’t in contact with trans* folks or don’t know much about trans* folks… [they] can reach those people and help send the message that being pro-trans* is a core part of the movement, not a second priority.”

“I’ve seen first-hand the great work that Planned Parenthood and NARAL do,” Martens told me. “By using more trans*-inclusive language, not only are NARAL and Planned Parenthood giving representation to the trans* folks that acquire these services, but they are creating visibility for a community that has been in the shadows for far too long.”

UPDATE, 10:47AM EST: Planned Parenthood responded to the #ProTransProChoice hashtag on Twitter this morning.

UPDATE, 11:56AM EST: NARAL also responded to Twitter users this morning.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

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  1. “I think that this will piss off Cathy Brennan and in my honest opinion making her mad means you’re doing the right things.” 100% agree

  2. I definitely misread NARAL as “narwhal” about every time I saw it, so now I’m thinking of cute little pro-choice sea animals… this is what happens to my mind when I haven’t slept enough, apparently.

    That bit of randomness aside, very great to see that the organizations are responding.

  3. This has been a big deal/debate for a couple of years now in the abortion funds movement, with some funds having moved to trans*-inclusive language and policies already or being in the process of doing so, some clueless or reluctant, and some in the middle. Trans*-inclusiveness at the funds’ annual conference is part of the issue – they tried this year but didn’t quite get there IMO, labeling the bathrooms “Women” and “Gender-Neutral”. The National Network is…probably moving in the right direction, but very very very slowly.

    At this past year’s funds conference, I got my 15 minutes of fame by getting up and asking why the repeal-Hyde campaign that had just been unveiled claimed to be inclusive of everyone, including trans* folks, but then used non-trans*-inclusive language throughout. I got a lot of applause and a bunch of people coming up to talk to me afterwards. Didn’t get much of an answer from the presenter, though, she just said something about how it was still a work in progress.

    Some folks have this idea that it’s an issue being pushed on the funds in general by the geographically privileged young hip kids from deep-blue states who don’t have to worry about alienating donors or politicians, but talking to other people there, there are funds in places like Arizona, Texas, and (my childhood home of) Kentucky that are implementing trans*-inclusiveness; it’s not just those of us in Massachusetts and New York.

  4. I think that a REAL pro-trans reproductive rights movement would invest money in research for uterine and/or ovarian transplants for women born without those organs or who have had them removed, whether trans, intersex, or due to a medical condition, and getting it covered by insurance once it’s been performed successfully, and it should be considered a fundamental right just as much as access to contraception and abortion.

    • Personally I would combine reproductive rights & justice, trans medical rights, anti-rape/pro-consent and anti-body shaming activism under the greater heading of “body sovereignty” to emphasize the connections and similarities between all these issues. I think it’s immoral to deny someone the ability to reproduce just as much as it is to force them to reproduce when they don’t want to. I also forgot to mention that fertility treatments should be in the same grouping w/ the reproductive transplants, and that the research should also be done going the other direction.

    • Elective organ transplants are a REALLY ethically ambiguous area, leaning toward not ethical. Essential organ transplants already have a horrible black market. Donor conceived persons and adoptees are speaking out about this idea that having a child that’s not biologically yours at any cost being a “right.”
      Also, sorry, access to someone’s else’s body part is not a fundamental right akin to contraception and abortion. I’m kind of actually offended by that statement.

      • Why would a trans woman being able to receive a uterus or ovaries be less “fundamental” than a cis woman being able to receive an abortion? You are aware that trans women are about 20 times more likely to attempt suicide than people in the general population, right? A big reason for this high level of suicidality is discomfort with our bodies, discomfort which is a recognized medical condition. The American Medical Association recommends medical transition (hormones, surgery to get a vagina, etc.) as a treatment for this body dysphoria.

        Now. . .did you know that the first trans woman on record for transitioning medically, Lili Elbe, tried to have a uterus implanted into her way back in 1931? The procedure was highly experimental (it still is), and she died due to medical complications. As a result, research began to focus on technology that could give trans women vaginas, not on technology that could give us uteruses. But many trans women have had a strong desire to have uteruses from the beginning (which is hardly surprising, given how central a uterus is to the construction of what a “female” is in this society). We have even died in the pursuit of trying to realize that dream.

        Women not only have a right to NOT reproduce (contraception and abortion), we also have a right TO reproduce. That’s what real “reproductive freedom” means. History is filled of examples of “undesirable women”–women of color, women who were poor, women with disabilities–being sterilized because the powers that be thought they shouldn’t be able to reproduce. Currently, trans women lose our fertility in the process of taking hormones, getting a vaginoplasty, etc.–a process that for many of us is not truly “elective,” but rather is a process that we are going through to SURVIVE. It would be nice if people gave a shit about the fact we are losing our fertility, it would be nice if people cared enough about us to think we had a right to reproduce.

        Of course, who really wants freaks like us reproducing anyway? You put your opposition tactfully, Woya, but I don’t even want to imagine the torrents of hate speech from the right wing and from anti-trans radical feminists that would be unleashed if a trans woman got a uterus, became pregnant, and birthed a child. Gives me chills just thinking about it.

        • Nope, sorry, absolutely no one has a right to someone else’s body, and that’s what you’re talking about here. Abortion and birth control are about ONE PERSON’S personal body. Uterine transplant involves another person’s body, and you’d need egg donation and maybe sperm donation, so that’s the possibility of up to THREE other bodies. Absolutely no one has a “fundamental right” to the body parts of three other people. Sorry.
          It boils down to that.
          I am all for inclusive language in the pro-choice movement. I’m just saying it seems like you’re fundamentally missing the point of abortion/birth control: MY BODY, MY CHOICE. So just like no one has the right to sleep with me, or force me to have a child, etc, nobody has the RIGHT to my reproductive organs, or anyone else’s. And that’s what you and Tamara said, that people should be given the RIGHT. That’s kind of scary.

        • You totally missed what I’m saying, Woya. You seriously think I’m suggesting that cis women should be forced to give up their uteruses to trans women? LOL. Uh, no. I was saying that society needs to support cis women in getting abortions (allowing them to get them, paying for them to get them, not giving them shit for getting them), and it is EQUALLY important for society to support trans women in getting uteruses (allowing us to get them, paying for us to get them, not giving us shit for getting them). Obviously I don’t think a random cis woman should be FORCED to personally give up her uterus anymore than I think a random doctor should be FORCED to personally perform an abortion procedure.

          Honestly, I’m frankly appalled you are assuming the things you are assuming, like I was maybe suggesting that some trans-ruled dictatorship that should be harvesting cis women’s internal organs. And please don’t compare trans women’s desire to medically transition to rape (you may be doing it subtly, but you are doing it) Are you not aware of how many people already do that and what the consequences for trans women are? Get over yourself. I want absolutely nothing from your body; you can keep your fucking uterus.

          Believe it or not. . .there are tons of people with uteruses who would WILLINGLY and HAPPILY give them up to trans women. Have you ever heard of trans guys, hello? Or other people who get voluntary hysterectomies? Is it so hard for you to imagine that a cis women who never wants children and has a trans woman who is a dear friend would not happily give her uterus to that trans woman? What about people who die in car accidents and have agreed to be organ donors? I suppose trans women should be the one group explicitly excluded from those donor lists because most people dying in car crashes probably have a big moral problem with us.

          Finally, just buzz off already, Woya. You have no right as a cis person to be coming on to a thread about trans people and other struggle for liberation and spouting off your ignorant-ass, transmisogynistic, paranoid opinions. Fuck off.

        • You said it’s a FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT. I’m saying it’s not. If a cis woman or a trans man or a FAAB genderqueer person wants to give up their uterus and eggs, fine, whatever. But it’s not someone’s RIGHT to get someone else’s uterus, and it’s not akin to getting an abortion or having access to birth control, because again, getting a uterus is dealing with TWO people’s bodies, and having an abortion or using birth control is dealing with ONE. See that difference there? That’s a pretty big fucking difference.
          I think you’re misunderstanding what I’m saying, and putting words in my mouth.
          Peace out.

        • I agree with most of what you said except for saying that the reason trans women want a uterus is because of it being part of a social construct of “female”… It’s an instinctual urge to give birth, NOT something socially-influenced!

  5. “Trust Women” is, unfortunately, not an “eons old” slogan. George Tiller (who was murdered in 2009 for his work as a doctor who provided abortion services in Kansas) is attributed with the “trust women” response after years of answering to conservative legislators, medical practitioners and church leaders.

    Also, Planned Parenthood and NARAL were already ‘pro trans*.’ They have work to do, sure, just like nearly all mainstream justice-oriented national nonprofits who get a considerable chunk of their funding from the federal govt. I think time is better spent contacting the governmental institutions (FDA, other federally regulated medical boards/organizations) that regulate medical practices and prescription drugs. These are the institutions that require organizations use certain language when providing medical/legal information to the public. Yes, these organizations can use their power [that is actively being legislated against] to address this issue, but remember that they are also at the feet of these regulatory laws they must comply with in order to remain open and receive funding to perform the very services we all want them to continue to provide.

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