This article is part of KXAN’s promise to deliver in-depth and investigative news to our audience, and to that end, we seek out multiple points of view on topics that we cover. In this case, we learned more about a group that historically received sparse coverage in connection with the discussion on abortion.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Abortion access primarily effects cisgender women, and abortion rights advocates tend to focus on them. However, transgender men and nonbinary people who get pregnant also seek abortions, and some feel left out of the conversation.
On May 2, a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leaked to the public. In it Alito argues for an end to Roe v. Wade and its privacy protections. Many states prepared years in advance for such an opinion and have “trigger laws” that will ban abortion within their states the moment Roe v. Wade is overturned.
Transgender men and nonbinary people can become pregnant, and those on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) will have to stop taking testosterone, according to the Family Equality Council.
Research shows that roughly 21% of transgender and gender-expansive people who became pregnant chose to get an abortion, and 19% of those who became pregnant attempted to abort their pregnancy without clinical supervision. From the group surveyed for those studies, the amount that wanted a future pregnancy and those who felt at risk for unintended pregnancy were both around 11%.
Gonzales was angry when he heard about the leaked Alito draft.
“My first emotion was a lot of anger for women that were getting their rights taken away,” Gonzales said. “And then the realization of ‘oh wait, I have a uterus.’ That kind of hit me and it gave me more fear than anything.”
In the weeks since then, his anger has developed into fear about the future. He feels voiceless as the wheels of power turn and that the end of Roe is the start of worse things.
“You know it’s not stopping here,” Gonzales said. “It’s very scary to see, not only are they willing to go back on bodily autonomy, but they’re also trying to punish kids and their parents for being transgender. I think that this is one more step into banning gender affirmation surgeries, HRT and any kind of transgender healthcare. They’re always going to be trying to take this away.”
“If I got pregnant and couldn’t get an abortion, I don’t know if I would make it the full pregnancy,” Gonzales said. “The mental and physical reminder triggers my dysphoria. Just the thought is enough to get me to freak out. Abortion access to me means getting to have a future.”
Gonzales feels that abortion rights activists are doing all that they can, but he is far less impressed with the Democratic Party’s efforts. He explains that the party is failing to keep up its promises and fight for the platform that elected officials ran on.
The rhetoric of abortion rights activism focuses primarily on cisgender women, and Gonzales is sympathetic to the woman-centric language. He also worries about interjecting into the conversation as a man and being seen as a man speaking over women.
“It is a women’s rights issue, and I understand where people are coming from with that. I don’t think they’re intending to leave trans men out, I just think that they don’t think about us at all,” Gonzales said. “It’s not malicious, but it’s still exclusive and it’s still erasing our voices.”
He has found some solidarity in conversations with cisgender men, who also do not want to be pregnant.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve needed [an abortion]. But losing that option is really terrifying, especially as a minority that is subjected to more violence,” K said. “I already feel super uncomfortable even going to the doctor to be seen for certain things. This just adds to that.”
A trip to the doctor can be inaccessible for K; doctors frequently misgender him, frustrating his efforts to receive medical care.
“What I keep seeing is that this is just for women and that men shouldn’t have an opinion. I understand where they’re coming from, but I wish there was more awareness that other people are affected as well,” K said. “The people that don’t show up for us at the transgender rights rallies are also excluding us from their rallies. It’s really frustrating.”
K has commented on Facebook posts and tried to explain how losing abortion access affects more than just cisgender women. However, their efforts were met with angry replies.
He hopes that abortion rights and transgender rights could be joined into a single movement for bodily autonomy.
“It’s a matter of listening to each other more. I totally understand the knee-jerk reaction to men. I also have that reaction to cis men,” K said. ” But it is frustrating, hurtful and scary to be in the middle of that.”
Dr. Jessica Rubino
Rubino is not a transgender man, but has provided care for them and non-binary people at the Austin Women’s Health Center. She’s quick to note that the practice’s name creates a barrier for transgender men and nonbinary people.
Rubino’s office has taken steps to make people welcome, such as removing gendered language from paperwork and training staff to look beyond a patient’s gender presentation. Once a patient is with Rubino, she takes a “holistic” approach, which she contrasts with “just looking at a patient’s pelvis”.
“The best thing that we can do is help you feel that we’re here to listen to you,” Rubino said. “It’s super important for us to try to be less gendered in how we speak, communicate and even think about others.”
Rubino was once part of a transgender man’s abortion procedure. She feels that the man never got fully at ease with the procedure despite her best efforts, but she is glad that he trusted the center with his abortion.
“Other than the patient not getting to a level of comfortability, I felt like it went well,” Rubino said. “Although, I still remember that patient, because as we were halfway through the procedure and about to finish up, someone in the room misgendered them. We don’t want to add to the stress and trauma of what they are going through with the pregnancy.”
Post-Roe, Rubino and the Center plan to continue providing pre-and post-abortion care for Texans seeking out-of-state abortions, as well as care after a miscarriage.