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Thursday March 30th

'It's so hard to access those spaces': Trans, nonbinary people impacted by Dobbs decision

UNC junior Izze Steinke poses for a portrait in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Oct. 6, 2022.
Buy Photos UNC junior Izze Steinke poses for a portrait in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Oct. 6, 2022.

After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, thousands of protesters across the U.S. took to the streets, holding signs stating, “Women’s rights are human rights” and “Women’s rights matter.” 

Although the statements highlight a large group affected by restrictions to abortion access, they exclude both the 1.6 million citizens older than 13 who identify as transgender and the 1.2 million citizens above 18 who identify as non-binary and could also be impacted. 

Trans people's identities differ from the gender expression they were assigned at birth. While often grouped together with transgender individuals, nonbinary individuals' identities do not fit into the traditional western male or female categories referred to as the gender binary.

In North Carolina alone, almost one percent of adults and 1.27 percent of youth identify as trans. With the recently reinstated 20-week abortion ban, some trans and nonbinary individuals in the state fear the repercussions of stricter restrictions.

Tohrran Hamilton, a transmasculine UNC student, said their initial reaction to the overturning of Roe v. Wade was one of panic.

Hamilton said a few of their trans friends have relied on access to safe and legal abortions. They said many people ignore the repercussions that abortion bans have on trans and nonbinary people who can get pregnant.  

“If you're thinking like a political kind of way, with those kinds of conversations, people kind of push like the LGBT side of things away because they're not quote-unquote 'as important,'” Hamilton said.

They said, however, that including trans and nonbinary people in discussions on abortion rights can be complicated.

“I don't think there's any good way to allow everyone to basically be included in it without most groups being angry at it in a way,” Hamilton said.

Noah Lemmon, a trans student at UNC-Wilmington, said this issue stems from the lack of resources and education for trans and nonbinary individuals.

He said that many spaces that specialize in abortion access often offer services that cater to cisgender women.

“It's so hard to access those spaces if you are not a woman and not perceived that way by people,” Lemmon said. “I think it definitely is ostracizing trans and nonbinary people a lot more.”

Lemmon said Planned Parenthood is one of the best resources for trans and nonbinary people looking for an inclusive environment.

Planned Parenthood offers resources for trans and nonbinary people, including a guide on gender identity to support those thinking about coming out. Lemmon said that Planned Parenthood is one of the major organizations pushing inclusive language when discussing abortion rights.

"Transgender people have the same healthcare needs as cisgender people, such as basic physical exams, preventive care, and STD testing," Planned Parenthood's website said. 

Izze Steinke, a nonbinary UNC student, said the most immediate change to encourage inclusivity in the fight for abortion rights is language use.

“I think that a lot of the rhetoric that we're hearing right now is talking about the struggles of restricted abortion access for women,” Steinke said. “By societal definitions, women are not the only people who are going to struggle with this limited access.”

Steinke said that using exclusionary language can be hurtful and a lack of representation can be dangerous. Hamilton noted that restrictions on abortion could harm trans and nonbinary people's mental health, as the stress caused by these restrictions adds to the stress that many trans and nonbinary people already experience.

A recent study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 50.8 percent of female-to-male adolescents had attempted suicide at some point in their lives. Similarly, 29.9 percent of male-to-female adolescents and 41.8 percent of adolescents who identified as neither men nor women reported a previous suicide attempt.

Steinke said education is one of the keys to helping trans and nonbinary people feel more included and supported. Talking to trans and nonbinary individuals about their experiences, volunteering and writing to government officials along with voting are essential ways to influence change, they added.

They also said that simply being there for trans and nonbinary friends may seem like a small action, but can make a big impact in their lives.

Lemmon said that putting aside differences and focusing on abortion restrictions is the only way to enact real change.

“This whole fight needs to be cognizant and aware of everyone who's fighting it and everyone that it impacts, or it isn't ever going to get anywhere,” Lemmon said.


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