Historically, the feminist agenda can sometimes undercut transgender rights. The most aggressive form of this unfortunate reality is trans-exclusionary radical feminism. But most of the time, feminists are simply unaware that their language or actions exclude transgender women from a movement that should welcome women of all backgrounds.
A seemingly harmless example of that would be the 2017 Women’s March, which birthed the wildly popular “pussy hats.” Feminists flooded the streets clad in pink knitted caps, marching in solidarity for women’s rights. But the simple assumption that women should be associated with vaginas excludes transgender women who do not conform to biological standards. The Women’s March has also recently come under fire for promoting anti-Semitism, which only furthers the notion that not necessarily every feminist is intersectional.
The problem of transgender exclusion prompted many feminists to urge those within the movement to “support sisters, not just cis-ters.” This play on words delivers a strong message — feminism cannot, under any circumstances, support transphobia. Without trans women and feminists coexisting and working toward the same goals, there is barely a point in supporting feminism at all.
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Obviously, a looming topic on all feminists’ minds is access to and affordability of reproductive health. Just like strives for equal pay and equal power, this issue must be addressed with intersectionality at the top of everyone’s mind.
The Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice recently invited Mary Landry, the Women’s Health Clinic director at University Health Services, to speak about the reproductive healthcare offered at UHS. She identified themes within UHS, such as longer waiting times for contraception needs and budgetary restrictions for reproductive health.
Landry also identified the clinic’s renaming as a problem, as she and her staff seek to ensure inclusivity.
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“It is going to become a more unified space?” Landry asked. “We’re not sure what to call ourselves — sexual health? Women’s health? Reproductive health? Can’t we just get rid of all the labels?”
This small rewording shows that UHS supports inclusivity efforts, but also that the service has ways to go.
Transgender students, though protected from discrimination under Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, may still feel discomfort seeking out health services. UHS should strive to provide the most welcoming care they possibly can.
One important step is the removal of all gendered titles when speaking about reproductive health. This goes for the clinic title itself — reproductive health instead of women’s health — and period products — menstrual hygiene instead of feminine hygiene.
As for distributing products itself in a comfortable setting, UW has done an efficient job of implementing menstrual products into women’s, men’s and unisex bathrooms. However, it’s not easy to locate which bathroom is stocked with menstrual products. Of course, it is difficult to fill all restrooms on campus with menstrual products, but UW could increase this visibility by placing informational posters in all types of restrooms on campus. Such actions perform the invaluable tasks of increasing inclusivity on campus.
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New efforts to increase inclusivity are not unfounded on our campus. At the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year, the former LGBT Campus Center rebranded itself as the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center. They recognized the power their language had in reinforcing binaries, and altered their language to include students who use different language to describe their gender identity or sexual orientation. The fact that UHS is actively considering a similar reform is promising.
But the topic of inclusivity for transgender people is not just for cisgender people to discuss. Providing inclusivity for all genders must be a larger conversation on campus. Students should look to the changes made by the GSCC and UHS as signs to re-examine their own language and how it promotes or hinders an inclusive environment. Institutional change is important and necessary, but so are colloquial changes within ourselves. Creating inclusivity for transgender and gender non-conforming students is a campus-wide effort.
Keagan Schlosser ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in communications.