While delivering Pitzer College’s keynote commencement speech on May 18th, transgender actor Laverne Cox spoke about including transgender men when considering the issue of abortion.
Cox explained that after retweeting a tweet about abortion that mentioned only women, an individual online criticized Cox for excluding transgender men (i.e. biological females identifying as males). The tweet that Cox shared on Twitter read: “Woman’s body. Woman’s right to choose. End of story.”
But another twitter user disapproved and delivered Cox the following criticism: “Laverne you’re really gonna erase our trans brothers’ struggle in this fight by retweeting this? I admire you too much not to call that out. Trans people of all genders are oppressed by the realities and language of this fight, we need to stick together in solidarity.”
Initially, Cox was not pleased with this critique and felt “defensive.” Cox had thoughts including, “Can we have a moment for women…Can I just be in solidarity with my sisters on this issue? Do we have to like make it about all of the complicated, you know, nuances of the issue?” Cox noted thinking that the transgender movement would not benefit by having “mainstream America” think about the topic of pregnant baby-bearing transgender men.
But after personalizing the issue by considering what a transgender man would experience, Cox said that transgender men should be included when considering the issue of abortion.
“And then if I have to terminate that pregnancy, and I go to a healthcare facility,” Cox said, “and presenting as someone who appears to be male, who identifies as male and the healthcare practitioners have no understanding, no idea of how to handle this situation—if I were that trans man I would really want to have language that incorporated and included my experience,” Cox said, earning applause from the audience.
Cox said, “when we use language that excludes groups of people on pertinent issues, it can jeopardize their health and well-being.” Cox then continued, “Language that is appropriate and fully inclusive is a matter of life and death for so many people out there.”