Culture & Conversation LGBTQ

Reproductive Justice as Trans Resilience

Cazembe Murphy Jackson

In order for any of us to have a taste of reproductive justice, it must be available to all of us.

I’m proud to be a Black, Southern, queer, trans man who uses “he” and “him” pronouns, has had an abortion, and is currently preparing my body to get pregnant. That might sound like a lot to some people, but it’s me. I’m a unique mix of many identities that are often misunderstood, misrepresented, or even completely erased. After multiple decades fighting for self-determination and dignity, I’ve finally reached a point where I’m comfortable and proud of the way I carry those identities.

I am trans resilience. And now, I am preparing my body to transition again and be resilient to carry the next generation of resistance.

My reproductive justice journey began early. When I was born, the doctor incorrectly assumed that my gender was girl, so that’s how I was raised and socialized. I grew up playing teacher with my stuffed animals and enjoyed babysitting nieces, nephews, and cousins. I loved babysitting, it made me feel like my cousins were trusting me with the most important people in their lives. Some of my best memories are taking care of my younger family members.

Growing up, I never wanted to be a mother. I didn’t have anything against mothers; I just didn’t feel the desire to be one. My own mother is a true role model. She was the most consistent provider, protector, teacher, and healer in my life growing up. Our family had everything we needed and most of what we wanted. I definitely get my big heart and capacity to love something about everyone from my mother.

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I will be a “Baba” to my future children. Baba means father in many of the African languages in Southern Africa. I will do everything in my power to make sure my future children are loved and taken care of. I will be a more open-minded Baba than my mother was to me; I will trust them to make the best choices for their lives. My children will know that regardless of who they grow up to be, that they will always have my love.

During my formative years, I was very much a tomboy. I didn’t fit in any traditional “boy” or “girl” boxes; I was content somewhere in the middle. As I got older, I began to identify as a lesbian or queer, but that still didn’t feel quite like the whole picture. In March of 2015, I began getting weekly testosterone shots to medically transition from female to male. Now, I realize that my gender has always been fluid.

Over these last few years, I’ve been helping my friends and family get to know me as a man. It fits, it feels good, and I love myself now more than ever. I feel affirmed, and yet the gendered lens of reproduction complicates how people view me.

My journey to pregnancy isn’t the first time I’ve taken control of my reproductive future. During my junior year of college, I was sexually assaulted, which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy. I was already dealing with a depression brought on by the assault when I found out about the pregnancy. I felt completely out of control of what was happening to my body. Being pregnant felt like a reminder of all of the power I didn’t have. I was spending my days trying to find reasons that life was still worth living and to get out of bed. I wasn’t sure that this was a world I wanted to live in, so I definitely wasn’t going to bring an innocent baby into this mess. I made the decision to have an abortion.

Eventually, I realized that while I did not want to become a mother, I very much wanted to be a parent. I want to carry and give birth to a child. I want to love and raise and protect that child to the best of my ability.

In June of this year I decided to stop taking my testosterone shots in order to get my body ready to become pregnant and give birth. My body has always been in a constant state of fluctuation and adjustment, the only difference is now it’s on my own terms.

I believe preparing myself for fatherhood is more than making changes to my physical body. For the last year and a half, I have been working on a personal commitment to love myself so deeply that others are inspired to love themselves just as deeply. Loving myself deeply has opened my eyes and allowed me to receive all of the love and support that is around me. I know that I am a part of a community that will help to raise my future children so the responsibility doesn’t weigh as heavily on my shoulders and feel like it is all on me.

I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I am much more open about having had an abortion and preparing my body for pregnancy. Unfortunately, the spaces and conversations created for people who share these experiences focus almost exclusively on women.

I am not a woman.

It is so important for trans people to be included in the conversations about reproductive justice. Everyone that has the ability to create and terminate pregnancies should feel welcome, whether we identify as women or not.

A few months ago, I became a storyteller for We Testify. Members of this cohort, a project of the National Network of Abortion Funds, are all people who have had abortions who want to tell our stories as a way to help normalize abortion in the mainstream media. We are committed to fighting for access to abortions for all folks who need them. I was welcomed into We Testify as my whole self, and allowed to be vulnerable about my pregnancy journey.

My story is one that so many trans and nonbinary people face as they navigate our world, sometimes not being truly seen until after they’re gone or have experienced violence. A new report from the Trans People of Color Coalition and Human Rights Campaign found that at least 25 trans people have been killed since the beginning of 2017—more than in any year in at least a decade, according to the report. Documenting the stories of those lives lost is critical. But it’s also crucial that our resilience is recognized and honored while we’re still here to see it. That is why, for Trans Day of Remembrance, we no longer only remember the dead. We also recommit to “fighting like hell for the living” and celebrating Trans Day of Resilience. Our resilience includes the ability to create families on our own terms and raise future generations.

We must reflect on our struggles and ensure that all of us have the ability to decide if, when, and how to become a parent, on our own terms. I believe this is at the core of reproductive justice: In order for any of us to have a taste of reproductive justice, it must be available to all of us. We must honor trans people as we are, while we are here, in every expression of our gender identity and reproduction. Honoring our resilience is resistance and remembrance.

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