It’s a simple shift

Britni de la Cretaz’s ludicrous piece in The Atlantic made me curious about her, so I found another article by her on Trevor MacDonald, this one for Rewire last May. It is, if anything, even worse.

In his new parenting memoir, Trevor MacDonald talks about pregnancy and breastfeeding as a trans man—and why we must dislodge the idea that bearing children is only women’s labor.

No, we mustn’t. That’s not something we need to dislodge. For one thing, it’s not true, and for another thing, women are not The Powerful Caste that we need to dislodge. If Trevor MacDonald wants to live as a man, fine, go ahead. If he wants us all to pretend that men bear children, he can fuck right off.

That was the subhead. Here’s the opening paragraph:

Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are acts often associated with womanhood. We talk about pregnant women and nursing mothers, but this language—which depends on the male-female gender binary—seems inadequate as trans and nonbinary folks are increasingly visible in the parenting sphere.

Nonsense. Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are not “acts often associated with womanhood” – that’s a fatuous way to put it. Skirts, giggles, gossip are among the items “often associated with womanhood” because they’re social; pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are not in that category. No, “this language” does not seem at all inadequate. (Also, what is this insistence on trans “folks” – what is the allergy to the word “people” when trans issues are on the table? Except of course when the subject is abortion rights, which pregnant “people” need.)

By sharing his experiences and documenting the many challenges he faced as a man who planned to give birth and nurse his baby, MacDonald asks readers to reconsider everything they think they know about what it means to be a gestational parent. By the end of the book, readers come away understanding that despite a person’s gender, pregnancy and nursing are universal experiences and valid regardless of how they happen. MacDonald’s voice is an important and necessary one in the birthing community, and there are surely many more people out there like him.

No. Pregnancy and nursing are not universal experiences. Saying it doesn’t make it true, and it’s not true.

Rewire: You talk a lot about struggling to find literature that you related to because pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are typically only associated with women—and motherhood. Can you tell me about the kind of language you’d like to see used to talk about these experiences and why it’s important?

Trevor MacDonald: I think I was a bit naive at first when I was reading those materials. I felt like, “If only the authors knew, I’m sure they would have used different language. They just didn’t know about people like me.” And that’s definitely been the case for some of those authors. Many are starting to change language and using words like “parents” or “pregnant people.” It’s a simple shift, really.

Yeah, kids! It’s easy to erase women! Just stop saying the word – talk about pregnant people instead. (Not pregnant folks. No no, that would be vulgar.) Except when you need to blame women of course; then you have to say the word.

Where I was naive, though, is that there are some people who really don’t want to use inclusive language. Ina May Gaskin is one. I had read her book [Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth] during my first pregnancy and had been so inspired by her writing, and the birth stories are so valuable and needed. I was so hungry for information about what others had experienced. I love that book so dearly, and to realize she really was opposed to including gender-diverse people in her writing was really upsetting. [Gaskin signed this open letter by Woman-Centered Midwifery, a group of “gender-critical” midwives who believe that biological sex determines gender and were concerned about the Midwives Alliance of North America’s use of gender-neutral language to talk about pregnancy and birth.]

Erasing women isn’t “inclusive.” Erasing women from pregnancy and reproductive rights is the opposite of “inclusive.” Trans men should not be campaigning to erase women. It’s revolting.

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