Birth wars: the politics of childbirth

Originally published by Glosswitch at the New Statesman

To be of woman born is a universal experience, yet women themselves remain a diffuse, fractured group. “What is a woman, anyway?” is still considered a deep, meaningful question to ask. The polite answer is, of course, “whatever anyone wants it to be”. More than that would close off the vessel, seal the hole, glue back together the broken shell. There’s a sense in which women are simply not meant to be whole. We need to be in pieces so that men can survive intact.

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A trans man’s egg retrieval

Originally posted at Purple Sage

This is the story of a trans man being misgendered while getting her eggs retrieved so they can be implanted into her wife for gestation. (And I note that this trans man is biologically female and has a female partner, which, by the way, makes her a lesbian.)

I’m already quite fascinated by this person after the first paragraph. She saw herself carrying a child for most of her life, but not after she came out as a trans man. This tells me that she was in fact living as a woman for most of her life, and was not feeling uncomfortable about using her female biology to create a child. This makes me wonder about the nature of sex dysphoria, if a trans man can spend most of her life feeling comfortable with the idea of carrying a child. Doesn’t that mean that she does NOT hate her female biology? This stuff just doesn’t make sense to me.

The first time she recalls being mistreated at the clinic, this is what happened:

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Why disregarding motherhood and women’s bodies won’t help feminism

Originally published at The New Statesman

Bodies matter. Bodies that eat, sleep, care, nurse, love and, yes, gestate. The world, and the sexism that pervades it, doesn’t make sense without them.

The first thing you should know is, I’m not like all the others. I’m not like all those women you see babbling at the playground gates, or in cafés, babes in arms, drifting mindlessly through the day, brains turned to mush due to sleeplessness, hormones and lattes.

I’m not one of the yummy mummies, smugly superior, or one of the earth mothers, slavishly devoted to their own little cult. I’m a person first, a mother second and female third, if at all.

That, at least, is how I used to think, through divisions, carefully analysing which parts of my life would render me most worthy of the status “full human being”.

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Trans Identity Within Women’s Spaces

Originally published at Whole Woman

Where can women discuss their bodily functions if not in women’s groups?

To date I have stayed well away from the trans issues that currently dominate many areas of feminism. Why? Because I largely work with pregnant women and women who have birth trauma and I have never encountered an actual trans person who has needed my support in these areas. But as time goes on I get more and more hate mail from liberal feminists, for not altering year’s worth of work to be trans inclusive and now I’ve reached critical mass, and I’m going there.

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Pregnancy and birth can never be “biologically neutral”

Originally posted at Woman-Centered Midwifery

Michelle: What we’re talking about is the biological reality of human beings, a dimorphic species made of males and females. And all we’re doing is observing: what is presenting on this newborn’s body? And when that mother is ready to receive that information, most of the time, she process that information herself.

MaryLou: I’ve been at so many births where the 45 minutes goes by before the family even thinks to look because they’re just so excited that the person is here, the baby is here. And the sex of the baby doesn’t even matter until they sort of come back out of the, like you said, that spiritual awe of the experience. But to say that we’re assigning sex or gender is no different than saying that we’re assigning human to the baby. Or that we’re assigning the baby’s species. These are biological facts and observations. When we do a newborn exam we always test to see if the baby’s palette is intact. We’re not assigning the baby with an intact palette. We’re observing.

Michelle: Either the baby has one, or the baby doesn’t have one. We’re doing an assessment. We do a new born exam and we’re looking at what is the characteristic of the baby. Have the testicles descended. These are all biological realities.

MaryLou: Are there ten fingers, are there ten toes. We’re not assigning—I’ve assigned you two hands—you know? And even beyond that, midwives have been arguing for a long time against pre-natal sex determination, and that we don’t believe ultra sound should be used gratuitously. We feel like that technology is unnecessary. Midwives have been advocating not finding out the sex particularly because we don’t want families assigning gender.

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