When Getting Pregnant Threatens Your Gender Identity

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

This anonymous reader was determined to prevent pregnancy at all cost—not just to avoid the difficult choice of whether to get an abortion but also to avoid deepening our reader’s body dysphoria:

I’m a junior in college and my story isn’t exactly about abortion, but rather about how important high-quality birth control access has been for me.

I’m not a woman. I’m non-binary—somewhere in-between, somewhere outside gender entirely. I experience a fair amount of dysphoria with my body and often bind my chest to hide my too-large breasts. Pregnancy would amplify this dysphoria ten-fold and, at this point in my life, is not an option.

My freshman year of college, I was in my first relationship with someone capable of impregnating me. (I had previously dated people with vaginas.) He saw me as a girl and the relationship became very abusive very quickly. I had told him at the beginning of the relationship that I was polyamorous—I have multiple romantic and sexual partners—and into kink. He said that he was alright with this, but this soon turned out to be far from the truth.

I wasn’t actually seeing anyone else at the time, but he saw every one of my friends as an enemy. In response, several months into our relationship, he told me that—if I wanted to be with him—it would have to be only him. I should have ended the relationship right then and there, but I was afraid of being alone and reluctantly agreed.

Soon, he began to refuse to spend time with me unless I had sex with him, knowing how vulnerable I was to loneliness. I agreed. The blackmailing quickly progressed. He didn’t like condoms, but I didn’t trust the pill alone. He still insisted and soon found a way to convince me. Unless I agreed to go bare, we wouldn’t have sex and therefore we wouldn’t spend time together. Out of desperation, I agreed.

Weeks later, my birth control prescription ran out and I couldn’t refill it unless I flew 2000 miles away to the doctor who prescribed it. The local PP [Planned Parenthood] couldn’t see me for three weeks. Despite all this, he didn’t care and the rules were the same: no condom, no sex, no time together.

The next few weeks were some of the worst in my life. We’d have sex, I’d go to CVS and buy Plan B, I’d spend the day throwing up while attempting to still attend all my classes. This happened over and over again until I was finally able to get out with the help of some friends.

Despite the awful side effects of the Plan B, without it I would be pregnant. I’d like to think I would’ve had an abortion, but there is really no way to know how the emotional confusion surrounding pregnancy would have affected me. When I hear pro-lifers describe Plan B as an “abortion pill” and try to ban it, I seethe with anger. Restricting access to Plan B will only increase abortions. How anyone can fail to see that is beyond me.

At the beginning of my sophomore year of college, after thoughtful consideration of many other forms of birth control, I got an IUD. Pregnancy and parenthood were and are completely incompatible with my lifestyle. While I am as responsible as can be while seeing multiple people, getting tested for STDs every other month or after first having sex with a new partner, it would be impossible for me to know who the other parent was until rounds of genetic testing.

I am estranged from my family and completely self-supporting. I make enough to pay rent, buy some food, and not much else. I could not financially support a child, and I could not be there for them while working 70 hours a week.

My IUD cost over $1000 and I spent months saving up for it. Almost a year later, it still remains as one of the best decisions of my life. I no longer have to worry about pregnancy, and I will almost certainly never be faced with the tough decision of abortion.

I’m probably the typical pro-life evangelical Christian’s nightmare. I certainly was with my (pro-life evangelical Christian) parents. I’m one of those awful trans people, I corrode family values with my polyamory, and I apparently sin by dating people of many genders. But, despite all this, I am doing my very best to never have an abortion.

If you are one of these pro-life conservatives, I’d like for you to know a few things. To prevent abortions, you need to provide access to high-quality birth control, like the IUD. I saved for months to afford the pre-deductible copay, but many others would not be able to afford that. Make it free, educate teens about its effectiveness, and see abortion rates dramatically drop.

Furthermore, Plan B must be accessible everywhere. While I was able to walk just a few blocks to CVS to purchase it, this was a significant financial burden and it was kept behind the pharmacy, as if to hide it from those who need it. Put it next to the tampons in a discrete but accessible location and you’ll prevent even more abortions.

I’d like to have children someday, but that time is not now. Despite of all my “immorality,” I’d like to think that the God I was raised to believe in might find this the moral choice. I will use whatever drugs, whatever methods necessary to prevent pregnancy until I am certain that I can raise that child with the love and care I never received. Isn’t that more responsible than throwing a newborn into the life of an admittedly promiscuous college student working two full-time jobs?

Thank you so much for this series. I realize my story is not that of a typical person needing birth control or abortion, but I hope that it provides a somewhat different perspective. I’m not a saintly person by any means, but I and many others still have the right to birth control and abortion.