With the growing global debate around inclusion for people of all genders, terms like “Women’s History Month” and “women’s health” now jump off the page. It’s no secret that the feminist discourse has historically excluded BIPOC and trans women. And as LGBTQ+ rights advocates note, including trans women in a definition of “woman” does not address all gender-nonconforming people.
It’s time to seriously reexamine labels, organizational names, and slogans. Advocates and organizations committed to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health understand that there are trans men and non gender-conforming people who menstruate, use contraception, become pregnant, get breast cancer, require prenatal care and seek abortions. And they understand that there are trans women who need the same cancer screenings that cis women receive, and may have other health needs that the traditional category of “women’s health” doesn’t consider.
Yet, while many organizations have gender-neutral bathrooms, we have not seen that awareness and sensitivity cascade to websites and campaign language. And branding conversations about groups focused on the health and rights of women and girls is long overdue.
To broaden the conversation from “do we need to change the campaign name” to “how can we take a more gender-inclusive approach?,” we asked three experts. In our Healthy Debate interview series, Sand Chang, PhD provides insight into the challenges providers face in delivering trans-affirming health care; Beyonce Karungi recounts the life or death stakes of trans advocacy in Uganda and what advocates are doing to stake a claim to their existence; and Jess Venable-Novak shares their experience advocating for fertility care for LGBTQ+ people to form families.
Their commentary confirms that the answer is more complicated than a one-to-one swap of the term “women’s health” for a new, succinct term that encompasses the needs of people of all genders. What I took from my conversations is that we need to drop labels altogether – and that health care is best when it is personalized to meet the specific needs of each individual.
These conversations and debates spark new ideas and insights to inform a more inclusive approach to health advocacy and communications.