TransLash Podcast Episode 45, ‘Abortion Rights Are Trans Rights’ – TRANSCRIPT

Imara Jones: Hey, TransLash family. It’s me, Imara Jones. By the time you’re hearing the sound of my voice this time, you’ll know that the Supreme Court has banned the federal right to an abortion ruling it to be unconstitutional, meaning that in nearly half the states abortion will become illegal in some cases effective immediately. Now, this, of course, is a huge blow to our community. Not only because trans people have abortions and need access to reproductive services, but because as we have made the case many times throughout everything that we do at TransLash this conversation is not only about abortion. Isn’t even mostly about abortion. It’s actually about who gets to control our bodies and whether or not our bodies get caught up within a white nationalist view of who belongs and who doesn’t. And a part of that vision, of course, is that trans people don’t belong.

And therefore, we are included in those who don’t have control of our bodies. Moreover, many of the groups and organizations that we have profiled through our anti-trans hate machine series are the exact same groups that are behind the push against abortion, now successful push against abortion and are also now beginning to turn those exact same tactics on us and our community. So sadly, this is just the beginning, and this is something that we know in our bones, which is why I know that so many of you are in deep shock and sadness and maybe even rage, but it’s times like this, where we have to turn towards each other. 

And in March, we had an entire effort, a TransLash to focus on the intersections between body autonomy and trans rights and reproductive justice and abortion rights called trans bodies, trans choices. And in that, we spoke to two powerful voices and a podcast episode who can help uplift these issues in terms of why they’re important to us. Why ultimately our vision for who we are, is going to succeed in the world? And why the world needs to pay attention to us when it comes to body autonomy? So in this difficult time, me and the entire team at TransLash hope that the inspiring voices that you’re going to hear from Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez and Adaku Utah will help get you through a difficult time. And as always known that we’re gonna be there, right there alongside you.

Imara: Hey, fam. It’s Imara. Welcome to the TransLash podcast. A show where we tell trans stories to save trans lives. As a pivotal Supreme Court decision looms in the United States, we’ve been hearing a lot about access to abortion and other reproductive health services. Far too often, trans people are left completely out of the conversation, but transgender people need access to reproductive healthcare, too. Everything from contraception and family planning to STI testing and treatment to abortion, but the barriers to access can be high and trans people have to deal with all of those barriers. In addition to encountering providers who aren’t trans competent and simply don’t know how to interact with trans people accessing these services. 

That’s why we at TransLash launched the trans bodies, trans choices, short film and narrative series through trans bodies, trans choices. During this transgender month of visibility, trans people are using their voices to reveal the personal stakes for our community and to center us in this discussion about body autonomy. So that’s the conversation we’re having this week. First, we talked to writer and educator, Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez who tells their story in a trans body, trans choices film.

Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez: You know, my dysphoria usually comes from, uh, having a womb and being aware of the said womb. So imagine 9 months of just being hyper-aware of something that makes you feel violently ill. When I did not need that, I was like, I think I’m good.

Imara: Then we talked to Adaku Utah, the organizing director for the national network of abortion funds.

Adaku Utah: It’s why folks who are specifically white supremacists folks who are tied to this system are so committed to controlling, exploiting, punishing, and killing us for centuries because there is so much power in our cells, in our cells to our bones, to our muscle, to our imagination.

Imara: By the way, when you get done with this episode, head over to TransLash’s YouTube page, subscribe and check out Jack’s story, as well as all of the powerful stories that we feature and the trans bodies, trans choices film series, before we hear from Jack and Adaku though let’s celebrate some trans joy.

When we say reproductive health services, lots of people think that just means abortion, but the reality is reproductive health covers a lot of ground. People navigating these decisions often need support and community, and that’s where Doula can come in. Doulas are advocates and companions who can help you navigate important health-related decisions. And this week I wanted to highlight the work of birthing advocacy, doula trainings, or BADT. It’s an organization that provides training to people who want to become full-spectrum doulas, full-spectrum doulas can help people with every stage of their reproductive experience. JB Brown is BADT program director and lead teacher.

J.B. Brown: We have plenty of empirical data that suggests that access to peer support drastically improves people’s outcomes and also drastically improves kind of the way they relate to their experiences. As doulas, we’re positioned to give folks access to others who share life experience. And that that is probably one of the most significant things that we can do.

Imara: J.B. Brown, you and everyone at BADT are trans joy. 

Now, I’m joined by Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez. Jack is a freelance writer and educator focus on the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability. They’re one of the feature storytellers for our trans bodies, trans choices film and narrative series. Their story will premiere on Wednesday, March 30. Jack had an abortion at 20 and has written and spoken extensively about the obstacles they faced from accessing care to dealing with providers who didn’t know how to talk about trans people.

They understand how the issues around body autonomy are so incredibly relevant for our community. Jack is out to help change the narrative by not remaining silent about their choice and to make sure that trans people can have access to whatever reproductive services they need in welcoming settings. Their writing has been featured in everyday feminism, rewire and black girl dangerous. They’re also a storyteller with the abortion advocacy organization we testify. Jack, thank you so much for coming on the TransLash podcast and for telling your story in trans bodies, trans choices.

Jack: Happy to be here.

Imara: I’m not gonna preview your story because everyone will just have to watch the film when it comes out. One of the things that really caught my attention that I’ve heard you say is that “Before your abortion, you had done caught everything right.” Close quote. And the reason why that struck me is we do have this idea, this stigma of the way that abortion is supposed to factor into our decision making. And it just really stood out for me. And I’m wondering if you can just talk a little bit about that and about the idea that abortion has to fit into a narrative of it being right, or in some cases wrong, right? Or an errant choice, which is one of the things that you really are trying to disabuse people of.

Jack: To preface. Obviously, there’s no wrong or right way to choose abortion. That makes very little sense. It’s a choice that happens, but whenever I met with anti-abortion folks, usually the narrative is, well, you put yourself in a position to need X, Y, Z. That’s why this happened to you. That wasn’t my experience. You know, a lot of people will say, well, we have a lack of sexual education. We have a lack of resources. We can’t get contraceptives to folks that wasn’t my experience. I volunteered with planned parenthood. I was very well aware of sexual health and I used a condom. It just broke. And then I took plan B and then that didn’t work. So [laugh] the universe just went, you know what? We’re gonna humble you [laugh], you’re gonna have to navigate this one way or another.

Imara: For you. The decision to have an abortion seemed to have so many intersections. One of them being economic status, like it wasn’t economically the right time. It wasn’t the right time as well, because of the way it didn’t feel right for your body as a trans person, also in so many other ways, in terms of race. I’m wondering if you can just talk about that, talk about the ways in which there’s so many things in which it just, it wasn’t right for you to carry in all these different ways.

Jack: I, to this day, do not ever want to be pregnant. I knew that 10 years ago, I know that now I am not someone who’s going. I don’t even like kids let’s be real. I do not like children, but on top of that, there, of course, a lot of challenges that go into being someone who at the time had just turned 20. I found out I was pregnant the month of my birthday. So I was 19. And then just turned 20. When I finally took a test, I was in my first going on my second year of college. I had a part-time job and I was going to school full-time I did not have the resources to support myself, let alone anything or anyone else. I was in a really terrible relationship with my high school sweetheart. That was not in a lot of ways, just not something that was going to be a permanent dynamic.

You know, I was navigating in that time as well. My mental health, I found out later that I am a agoraphobic. I spent a year in my house right after high school and that I have OCD all that together. Just it wasn’t going to be something that made it easy for me to experience pregnancy. And it’s not something that I wanted. You know, my dysphoria usually comes from, uh, having a womb and being aware of said womb. So imagine 9 months of just being hyper aware of something that makes you feel violently ill when I did not need that, I was like, I think I’m good.

Imara: Also being trans also factored into the type of abortion you decided to have. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Jack: I chose a medication abortion versus the surgical one, the surgical one being what you see in a lot of media, it was also cheaper. Let’s be real. It was like a hundred dollars cheaper. I believe at the time this is 2011, it was $500 to do, uh, medication one. And this way I could take these pills, go home and go about my business. And then hopefully, or at least at the time I thought, you know, forget it ever happened to move on. It didn’t end up going that way. Florida is a bitch. [chuckle] So I lived in Florida when I, when I did this. 

And there was a law that passed in the summer in which I got an abortion where you had to have a Transviginal ultrasound in order to access an abortion. So you had to have one before, uh, you got your pills. And then I had to come back after two weeks for a checkup, a follow up and they had to do it again. And I remember that they asked me if I wanted a printout of the ultrasound and I was like, “Eh, I think I’m good.” [laugh], I’m sure that that’s amazing for somebody out there. Uh, not me. I wish it had gone as clean as I’d planned, where I could just be left to my own devices. Just didn’t end up going that smoothly.

Imara: As you said, you were in Florida during that time. One of the things that you have just described are the hurdles that you had to jump through in order to be able to access your abortion in Florida, not surprising given Florida [laugh] for something that is right now, still guaranteed by the constitution, but here we are. And one of the things that’s also key about your background and your experiences that your Puerto Rican and your Latinx, and I’m wondering if there were any other perspectives, thoughts, pressures that factored into your experience of trying to access an abortion that also included a dimension around race.

Jack: It’s not something that I thought of at the time, to be honest with you, both of my parents in Puerto Rican, they’re different races. So coming from a mixed race background, they both grew up on the island and that culture is a slightly more conservative. But I think my parents have been really chill. This was I’ve always been very self-involved. This was something that I had decided that I was gonna deal with and it was gonna be me and I wasn’t gonna involve my family, my immediate family. And I are not that close. It just wasn’t something that got brought up, whenever anybody had anything negative to say about my abortion experience. 

One of the things that they would bring up would be race and ethnicity to make it be like, well, have you seen those, um, or heard of those billboards in Florida where they have like, “They’re killing the black community cuz they’re aborting black babies.”

Imara: Yes. Yes.

Jack: So [laugh], I hate that shit so much. So someone would bring that up to me. That would always be something like, “These are minority babies. You see how this is white supremacy?” No, it’s not, no, this is not that, the I’m, I just chose an abortion because that was the best choice for me. I’m not [laugh] I’m not rejecting my own identities because I didn’t wanna have a child. I’m good.

Imara: Yeah. And you didn’t wanna be pregnant because it wasn’t right for you period.

Jack: Yes, exactly.

Imara: [laugh] I mean, but like it’s, it’s not that more complicated and people decide to have medical procedures all the time because of what’s right for them that, that, you know, I think that’s an important thing for us to mention, but one of the things that you talk about that really just blew my socks off was your experience inside of a mainstream abortion provider. I won’t name them. You can name them if you want to. And just the experience that you had around dealing with people who are titularly, like on paper, when you read it are on your side, on the side of people who are progressive and people who are pro-choice and people supporting abortion rights, but that when it came to supporting your abortion rights and your reproductive justice rights as a trans person literally said to you, uh, in conversations that you had, well, we’ll worry about cis women first. And then eventually we’ll, we’ll get to you and, and other trans and non-binary people and, and, and we’ll eventually extend, you know, these rights and these services to everyone. Can you talk a little bit about that and how that impacted you in terms of, you know, what you were perceiving?

Jack: Oh, I have a lot of shit to talk when it comes to [laughter] I’ve got a lot of shit to talk when it comes to this [laugh], let me, let me begin. [laugh] So I, I had an abortion when I was 20 and then I had always been somebody that considered themselves pro-choice. I find out later in life that there is a very clear distinction between people that are pro-choice and people that are pro-abortion that distinction. I was enlightened to this fact by Renee Bracey Sherman, the head and creator of we testified the program that I work after I had my abortion. I, you know, I, I joined a group on campus called, uh, voices for planned parenthood. I believe they’re called something different now. And I actually did an internship and a fellowship with planned parenthood. I was going to conferences. I was in it. I thought that my career was gonna be in public health.

And I thought because of my experiences and because of all the identities that I live in and ex and, and experience that it would be a, [chuckle] I thought I would be a great resume builder. Honestly. I was like, yeah, if I just put all this effort into this, I’m gonna be able to provide care for people from my communities and it’s gonna be good quality care. I would try so hard to get us to be more intersectional. I would be like, okay, well, this wording for this campaign is incredibly sexist. Let’s talk about that. Can we break that down? I get that this is a national campaign. This isn’t something that you decided yourself right now talking like whoever’s running it, but in our messaging, when we’re talking, can we say people, can we say folks, can we get something a little neutral here because we wanna be accessible. And even at some point in my fellowship, I was a community health educator. I did a gender 101 presentation with the entire education department. And I had my supervisor, my then supervisor, who no longer works for that company. Say to me, “Hey Jack, can you, uh, stop correcting me when I misgender you? Because it takes me out of my thought process.” And I was like, “Oh, that must be so hard. Can you imagine what it’s like to be me? The person who’s being misgendered, because that’s an act of violence. Ah, a concept. Shhhhh.”

If I had to be told by one more specifically like white people who are always at the forefront of this cis het white people were always telling me,”Oh, we have to take care of women first. We have to take care.” And they, of course, they mean cis women. [laugh] We have to take care of cis women first. We have to take care of them because, you know, once we get that, then we’ll move on to other minorities. It’s like, no, absolutely not. That’s not how this works. We aren’t free till we’re all free. And I thought that at 20, and I think that now, so going into these spaces and then learning about the difference between that in like reproductive justice spaces, I felt a lot more comfortable and much more radical spaces. And I ended up just piecing out of public health altogether. I decided it was not something that I was going to do. I went another route [laugh] and now I sell dildos, so. [laugh]

Imara: Listen. Um, we’ll come to that in a minute. The distinction that you’re making right now as well between the language of pro-abortion and pro-choice versus reproductive justice is one that is grounded. And the difference between one that is binary and one that’s intersectional because the term reproductive justice was actually coined by a black woman, right? Loretta Ross in a famous article about thinking, about the totality of the body autonomy of people. And so even the lens, you know, for you moving into reproductive justice spaces makes sense, because it is a much more intersectional framework for thinking about how to be inclusive. When we talk about the full range of needs, um, that impact people’s ability to be autonomous in their bodies. It’s just a really powerful story. And I think even that idea of segmentation, right, it’s never worked that way. It’s never worked that one group of people within a marginalized group gets right.

And then it suddenly explodes to everyone else. It doesn’t work that way. It’s never worked that way in history. And for you calling that out, I just think is, is accurate. It’s just, it’s just a fact, one of the things that you do now, as you kind of alluded to is among other things sell dildos, but in other ways, just are emphasizing the importance of feeling good about our bodies and emphasizing pleasure and us bringing in the idea of sex and sexual pleasure into the ideas of being able to occupy our bodies. Can you talk about why that space is so important for you now and why you think it’s an important part of the conversation overall, especially for trans people.

Jack: Something I never really got to discuss when I worked in public health spaces, when I was trying to go down that route is pleasure. You know, I feel like it was [chuckle] funny enough. It was very sterile. It was a very sterile environment and it was just like, your body does this and this, and that’s it. I kind of pivoted into a different kind of wellness it’s sexual wellness and working in an erotic boutique. I get to focus on that aspect. Our community is often desexed in a lot of ways, whether it’s, we don’t wanna talk about gay sex and what that looks like, or we don’t wanna talk about trans bodies and what language we should, we should be using there. Now. That’s all I focus on now. That’s all I talk about. One of the main points of me entering this particular field was to make it more inclusive to make it more trans-inclusive specifically.

I am the first out trans store manager that they’ve had. I, they didn’t know about pronouns till I got there. It wasn’t something that was addressed. Now we have pronouns in our email addresses. We have business cards with our pronouns. There are pins that are given out to new hires. It was so important for me to be out at a job, to have a career where I could be out and run my little store as, as a place where anybody could come in and they would feel comfortable. And it’s been some of the most rewarding work I’ve done in my life.

Imara: Yeah, it’s so, so important. Cuz as you say, our bodies only spoken about in the negative. And so the work that you’re doing is really important. Finally, given all the experiences that you’ve had in your body as a trans person in all the different ways from working on policy to experiencing abortion, to thinking you were gonna be in social work to now focusing on sexual health and sexual pleasure. If someone asked you, why is it important for trans people to be forefront in the conversation around body autonomy in this moment, what’s your answer?

Jack: We have historically not been allowed to have body autonomy. We are probably in a lot of ways, some of the most restricted folks when it comes to that. So I want to give folks with the least amount of access, the most visibility. I want us to have conversations that put us at the forefront that explicitly not just go, oh afterthought. We also wanna, we wanna remember the trans people too. Yeah. Them too. No, no, no. We should be the first group of mind because there’s some folks that are just gonna be in particularly marginalized positions. It’s not equitable for us not to give that extra care where it’s needed. I’ve there’s been such a culture difference in my life and in my work now that I have an impact on my community and I’m specifically trying to hire and work with other trans people of color. I want to uplift those voices in those communities more than anything because we need, we need that. We need the most help. We deserve the most visibility. So I’ll do everything I can to do that.

Imara: Well, Jack, thank you so much for doing that and for telling us your story and for expanding our understanding of why this is so important for us and our community. And I’m just expressing deep gratitude for you at this moment. Thank you so much.

Jack: Thank you.

Imara: That was Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez, a freelance writer and educator whose story is featured in the upcoming latest release of trans bodies, trans choices.

I’m excited to welcome Adaku Utah who is an organizer, healer and performance artist. Adaku is currently the organizing director of the National Network of Abortion Funds. The national network of abortion funds is mission is to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access regardless of race, gender identity. What part of the country you live in or your ability to pay given how both reproductive and trans rights are under attack often from the same right-wing groups, Adaku’s mission in bringing people together across multiple divides to preserve body autonomy is especially crucial in this moment, but she’s not new to this. Adaku has worked in social movements for radical change, with a focus on gender reproductive, race, youth and healing justice since they were 18.

Adaku is the founder and director of Harriet’s Apothecary, a healing village led by black cis women queer, and trans folks committed to living out Harriet Tubman’s legacy of liberation and has infused healing justice in their organizing work for Yale University Black Lives Matter and planned parenthood among others. A doctor has been recognized as a 2020 laundromat community impact honoree. At 2017 essence magazine woke 100 change maker, at 2012 sexuality leadership development fellow with the Africa regional sexuality resource center in Lagos, Nigeria. Don’t say that too fast. And if that wasn’t enough, they had performed with a new York’s decadence theater Adaku goes by the pronouns. He, they, and she, and is non-binary. Adaku, thank you so much for joining us.

Adaku: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited and honored to be here with you Imara and so grateful for your life and all the ways that you doula liberation into possibility in our nows and our futures. Thank you so much for that lovely introduction [laugh].

Imara: Of course, of course. Thank you. Thank you so much. So I’m wondering if we can start off this conversation kind of in the heart of your work. You know, there’s so many ways to approach overview conversations of what’s happening with regards to abortion access and its intersections with all the things that we care about here and elsewhere. And you know, you can come in through policy and the law, but it’s really important. I think to come at it from the lens of where you sit, which is through organizing, like what’s actually happening across the country and communities. So I’m wondering if we can just start there. What, from where you sit are some of the key issues with regards to abortion and abortion access right now.

Adaku: So in this work, it’s really important for me to really ground us in holistic picture of where this work source is from. This is about honoring and protecting our sacred birthright to bodily autonomy and sovereignty. And for us, particularly with the national network of abortion funds, we have a really clear north star that orients us to shaping a world where every single reproductive decision takes place in thriving communities that are affirming, that are compassionate, that are safer, and are also trustworthy and allow for us to make decisions that are in right relationship with our bodies. And so when we talk about abortion, historically abortion access within the movements that it’s been held, particularly by white feminists have siloed abortion access into one issue when it is inextricably, linked with, um, how we’re able to access economic justice and gender justice and racial justice and disability justice, and the fight for abortion access is also connected to all of those fights and how we win is also connected to how we win in those fights as well.

Imara: So in grounding us in the issues around body autonomy and sovereignty that you just stated, what are you seeing specifically across the country with where we are in terms of matching or meeting in the vision that you set out? I think that it’s just really important because people who are listening are in all parts of the country, some of whom this may not seem as much of a pressing issue and others, it is extremely critical.

Adaku: Absolutely. Well, I wanna start first with the work that we’ve been doing at NNAF and folks like you and I community folks who have been creating ecosystems of care and really responding to not only the lack of access but the cultural punishment that has come from policies or governments or the state really trying to control and punish how people are choosing to exist and support their bodies. And so folks who’ve been working within our network, um, in autonomous grassroots organizations have been creating these ecosystems of care within and outside of the state that provides, uh, practical support from housing to dollars to transportation, to childcare, to connecting folks to resources that can support their education and bail funds. 

And, you know, we know that this work isn’t just isolated into the work of NNAF. I wanna shout out our ancestors and trancestors that have been doing the sacred work of listening to our bodies and creating cultures and communities of care, our doulas, our midwives, uh, our herbalist, our organizers, who believe that care can be stitched from how we’re able to listen to what our people need, whether in times of crisis or outside of crisis and really creating more expansive possibilities so that more folks are able to choose without punishment or coercion.

I wanna just keep inviting folks to remember that abortion is, is healthcare. It is part of one of many decisions that anyone might make about a reproductive decision. I think it’s fundamentally important that every single person listening to this and every single person that’s that we love, um, that are in our homes and our communities gets to listen to our bodies around what we might need and be trusted around those decisions. And when we go to get healthcare, whether it’s within the medical, industrial complex, or outside of the medical industrial complex with a healer, we demand, we claim, we cope that your desires for what you want for your body is, is listened to, and an abortion is situated inside of that.

Imara: So then where does abortion access come into this as the formulation of these communities of care, where do abortion access funds come into that?

Adaku: The work of abortion funds is so critical. We are able to move alongside with folks who are seeking abortions and say, you’re not alone in this. There can be care wrapped up around you and with you in how you choose to be able to access abortions right now. And so if you don’t get the coins, we can raise the coins. If you need a home, while you’re getting your procedure, we can house you. If your kids need support, uh, or if you need connection to a job after your procedure is done, we can connect you with folks. So that folks feel less isolated and more supported in decisions that they’re making for themselves.

Imara: Abortion access and trans rights are coming under assault. At the same time, 2021 was rated by, uh, certain watchers in this space, such as the Guttmacher Institute as quote “The worst year for abortion rights in almost a half a century” close quote. Also, the fact that last year was the first time that states enacted more than a hundred abortion restrictions just last year alone. And we also know that you know, they were 198 anti-trans bills that were introduced at the same time. So these issues are swirling around at the same time. And I’m wondering, what are you seeing as some of the unique challenges faced by trans and gender nonconforming and nonbinary people who are looking to access abortions? What are the particular needs?

Adaku: Yeah, so our folks face really high rates of discrimination in healthcare. This can look like stigma when seeking medical care. This can look like the refusal of care or denied insurance coverage, uh, simply because of gender identity for some folks as violent harassment, we’ve even forced sterilization of our bodies with, or without consent. And all of this, this violence really impacts how trans folks non-binary and gender non-conforming folks trust, uh, their bodies being cared for within our outside of a healthcare institution. And this can really impact whether folks choose to go get care or they might postpone or refuse care when they need it. 

I’m also thinking about our trans migrant folks where hospitals, in particular, have been a side of surveillance and have put trans migrants back in detention centers or in closer proximity to policing, um, and jails and the folks who are supposed to be caring for our bodies because they’re either not educated or want to be educated about trans health and affirming care can spread misinformation. And the quality of care that they’re offering can cause harm. These are all, both sites of harm. They’re also sites of change that need to happen now and into the future to make sure that wherever our people choose to access care, we can get it when we need it’s affordable and it is affirming and trustworthy.

Imara: So are all these complexities ones that are understood increasingly by the mainstream reproductive justice movement? You mentioned that historically they hadn’t gotten it, but I’m wondering if there’s any shift or change. You know, those institutions are still really key in terms of the conversation and the money and the power that goes to try to create these broad-based movements for justice and change.

Adaku: Yeah, I would say some folks are on their way and doing their work towards the embodiment of this. And some folks are still are not there yet. I think what I’ve noticed, particularly inside of our work, we have more folks who are recognizing, reclaiming, demanding, [chuckle] demanding that when we talk about reproductive justice, we hold all people, all gender identities, and it is not just cis folks at the center or an essentialized form of, of womanhood that erases our people. I feel proud of that work and there is always more, there, there is more. And I think that you know, for anybody that’s listening to this, that’s part of the reproductive health reproductive rights, reproductive justice. I think it’s, it’s so crucial that we keep asking ourselves, how is the work and the way that it shapes, how is it colluding with transphobia and what are the ways that we need to transform and create more expansive possibilities so that more trans folks, gender non-conforming folks can be in their dignity and humanity and be celebrated and honored as they access reproductive care.

Imara: When you’ve gone to the rooms of the various national actors, we’re talking Mia Allan planned parenthood, and now all these other, you know, mainstream organizations and you say, this is why it’s important that y’all get and include issues around gender identity, specifically transphobia race, economic access disability. Like when you go and tell them, this is why you have to get it when it comes to abortion, what do you say?

Adaku: I say that we will not be doing right by our people if we are not living and working inside of these intersections. And in fact, the work that we do moves into a, a space of violence and erasure when we are choosing not to hold abortion access at the intersections of racial justice and economic justice and gender justice and disability justice, we are forgetting and erasing sacred people who are a part of how we are able to live whole lives. And we cannot win without trans folks, gender nonconforming, and non-binary folks. We cannot have justice. We cannot have liberation when we leave bodies behind, it’s actually reinforcing what reproductive oppression and what violence teaches us to do with bodies, you know, erasing and deciding who’s worthy of care and who’s worthy of attention. And I say, “Fuck, no to that.” [laugh] that there’s actually more room for, for us.

Imara: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it’s so such a basic premise that we win. The more that we bring people in, you know, like…

Adaku: That’s right [chuckle].

Imara: Like you, I’m often mystified by people who don’t understand why it’s important to bring in people who live at these intersections because this directly impacts us too. And it’s just basic math. [laughter] like, it’s… Get out your calculator. And just start adding. We started in a big picture view about body autonomy and sovereignty, but this issue of occupying body and body space and the body as the first step in liberation, a free body as the first step in liberation, this is something that you’ve actually devoted your entire life to. And I’m wondering if you can just tell us kind of, as we end our conversation, why you think body autonomy is so key it’s of course, course key for, for trans people, written large? It’s one of the things our community is predicated on. It’s one of the reasons why this is a natural issue for us to be involved in, but I’m just wondering as a person who is non-binary and who occupies their body as a key step in liberation, why do you think body autonomy on an individual level is so essential?

Adaku: Mm. I love this question. I mean, our bodies are for some of us, our homes, you know, it is the place where we will live out our life force and our bodies are also places of power. And it’s, it’s why [laugh], it’s why folks who are specifically white supremacists folks who are tied to this system are so committed to controlling, exploiting, punishing, and killing us for centuries, because there is so much power in our cells, in our cells, to our bones, to our muscles, to our imagination. And we are able to not only imagine the kinds of worlds that allow for us to be free, but we’re also able to make these worlds real and possible. And so for me, I hold the body as sacred, not necessarily because of, you know, capitalism’s desire of what we can produce, but because of how we can live really how, how we are able to live in ways that are in integrity to legacy, to ancestry, to the present moment and to the futures that we desire the pathway to building a world where we are satisfied, liberated, loved comes through us. You know, it comes through the fractals of our bodies, um, and not just with us. It comes in connection with bodies that we can trust and feel like we can build, we can build worlds with. And that for me feels crucial.

Imara: Well, thank you for that. The phrase that our bodies are, how we would build should go on a T-shirt [laugh] and should be headed out to every trans person in the world [chuckle]. It’s our creative chords. It’s what screams from our spirits. Adaku, thank you so much for engaging in this conversation about the intersections of abortion access, reproductive justice, body autonomy, and trans rights and issues right now. [music background] And thank you so much for your practice of healing in this work that I think is so essential. And for making us think about centering our bodies and everything that we do, including the fight for liberation. Thank you so much.

Adaku: Thank you. Thank you for, for your listening. Thank you for your care. And also for creating so many platforms where we’re able to share our stories and feel free in them and feel heard in them. I adore you and so honored by you in this, this work.

Imara: Thank you. Thank you so much. I deeply appreciate that. That was Adaku Utah, who is the organizing director at the National Network of Abortion Funds. 

Thank you so much for listening. Don’t forget to head to the TransLash Media YouTube page to subscribe and check out our new video series, trans bodies, trans choices, and stick around all the way to the end for something extra. If you like, what you heard, please go to apple podcast to rate and review us. You can also listen to TransLash wherever you get your podcast. Check us out on the web at to sign up for our weekly newsletter. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at TransLash Media like us on Facebook and tell your friends and everybody, I keep telling you that in every podcast. The TransLash podcast is produced by TransLash Media. The TransLash team includes Oliver-Ash Kleine and Kelly Wright. Our intern is Mirana Munson-Burke, Alexander Charles Adams does the sound editing for our show. Our digital strategy is handled by Daniela Capistrano. The music you heard was composed by Ben Draghi and also courtesy of ZZK records. The TransLash podcast is made possible by the support of the Heising Simons foundation, the Ford Foundation, and many others, including some of y’all listeners.

Imara: Hey, y’all what am I looking forward to? Well, I’m looking forward to going to my first… I think, concert or music, anything in New York City at the end of the month, literally on trans day of visibility, it’s a group out of Brazil called Korea, um, which does a combination of music and dance from Favelas, which are the places that you’ve probably seen in. Um, anything that you’ve seen about Rio, where you see kind of the low-income housing, poor housing above the Hills, um, in cities, they’re literally where people were, who were poor, were pushed. So in any event, it’s a font of cu-culture and there have been tons of Brazilian movies, uh, and artists that have come out of Favelas. And, uh, so it’s gonna be really interesting to see how this group, Korea, which I’m going to go see at the Brooklyn Academy of Music is what they’re gonna do, um, and how they’re gonna be.

It’s also gonna be weird, cuz I’m still wearing my mask. Lots of people aren’t I still have a little nervous that’s about going out in crowds, but I’m still doing it because I need to re-acclimate to the world. And if anything, just to give myself a break from being in quarantine, I’ve been pretty strict with myself, um, about being a COVID safe and I better go do stuff while we have this low, because all of the things that we’ve done may, are all of the things that we’ve done are kind of ensuring that. I think there’ll be another wave. So I’m gonna take advantage of this to go see Korea. Oh, by the way, I speak Portuguese [laugh] and lived in Brazil for a while, but that’s a whole another story. So I’m looking forward to getting out in the world before the next wave of COVID hits.

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TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.



TransLash tells trans stories to save trans lives. As a trusted source for journalists, thought-leaders, movement activists, researchers, and those wanting to know about trans people, we produce narratives about and for the trans community—accurately and reliably. At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media serves as a beacon of hope through the voices that we share with the world.


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