Contraception Beyond the Gender Binary
Reproductive Autonomy For All
Male Contraceptive Initiative takes our mission seriously. We are constantly looking for ways to reach our goals and contribute to expansive contraception access.
After an internal review of how we convey our values, MCI realized it was time to update. We have updated our vision to "Reproductive Autonomy for All."
We believe that our work is more than just drug or product development. It's a mission to empower everyone with the freedom to choose how they manage their fertility, contraception, and family planning.
We acknowledge that this mission of empowerment is ongoing. After all, our very name, "Male Contraceptive Initiative," is limited and gendered. While we have always believed that our work will benefit more than cisgender straight men, our language didn't represent that.
We want people across the gender and sexuality spectrum to benefit from the contraceptive methods we support and advocate for. Because of the systemic and limited views of gender identity and sexual orientation, we overlook marginalized groups in product development and research for contraception.
The focus has been on ciswomen as child-bearers and contraceptive users, limiting science and society. Every person deserves the freedom to choose if and when they want children. The responsibility of contraception should not fall solely on people who produce eggs.
If we want to reach true equality for everyone, we need to include everyone in the critical conversations. When it comes to reproductive education for those outside the cishet (cisgender and heterosexual) system, most of us received close to nothing—leaving an entire group of people to fend for themselves.
We need health care to address the need for sperm targeting contraception. Socially we need to acknowledge that not everyone who produces sperm is a man.
We see that the binary system is limiting and exclusive. It is time for all people to be part of the contraceptive conversation.
Sex and Gender
To understand "reproductive autonomy for all," it is vital to learn the difference between sex and gender. Cisgender people may have never realized there is a difference because their sex and gender align.
Sex (n): either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male, especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures. (source)
Gender identity (n): a person's internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female. (source)
While many experiences no difference between their sex and gender identity, sex and gender identity variations are vast. But for those who do experience gender differences, it can be a confusing and long journey.
Gender dysphoria is a genuine and often very intense feeling, where how you look outside, doesn't match how you feel inside. For many people outside the gender binary, gender dysphoria is common.
People who experience gender differently have statistically higher instances of mental health issues. Our society has been divided into a binary system, leaving those outside the gender binary in the cold.
Learning for Justice
By limiting our minds to a binary, we limit our potential for growth. When everyone is included, we can advance in research and access to contraception.
"Binary notions of gender, biology, and sexual orientation exclude large swaths of human diversity. This diversity can be better understood by using spectrum-based models. Spectra make room for anyone whose experiences do not narrowly fit into binary choices such as man/woman, feminine/masculine or straight/gay." - Joel Baum and Kim Westheimer with Learning for Justice.
With more understanding of everyone's experience, our culture will become stronger. We will be able to make more advancements socially and medically. And often, with understanding comes acceptance. When we understand and accept a person's experience that is different than ours, we are more likely to take supportive action. This understanding is vital for a community that is often limited by policies and bigotries. The Trevor Project estimates that LGBTQ+ suicide rates are 4x higher than their cishet peers. With suicide being the second leading cause of death in young people, this should not be taken lightly.
To learn for justice, please visit the groups we have linked above.
Contraception Beyond the Binary
Due to the many variations of sexuality, equal access to a variety of contraception is necessary.
For example, a transgender woman who produces sperm may need sperm targeting contraception. Her wife could be unable to use other forms of birth control.
A nonbinary person who produces eggs may partner with a person who produces sperm. They may not be able to take traditional birth control. There needs to be an option available, so everyone has reproductive autonomy.
For those who want to learn more about the LGBTQIA2S+ community and terms used, visit Human Rights Campaign. The more you know, the better ally you can be.
We are working towards doing better for all the transgender, nonbinary, gender non-conforming, intersex, and gender-fluid people. We are introducing a series of posts discussing how contraception affects people across the gender and sexuality spectrum.
We encourage you to reach out to us with any suggestions regarding the content. Please share if there is a topic, resources, or individuals we should know about.
Look out for more discussions of this in Season 2 of our podcast, future publications, and blog posts.
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