Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Yes, It's True, I Cannot Get Pregnant

Yes, It's True, I Cannot Get Pregnant

And other shocking revelations.
(illustration: Zdanek Sasek // Getty)

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My working theory—and I’m being generous by calling it a mere “working theory”—is that a sizable chunk of cisgender people (that is, people who are not transgender) truly do not understand the controversy over trans-inclusion in pregnancy discussions.

Several years ago, pre-pandemic, I gave a talk to a law firm in D.C. about trans visibility, clarifying much of the understandable—but easily preventable—confusion over trans identities and rights. The talk went well! It was collaborative and informative, but afterward, someone in attendance walked up to me and, with the slightest tinge of annoyance or aggravation in their voice, asked if they could pose a “potentially insensitive question” to me.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had those three words put to me since coming out.

The person’s question: “Can you get pregnant?”

Now, personally, I have no desire to be pregnant, and as much as I love playing Auntie Charlotte to my friends’ children and generally find kids adorable, I don’t want any of my own. So, this question wasn’t insensitive on that count, but the directness and tone of this person’s voice when they asked that question has stayed with me, even years later.

I still remember the look on their face, shades of subtle anger, and I couldn’t tell if they were asking this question to make a point (as though it couldn’t be made in a more polite way and also: why) or if they were trying to hurt my feelings. Maybe both.

I think most trans and nonbinary people are forced to make a quick decision when confronted with this kind of unnecessary hostility. We are forced to pick our battles—because there are simply far too many to negotiate daily—and decide if this is a moment worth engaging with our authentic feelings and to what level, be that anger or dismay or frustration or exhaustion.

If there is a large spectrum of possible responses bookended on one side by “be nice and diplomatic” and “let this asshole know where they can stick their unnecessary question” on the other, I try my very best to yield to a polite median.

Of course, I had just given a productive talk, which required a lot of vulnerability, and I realized that my nerves were, perhaps, too raw to hew a dignified anger that illustrates as much as it admonishes. And I made a choice to swallow my own anger and be diplomatic, a choice I have made countless times in the past and will make countless times in the future.

“No, I cannot pregnant,” I told them. “I don’t have a uterus. I also don’t menstruate. Like all trans woman and some cis women, I have no idea what it’s like to experience these things. I try my best to be an effective ally to women who can and do experience pregnancy and menstruation.”

I don’t know if my tone had its own tinge of anger, but I would like to believe I kept a soft restraint.

They looked taken aback and didn’t know what to say in response. Their shoulders seemed to relax, their posture softened, their eyes dimmed from the alert status with which they had approached. They had come looking to have their own anger and annoyance validated, maybe to debate me, I guess, and suddenly, much to their surprise, they had nothing to be angry about.

“Okay,” they said, softly. “That makes sense. I appreciate your time. Thank you for answering.”

I had a question of my own for them and asked if I could pose it. They had almost seemed a tad apologetic, and I got the sense they wanted to make up for it by being amenable.

“Yes, of course, happy to answer.”

I asked: “How often do you point out the importance of ensuring that trans men and nonbinary people have access to the reproductive health care they need?”

They stared back in confusion, and a few moments passed without either of us saying anything. And then, some kind of switch was flipped, dots were quickly connected, and they seemed to realize, in that moment, that there are trans men and nonbinary people, having uteruses, who get pregnant, who menstruate, who need access to necessary medical care.

“Oh…”, they said. “Uh…”

I didn’t say anything — just waited for them to answer.

“Honestly, I didn’t know that. That’s good to know.”

They thanked me for the talk, shook my hand, and went on their way.

On Monday, Professor Khiara Bridges, who teaches law at Berkeley and has quickly become my favorite person ever, was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about abortion restrictions when Sen. Josh Hawley pursued a line of questioning that attempted to weaponize trans issues against Democrats, as we’ve frequently now seen with the embarrassing and pedantic and childish “what is a woman” query that they believe, for some reason, is the ultimate gotcha.

Because that’s the other—and dare I say, quite troubling—thing about all this: why do these people insist that having the ability to become pregnant is solely what makes a woman?

Going through menopause? Not a woman, to these people.

Trouble conceiving? Not woman-ing enough. Step it up, apprentice lady.

Gotten a hysterectomy or born without a uterus? Revocation of your membership among women, by their code.

Don’t have children? Don’t want children? You’re not a real woman, and you won’t be a real woman until you’re pushing out a fleshy container of germ-infested Baby Shark fandom.

That’s what they think.

Prof. Bridges was having none of it and let Hawley know real quick how unnecessary and bankrupt and, yes, transphobic, it is to pursue that line of questioning.

Notice how Prof. Bridges didn’t mention trans women at all. Because trans women have nothing to do with this. Trans women cannot become pregnant. That we’re even alluded to in this whole discussion is absurd.

And yet, I find that even many educated adults don’t understand this very simple concept, like last month when a reporter with whom I was discussing this with genuinely asked me why the abortion rights movement is being forced to include trans women.


He honestly was under the impression that trans people were demanding that Planned Parenthood and NARAL and all the other amazing repro orgs acknowledge that trans women are capable of pregnancy.

I asked him if he meant trans men and explained the whole having-of-the-uterus thing, and wouldn’t you know it? His voice alighted with sudden insight over the phone and I heard that familiar “Ohhh…”

This has happened far too much lately to believe it’s an anomaly. I think there are numerous cis adults, however well educated, who are walking around with the belief that trans activists are saying trans women can get pregnant. (For all you geniuses out there, we cannot.)

I also think there are numerous bigots who understand perfectly what it means to have a uterus and that trans men get pregnant, but for some reason, trans men threaten their worldview so much—their shattered, pathetic, weak-ass worldview—that to accurately recognize trans men as men might undermine every stubborn vestige of traditional, thin-skinned masculinity that makes their tiny and uninspiring world go ‘round.

Folks, just let trans people exist in our own authentic skins without said existence needing to somehow be a referendum on your own. I can’t emphasize enough how much reasonable adults in your day-to-day life—the vast majority of them cisgender—honestly feel second hand embarrassment when they watch you do this.

And the reason they don’t tell you that is because they don’t wanna be the one who breaks the bad news.

Please don’t embarrass yourself. It pains the rest of us.

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Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte's Web Thoughts
Charlotte Clymer is a writer and LGBTQ advocate. You've probably seen her on Twitter (@cmclymer). This is the podcast version of her blog "Charlotte's Web Thoughts", which you can subscribe to here: