Trans athlete Schuyler Bailar calls for LGBTQ inclusion in abortion rights

Hundreds of people gathered in Washington, D.C., on Saturday for the fifth annual Women’s March — and to advocate for reproductive rights in the U.S. Among the speakers was Schuyler Bailar, an iconic transgender athlete and activist, who reminded attendees and observers that abortion rights are not just a woman’s issue but an LGBTQ one as well. 

“I am a transgender man, which means that although I am a man, I was assigned female at birth, which means that I have a uterus. Which means that I could get pregnant. Which means that I could need an abortion,” he said. “I am here to remind you to make it absolutely clear that people of all genders can have abortions, and people of all genders should have safe and legal access to abortions.” 

“This is a women’s issue, and it is also a transgender man’s issue. It is also a nonbinary person’s issue. It is also a gender queer, gender fluid, transmasculine person’s issue,” he said. “This is about all of us.” 

The fifth annual Women’s March comes amid a wave of controversy surrounding abortion rights, namely Texas’ recent passing of a bill that bans abortions once embryonic cardiac activity is detected, which can happen as early as six weeks. A Florida lawmaker has introduced a similar law.

Thousands of people in the U.S. get abortions every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But research about transgender and non-binary people specifically getting abortions remains scant. 

One study published in April in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that dozens of transgender, nonbinary, gender fluid and genderqueer people reported getting an abortion in 2019. Another report from the Guttmacher Institute in 2020 estimated that in 2017 alone, up to 530 transgender and non-binary people received the procedure.

The National LGBTQ Task Force made LGBTQ issues a focal point in this year’s Women’s March. On Thursday, the organization’s executive director Kierra Johnson wrote in LGBTQ Nation that it is “dangerous” to think restrictive abortion measures only impact heterosexual, cisgender women. 

“The ‘overlap’ of reproductive rights and queer rights is as real as the women who are denied bodily autonomy for either — or both — identities they hold. It is real for our trans and non-binary siblings who often can only find culturally competent healthcare in the very same places being attacked for providing health services to women seeking an abortion or birth control,” Johnson wrote. “The right to decide if, when, and with who to have sex, if, when, and how to become pregnant, and if, when, and how to parent is core to our freedom and agency. These are LGBTQ issues.”

Groundbreaking athlete on transgender rights 19:22

Even though abortion is not a procedure obtainable by cisgender men, Bailar told Women’s March attendees on Saturday that biology and gender should not be the sole reason people care about abortion rights.

“You should not have to have a uterus to care about abortion rights. You should not have to have a uterus to care about autonomy,” he said. “…I am a transgender man. I have spent my life fighting for my right to choose what I do with my body — my right to get top surgery, my right to take gender affirming hormones, my right to have access to gender affirming, life-saving health care. We should all have access to life-saving health care.”  

“We deserve the right to choose.” 

In 2015, Bailar became the first transgender athlete in history to compete on an NCAA Division 1 men’s team. Since graduating from Harvard in 2019, he has used his platform to advocate for others in the LGBTQ community. He has taken aim at the numerous legislative propositions this year that sought to ban transgender athletes from playing on teams. 

He told CBS News in June that his goal is to make his type of activism obsolete. 

“I’m hoping, praying and fighting that the work I do is no longer necessary because that will mean that we [the transgender community] are just people as opposed to a political debate,” he said.