It’s another odd year, which means another legislative session in Texas and this year feels different. For those of us working at the intersections of bodily autonomy, specifically abortion and trans rights, our issues are under attack in a way that has never been felt before.
We have been working for unrestricted abortion access in a culture that has not only stigmatized abortion and sexual health but queer and trans people as well. At Avow Texas, we believe that long-term, sustainable change will never be won if we’re not tackling stigma and culture change head-on.
This stigma has been internalized even by those who purport to support us and has made its way into policymaking. It’s gotten us nowhere but to this moment where abortion is banned and criminalized in Texas and the same playbook is now being used to attack trans youth and trans people’s access to gender-affirming care. Historically those who have claimed to be on our side have told us, ‘We can talk about women’s health, but not abortion. We can talk about gay marriage but not the need for gender-affirming care and trans rights. If we talk about abortion, we will use gendered language.’ We reject this dangerous, scarcity thinking. We know that we can fight for our rights without compromising our values.
Session after session, we have fought back against attacks and at the same time have fought for intersectional solutions. Yet the harder we fight, the more often those in power change the rules on us. We’re not playing on a neutral field, we’re being forced to fight under a fascist framework that is meant to deplete us, push us to point fingers at each other, and isolate us. It has also created a culture where those who support us make compromises that rarely trickle down to benefit Texans.
Stigma is a powerful tool, and that’s the reason so much of our programmatic work revolves around tackling it. As fascism in this state becomes more insidious, it’s clear that the true fight for abortion access will not be won in the legislature – it will be won in the community. It will be won when people recognize that we all deserve an abundance of care, dignity, and respect and collectively fight for it.
Abortion is and always has always been a reality of our lives. It has existed as long as pregnancy has. Trans people have always existed, and trans people have always needed abortions too. They have always fought alongside us, so we’re going to fight alongside them to secure a future for bodily autonomy. No one gets left behind because all of our fights are connected.
Things are dire in Texas, but we’re not going to compromise on what we deserve, despite this new terrifying landscape. We’re going to give it our all at the Capitol, but we also recognize that we must look beyond policy and the courts, which means doubling down on our community organizing, education, and culture change work. Most importantly, we’re going to follow the lead of Black, indigenous, and people of color and their vision for reproductive justice, which requires us to chip away at these oppressive systems instead of legitimizing them.
We encourage Texas lawmakers to follow the lead of our communities during this session. They should listen and learn from advocates as we fight to regain access in our state. Texas is loudly and proudly pro-abortion and pro-queer. We always have been and we always will be. We are not going anywhere.
Yaneth Flores is the Policy Director for Avow, a Texas organization that unapologetically advocates for unrestricted abortion access