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We regret to inform you that ignorant transphobes are once again trying to weaponise cervical cancer for their own agenda

Josh Milton July 31, 2020
Trans men 'less likely' to go for smear tests than cis women, doctors say

Stock photo of a gynaecological exam. (Envato)

Another day, another example of transphobes really needing to get a hobby. After an American news broadcaster used the phrase “individuals with a cervix” in a report about cervical cancer, countless anti-trans Twitter users hounded the outlet.

The mob of accounts, whose display pictures ranged from up-close photographs of cans of BrewDog beer and “I  JK Rowling” posters, to photographs of dead writers, as well as verified Twitter users called “Dan” and “Tim” and “Peter”, all sought to slam CNN for being inclusive.

In a tweet and an accompanying article shared Thursday (30 July), CNN reported on how the American Cancer Society now recommends cervical cancer screenings for individuals with a cervix should start at the age of 25 and continue through age 65.

But these four words drew the criticism of some, many arguing that the trans-inclusive, gender-neutral term “erased” the experiences of women entirely.

As a result, LGBT+ Twitter users sought to challenge the transphobes by giving brief crash courses on how using the word “women” rather than “people with cervixes” not only discriminates trans and non-binary people, but other cis women as well.

Cervical cancer: ‘If the word “woman” denoted “having a cervix”, that would make millions of women not women.’

What using the term “individuals with a cervix” is doing, they said, is simple.

There are cis women who have a cervix – there are also many trans men and trans masculine, non-binary and intersex individuals who have a cervix, too.

And, as some pointed out, there are women who do not have a cervix. Some conditions mean cis women are born without a cervix, for example, while surgeries may involve the cervix being removed altogether.

Indeed, by saying “women” to refer to “individuals with a cervix”, it not only erases specific gender identities, but also erases certain women, too.

As one user said: “If the word ‘woman’ denoted ‘having a cervix’, that would make millions of women not women.

“Including my mother. It’s not political. It’s medically. Accurate. Language.”

Gender-neutral terms such as “individuals with a cervix” or “people who menstruate” are just two examples of the way we, as users of language, are making how we speak more inclusive and accommodating for more and more people.

All these terms do is simply widen definitions of words to those who have always lived them as well – not erase the meaning that the previous word defined.

Words hold power. The Trump administration, for example, is effectively narrowing definitions of words to define trans people out of existence. Many other countries are doing the same, plunging many trans lives into danger.

This sentiment was previously echoed by Britain’s largest cervical cancer charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust. In response to a hashtag that said “only females get cervical cancer”, the charity emphasised that anyone with a cervix can get cervical cancer – so people with cervixes should attend regular screenings with their GP.

This includes trans men, trans masculine people, intersex people and non-binary people, as well as some trans women who have had gender affirmation surgery.

“This should only be about inclusive health care, raising awareness, and getting the right checks to the right people to save lives,” one woman wrote on Twitter after seeing the hashtag campaign.

“It is not about erasing women or anyone else.”

More: cervical cancer, CNN, Health, non-binary, Trans, trans-inclusive language, transphobia

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