AOC’s language about abortion infuriated conservatives, but progressives need this message too

“I don’t know if he is familiar with a menstruating person’s body,” Ocasio-Cortez said in reference to Abbott, after referring to his comments about rape and abortion as “disgusting.”

“In fact, I do know that he’s not familiar with a woman, with a female, or menstruating person’s body,” she continued. “He speaks from such a place of deep ignorance, and it’s not just ignorance. It’s ignorance that’s hurting people.”

What’s the important distinction between a woman and a menstruating person? Not all people who menstruate are women. Some people with periods are non-binary, agender, genderqueer, or trans men, for example. Trans and non-binary folks sometimes do menstruate, become pregnant, deliver babies, and have abortions. And on the flip side, not all cisgender women menstruate or are able to become pregnant. 

An important nuance here is to remember that people are what they are, whether or not they, for example, use hormones, have gender-affirming surgeries, or make certain life choices. Why would a trans man have a baby? Because they want to (or, disturbingly, because they aren’t able to access an abortion). Why would a non-binary person continue to menstruate? Because they want to, perhaps, or perhaps because they can’t afford or access treatment that would stop their period. That’s the same reason a cisgender woman might continue to have her period, or have a baby, too; she might feel more comfortable with it, or she might be unable to access intervention to stop or slow it. 

“I’m sorry we have to break down Biology 101 on national television,” Ocasio-Cortez continued while speaking to host Anderson Cooper. “But in case no one has informed him before in our lives, in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period … Two weeks late on your period for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle can happen if you’re stressed, if your diet changes, or for really no reason at all. So, you don’t have six weeks.”

It wasn’t long before Ocasio-Cortez faced backlash for her inclusive language. A headline from the British tabloid The Daily Mail, for example, gained quite a bit of traction on Twitter. The Daily Mail’s headline reads: “AOC calls women ‘menstruating people’ while explaining the female body.” Obviously, it’s phrased to be non-inclusive to people who menstruate who are not women. 

As we know, Ocasio-Cortez is pretty ace when it comes to social media, so she replied in kind.


Why do some folks have such an issue with using “people” instead of “women”? No matter where you stand on the political aisle, a lot of people feel a deep connection, whether personally, politically, or both, with their gender identity. Parenthood, too, is one of the bigger life changes and responsibilities that can change someone’s life and reshape their identity and perspective.

With this in mind, some people worry that by shifting away from solely using words like “women” and “motherhood,” we’re erasing women. But gender-inclusive words like “people” or “people who menstruate” are inclusive of cisgender women, too, provided you agree that women are people. (It’s truly debatable whether Republicans see women as people, to be fair.)

Ocasio-Cortez handles the balance well by using both gender-inclusive language and the word women, as some people may have negative gut reactions to hearing abortion and pregnancy discussed in a totally gender-neutral manner. Absolutely no one is harmed by using the most inclusive language we have at our disposal, and especially not when so many are eager to strip reproductive rights regardless of identity. 

If you’d like to learn more about the experiences of trans and non-binary folks, including trans parents, we have a round-up of 10 books about trans life, an author interview with Krys Malcolm Belc, a non-binary person and birth parent, and a more general round-up of books by LGBTQ+ authors. We also have a starter guide on how to support your trans loved ones, as well as a basic explanation of how and when to use gender-neutral pronouns.

Contribute to abortion funds in Texas being targeted by anti-abortion legislation

You can watch the interview below.

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