“It’s Easy to Convince Yourself You’re the Only Queer Person Who’s Had an Abortion”

a colorful pinwheel in a box
Four LGBTQ+ Abortion StoriesGetty Images/Khadija Horton

By now you’ve seen the tragic post-Dobbs headlines: rape victims driving hundreds of miles for an abortion, women who almost died waiting to be sick enough to end their pregnancies, others giving birth to babies they knew wouldn’t survive. It’s horrifying and it’s largely thanks to the 21 abortion bans that have passed since Roe was overturned two years ago.

Abortion restrictions were just the tip of the iceberg. Back in 2022, Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should “reconsider” the 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage when he concurred with the Dobbs decision. Now, two years later, gay marriage is still legal, but there are a whopping 39 state laws targeting LGBTQ+ people in health care, schools, and public spaces.

It’s all part of a really disturbing trend: “The anti-abortion playbook and the anti-LGBTQ+ playbook are one and the same,” in the words of GLAAD president. “Both are about denying control over our bodies and making it more dangerous for us to live as we are.” And if you still doubt these issues are connected? Anti-LGBTQ+ restrictions are even showing up on the same bill as abortion bans.

And let’s not forget, LGBTQ+ people have abortions too. Although they’re usually left out of the reproductive rights conversation, the reality is around 16 percent of people who get abortions do not identify as straight women. In fact, queer women and non-binary people who can get pregnant are more likely than straight women to seek abortions.

So it’s well past time we made queer people a crucial part of the abortion rights dialogue. And what better moment to double down than during Pride month and on the second anniversary of the Dobbs ruling. Here, are four LGBTQ+ people on the unique struggles they faced when having abortions...and how they’re fighting for reproductive freedoms on their own terms.

Bex, 27, North Carolina

“I had my first abortion when I was 20. I was a college student living in rural Texas and had very little experience navigating the medical system. The process was daunting. I didn’t know about abortion funds. I had $50 in my bank account, so I took out student loans to cover the cost, which was $580. Before I could have the abortion, I had to make two 90-minute trips to the nearest clinic. The first was for a vaginal ultrasound I did not want or need, and the second was to listen to the fetal heartbeat. Both days, I had to be there for hours. In the end I was able to get the medication abortion I wanted.

I identify as gender fluid and gender queer, which can be hard to explain. Certain aspects of traditional femininity, like wearing dresses at formal events or having my nails painted, make me very dysphoric, meaning I feel disconnected from my body. Being pregnant felt the same way. When I was 20 and pregnant, I didn’t have the words to describe my feelings, but I knew it felt wrong. I couldn’t understand why my body was trying to make me a mother. It felt like my body was betraying me, trying to become a mother against my will, which was almost embarrassing.

I’ve now had four abortions. My most recent one was after the Dobbs ruling, when I decided to self-manage and take abortion pills without a doctor’s prescription or supervision. I was tired of the logistical and financial barriers that came with getting this care, and the growing hostility toward trans people has made me uncomfortable in medical settings, both of which the post-Dobbs landscape only seemed to exacerbate.

I knew that after Roe, the barriers I experienced previously like cost, travel, unnecessary waiting periods, and state-mandated counseling would be even worse. I took mifepristone, which blocks the hormone needed for pregnancy to continue, and misoprostol, which induces contractions to expel the pregnancy, and I’d already had the pills.

The experience was so much less stressful and more empowering than the previous times I’d gotten abortions. I had agency. I didn’t have to wait for an appointment. I knew I had the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline and could speak with a clinician if I wanted to, but I didn’t have to talk to doctors about my sex life or depend on them for access to care. Now, I help other people who are going through the same thing.”

Brendane Tynes, 30, Baltimore, Maryland

“During the second to last year of my doctoral studies, I dated a cisgender man for the first time. In March 2022, about three months into the relationship, I missed my period. An at-home pregnancy test was positive and immediately knew I wanted an abortion. My partner was stoic and hands off. “You can do whatever you want,” he said.

Soon after I took the test, my deeply religious grandmother called to tell me she’d had a dream I was pregnant. By this time, I had already booked my appointment and although it was painful to lie to her, I felt like I had to. I’d been discriminated against in the past when seeking help for heavy, painful periods. I felt apprehensive, not just about the procedure itself but about finding a provider who would understand and respect my identity.

When I arrived at Planned Parenthood for the appointment, there were posters on the wall that read “Abortion is not just a women’s issue.” As a Black queer person getting an abortion, the message felt affirming.

Because I couldn’t afford the procedure, the clinic covered the cost. The staff, particularly a Black woman with sisterlocks like mine, answered all my questions with a smile and held my hand through the process.

Still, the experience was isolating. I booked a hotel room and went through the rest of the procedure. The physical pain was less severe than my heavy, painful menstrual cycles, but the emotional toll was intense. My partner didn’t stay with me at the hotel, and I later found out he had been sleeping with other people while we were together and had even gotten someone else pregnant.

I bled for longer than expected. What should have been a two-day process lasted for 15 days. No one told me I might bleed for that long. If they had, I would have made the same choices, but I could have prepared better for the process. I wish there had been more information on how to navigate post-procedure emotional challenges as a queer person. I realized I was missing a supportive community of peers. When you’re going through this, it’s so easy to convince yourself that you’re the only queer person who’s ever had an abortion. Later on, I found solidarity within queer and trans communities and it helped me navigate the complexities of abortion care while honoring my identity and values. Now, I feel like abortion is not just about ending a pregnancy; it’s an empowering, life-affirming act.”

DakotaRei Frausto, 19, San Antonio, Texas

“I knew I wanted kids, but I didn’t want to give birth to them. I got pregnant when I was 17. That same year, I was diagnosed with menstrual dysphoric disorder syndrome. There is a high likelihood I’ll experience postpartum depression if I get pregnant and I didn’t want to risk that. Because I’m non-binary, witnessing my body change so rapidly when I was pregnant felt like an invasion of my identity and a betrayal of my sense of self.

My fiancé and I had already agreed that if I ever became pregnant, I would get an abortion. Living in Texas, it was nearly impossible to access abortion care. At the time I got pregnant, abortions were illegal after six weeks of pregnancy. This is before most people realize they’ve missed their period. By the time I found out I was pregnant, it was too late to get an abortion in Texas plus I would have needed parental consent or a judicial bypass because I was 17, so I traveled 700 miles to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The entire trip cost around $2,000 and took two days. The clinic went above and beyond to ensure my comfort and respect my identity. They asked me what type of music I wanted to listen to during my procedure and asked for my pronouns and if I had a preferred name. I felt like a person, not just a patient. The nurses explained every step of the process in detail, always asking for my permission before proceeding with anything, and checking in to make sure I was comfortable. The sedation was administered smoothly and I felt a sense of calm wash over me. The procedure only lasted around 10 minutes.

I’ve often felt misunderstood or judged by medical professionals. When I described debilitating symptoms like severe pelvic pain, fatigue, and heavy bleeding, doctors brushed off my concerns or minimized them. One doctor told me, ‘Periods are supposed to hurt for girls.’ It was especially dismissive because although I have a period, I don’t identify as a girl. Because the staff at the abortion clinic respected my non-binary identity and helped me understand the procedure, I never felt like a teenager who didn’t know what they were doing but like someone capable of making informed decisions about my own body.”

Ash Williams, 31, Eastern North Carolina

“I had two abortions between 2016 and 2018 because I was experiencing domestic violence and felt like it wasn’t safe to be pregnant. In 2016, I wanted a surgical abortion because I needed it to be quick. When I went to the clinic in Charlotte, there was heavy police presence and anti-abortion protestors. I’m a queer, Black trans man and had been involved in activism after the police killed Keith Lamont Scott. Seeing officers outside the clinic made me feel vulnerable and anxious—getting an abortion is already very emotional.

In North Carolina at the time, there was a mandatory 72-hour waiting period, and the counseling sessions felt judgmental and patronizing. Afterward, a friend who was a white trans woman waited for me to recover, took me to McDonald’s, and made me collard greens. She was my support companion.

The usual person we see seeking an abortion is a white, middle-class, cisgender, able-bodied woman. But here I was—a Black, low-income, disabled trans man—I didn’t see myself reflected in the stories or experiences shared by others seeking abortion care. I felt like an outsider, so I became an abortion doula. I don’t want other people to navigate these systems alone.

Our experiences can be understood, but we will have to educate along the way. Through my work at an abortion fund, I developed an abortion doula-training program that trained 120 people in its first year. I love everyone who’s ever had an abortion, and I’m going to keep supporting people as an abortion doula and support companion. The fight for abortion access is about bodily autonomy. For me, all health care is gender-affirming.”

You Might Also Like