As an HIV-negative woman in an HIV-affected family, I never would have guessed that a prenatal care visit would set off a chain of events that would lead me to found an advocacy movement for the rights of all women -- trans, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and straight (TLBAS). But it did -- and on behalf of #WeAreAllWomen, I invite all women to join us for our next Twitter chat for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD):
When I first came to the prenatal clinic at San Francisco General Hospital, I was asked some standard questions: Do you drink? Do you do drugs? Do you smoke? Do you have sex with someone with HIV?
"No to the first three," I told the midwife. "But my husband is HIV positive."
She told me that she couldn't see me anymore and referred me to BAPAC, which was held in the same clinic on Mondays. I was happy about that, because she was looking at me like I was insane for being HIV negative and having a positive partner. So I got my prenatal care through BAPAC. It was a really great experience, and I started to volunteer.
I became the BAPAC social justice and reproductive health intern in December. BAPAC has recently evolved into HIVE: a hub of positive reproductive & sexual health.
I started #WeAreAllWomen after going to a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) conference in March 2014. I realized that all of the research being presented included transwomen under the category of "men who have sex with men." I thought, "Why is that? We are all women!"
While I was in prenatal care at BAPAC, I was offered PrEP by my nurse practitioner and OB-GYN several times. I decided not to take PrEP because my risk was so low due to my husband having an undetectable viral load, my inability to consistently take pills and my concerns about possible effects on my baby. My husband still has an undetectable viral load, I'm still negative and my daughter was born negative.
I am an advocate for everyone to be offered PrEP, especially trans and non-trans women. But women are frequently ignored in discussions about PrEP. We all deserve to be #TruvadaWhores if we want to be. Even though I choose not to take PrEP, that doesn't mean it's not right for other people (obviously). It's a great tool to prevent HIV and give people control over their risk.
#WeAreAllWomen is now a collaboration between HIVE and the Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. As Shannon Weber, the director of HIVE says, "#WeAreAllWomen is our practice of creating an inclusive community for all women, supporting each other, and living healthy, thriving lives." Check out our YouTube video.
I was inspired by the videos my husband and I participated in the previous year for PRO Men (Positive Reproductive Outcomes for HIV+ Men), and thought that I should get some videos going for trans and non-trans women. We are applying for grants to make a future series of videos about trans and non-trans women and HIV risk perception, PrEP and other related topics.
Currently, we're hosting a series of Twitter chats. We have had "What We All Have in Common," "Violence Against Women," "HIV: Treatment, Prevention, and Fighting Stigma," "Body Image," "Nontraditional Families." The next one will be on National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10, 2015, at noon PT, 3 p.m. ET) with the topic of "Sexual Empowerment." And of course, all women are welcome to join any of our chats.
My dream for #WeAreAllWomen is that we will spread our message of inclusivity to as many people as possible. As Jae Sevelius put it, "Inclusive language needs to be specific, i.e., #TLB[A]S. Mainstreams equate the word 'woman' with cisheteronormativity."
Twitter chats have used the language of "trans and non-trans women." It's more inclusive of trans women than, "women and trans women" and "women including trans women," which separate us.
My goal for all the work that I do is to fight stigma wherever possible. I also hope that we will be able to educate as many negative women as possible about PrEP and encourage and support positive women to engage in care.
All women-centered organizations should be inclusive of trans women. They are our sisters and we need to be their allies. After all, "we all live in a misogynistic world," as JoAnne Keatley says. I encourage everyone interested in becoming more inclusive to view the "What We All Have in Common" chat.
Caroline Watson is the social justice and reproductive health intern at HIVE: a hub of positive reproductive & sexual health. She is the founder of #WeAreAllWomen. Caroline and her husband have shared their family's story with the media and in a video series for Positive Reproductive Outcomes for HIV-Positive Men (PRO Men).