One of the nation’s largest health websites released a statement saying it’s not erasing the term “vagina” following the backlash to an LGBTQ-inclusive safe sex manual.
Released in July, Healthline’s “LGBTQIA Safe Sex Guide” uses the term “front hole” interchangeably with the more widely accepted term for female genitalia. The manual claims the choice is intended to recognize that “many individuals don’t see body parts as having a gender.”
“For the purposes of this guide, we’ve chosen to include alternative words for readers to use for their genitals,” states the guide, which was developed in conjunction with GLSEN and Advocates for Youth. “For example, some trans men choose to use the words ‘front hole’ or ‘internal genital’ instead of ‘νagina.’ Alternatively, some trans women may say ‘strapless’ or ‘girl dick’ for penis.”
Healthline claimed the verbiage is “meant for one-on-one communication with trusted persons, such as your doctor or partner, not for broad discussion.”
But since debuting last month, the manual spawned virulent right-wing backlash on the internet. Nearly every major conservative outlet — including The Blaze, The Christian Post, Daily Caller, Daily Wire, and Infowars — decried the inclusion of “front hole” as an example of liberalism run amok.
Red State referred to the handbook as “banal drivel one expects when reading a manual for deviant sex.”
“The inclusion of this kind of nonsense in what is ostensibly a ‘safe sex’ guide on a mainstream medical information website virtually ensures that this terminology will end up being taught to your child in elementary and middle school,” mononymic contributor “Streiff” claimed in an Aug. 21 post. “Deviancy in not only being mainstreamed and normalized, a medical vocabulary is being constructed to bolster its legitimacy.”
“We normals are now the frog in the pot of water that has been slowly heating since the 1960s and is now reaching a boil,” he added.
Lifesite News claimed the guide is just the latest attack by LGBTQ activists in an “incessant war on biology, language, and common sense that trans activists are waging in academia, the media, and the political arena.”
“Some days, it seems as if the transgender movement is actually trying to sound as unreasonable as humanly possible to ordinary people — that is, the sort of people who live their lives without once being offended at transphobic statements such as ‘only women can get pregnant,’” said writer Jonathan Van Maren.
Gateway Pundit, a fake news site run by gay conservative Jim Hoft, further reported that Healthline — which counts more than 85 million readers a month — would be exclusively using “front hole” in its future coverage.
“[S]o that some nutcase who identifies as a teapot or a rake will feel included,” Holt concluded.
In a statement released Tuesday, Healthline directly refuted the Gateway Pundit’s allegations that the word “vagina” would effectively be wiped from the site’s coverage, saying they are “simply not true.”
“As one of the world’s leading health websites, we place a huge emphasis on standards of accuracy, integrity, and balance,” the company claimed in a statement called “We’re Not Renaming the Vagina.” “Every article we publish undergoes a rigorous editorial process and extensive medical review.”
Healthline clarified that both terms are used throughout the manual: “front hole” was included 16 times and “vagina” 17 times.
“‘Front hole’ is one of the numerous, accepted terms for geηitalia we use specifically for certain members of the trans community who identify with it,” the company added. “In no instance in this guide are we saying we want to replace the word νagina.”
Advocates for Youth added that the terminology highlights the experiences of gender diverse individuals.
“Healthline crafted their pamphlet to be inclusive of all types of bodies and all people,” claimed its president, Debra Hauser. “They included terms used by some in the transgender community as well as medical terms.”
“Sex Ed is rarely able to be this inclusive, and we applaud Healthline for creating such a valuable resource,” she continued in a statement. “Representation matters, and having words that reflect how each of us describes our body parts is crucial to lifelong health and well being.”
The language, which is consistent with terminology used by Fenway Health, National Institutes of Health, and Whitman-Walker, was recommended in a November 2017 article by the BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth journal.
Following conversations with 10 transgender men about their experiences with medical providers, authors Alexis Hoffkling, Juno Obedin-Maliver, and Jae Sevelius recommended that clinicians use “the language patients use to describe their reproductive organs and bodies” in conversations with trans clients.
“There is a long history of transgender people facing abuse, objectification, and neglect both within and beyond health care settings,” the authors claim. “This may frame your encounters.”
Thus, terms like “front hole” are intended to lessen the trauma trans people may experience around their own bodies and the harm they may encounter when discussing their bodies with health providers or partners. Because transgender men do not identify as women, gendered words like “vagina” may feel specific to womanhood and, thus, threaten to erase their own experiences as men.
The recent embrace of gender-inclusive language in health settings is intended to lessen the stigmatization and outright discrimination many trans people face when accessing health care.
In a survey from the National Center for Trans Equality and the Task Force, nearly one in five trans people (or 19 percent) say they have been refused care because of their gender identity. Twenty-eight percent of respondents claim to have postponed going to the doctor in fear of harassment, mistreatment, or abuse.
To combat these realities, the British Medical Association (BMA) released guidance in 2017 advising medical professionals to refer to “pregnant people” instead of “mothers” when treating patients.
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