The Power of Language in Practice, History, and Health

In Nyssa's weekly 'Need to Know' series, we recap the three most important stories related to reproductive health, sex education, and body autonomy.

Bill Cosby is released from prison; conviction overturned

Bill Cosby was released from prison this week after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned his conviction for drugging and sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. The court's decision was based on a spoken non-prosecution agreement made with a prior prosecutor. Cosby has been accused of sexual assault by more than 50 women spanning decades. For these women and all women who've experienced assault, the reversal is devastating. One in six women in the U.S. has been a victim of rape during their lifetime, and of those women, 94% will experience PTSD. Cosby's release sends a message to survivors that their physical, mental, and emotional health is less important than their abuser's freedom. 

SisterSong’s ‘Catching Light’ exhibit honors Black birth workers

SisterSong is a Southern-based, Black-women-led national reproductive justice collective. As part of the Artists United for Reproductive Justice initiative, SisterSong created ‘Catching Light,’ a living exhibition honoring the tradition of Black midwives and birth workers. Launched in recognition of Juneteenth, the powerful exhibit archives wisdom, stories, and contributions through photographs and audio from Southern Black birth workers. An exhibit statement reads, “Maternal mortality is a serious issue that continues to disproportionately impact Black mothers; Black midwives have been bridging gaps in care for centuries, making Black women feel safe and heard when the medical-industrial complex failed them.”

The U.S. to add a new gender marker on passports

The new policy allows passport applicants to self-select gender without requiring medical documentation. The U.S. state department is also working on adding a third gender marker for non-binary, intersex, and gender non-conforming people, but the option won’t be immediately available. Legal gender affirmation, or having one's gender accurately represented on government IDs, has been proven to decrease depression, anxiety, and emotional suffering in trans people. This coupled with the VA’s announcement to offer gender-confirmation surgery for trans vets marks a promising shift.