Totally Tubular with Caitlin Durante

Totally Tubular with Caitlin Durante

One comedian's path to permanent birth control.

Caitlin: For so many doctors and surgeons to deny people something that they want based on a very unlikely scenario that someone will change their mind is baffling. And I think it's honestly just an excuse for these people to carry out this like normative bias they have about like, again, just the assumption of like, if you have a uterus, it needs to be stuffed to the brim with babies and explode them out of your body and take care of them for the rest of your life. So I just really resent that, obviously.

Zoë: Hey lovelies! Welcome to We are Childfree, the podcast that celebrates childfree lives, one story at a time. We’re back for season 2! And we have a very special guest for this first episode - Caitlin Durante. Caitlin’s a comedian based in LA, and co-hosts one of my favourite podcasts, the Bechdel Cast, which takes a look at movies through an intersectional feminist lens. It was an absolute dream to speak to her. But before we hear from Caitlin, I’d like to share some exciting things that are coming up! Really soon, We are Childfree will relaunch with a beautiful new website featuring hundreds of new childfree stories, awesome merch, online events, and a community that’s set to be the most supportive childfree space on the internet! It’s everything you’ve been asking for for over a year now, and it’s going to be wonderful to see all our ideas brought to life! To learn all about the brand new We are Childfree, and to be first to find out when we relaunch, head to OK, back to the episode. Caitlin Durante jumped to the top of our list of dream guests when she tweeted out a hilarious thread about her tubal ligation. It was full of the bullshit comments she’d received from doctors, nurses and random dudes, about a decision that’s nobody’s business but her own. I caught Caitlin just after the one year anniversary of her surgery, when she was looking forward to a “raw dog summer”. You’ll just have to listen to find out what that’s about! Oh, and a quick note on language. I’ve since heard from people in the community that the term “sterilisation” is problematic, because of its association with the forced sterilisation that marginalised communities have been subjected to. I’m trying to use the term “permanent birth control” instead, but didn’t get the memo in time for this ep. Thanks so much for the feedback! Let’s get into this fun convo about feminism, fertility and film. It’s my absolute pleasure to welcome Caitlin Durante to We are Childfree:

Caitlin: I honestly don't know if it was ever a conscious decision on my part. It was just something that I inherently knew about myself from, I guess the time I was born. I was born this way. No I just, I knew from age probably like eight that I didn't want to have children. And I started telling people that, like that young and of course, no one takes children seriously. And of course also like children change their mind about a lot of stuff. So like I understood, for a while, why people would be like, "No, no, no, you'll change your mind. You don't know anything. You're a kid." I did also just feel insulted by that then too. But there were also things about my childhood that definitely changed my mind about, so I get like that, but I don't know. I just always knew that about myself. And then when I got into my twenties and well into my thirties, people were still like, "No, no, no, no, you'll change your mind". And I was like, "I've had this thing about me for decades now. I don't really think I'm going to be changing my mind about it". So yeah, it was just like something that has been with me for forever, basically.

Zoë: Yeah. Yeah. I hear this so much in the community that I'm trying to cultivate, this is the majority of the people I speak to. They have always known and it seems to blow people's minds that we could know this from a very young age. But I mean, I was exactly like you, I didn't ever think about children until someone would ask the questions to me. And then I'm just like, "No, no, that's not, never even been in my vision of what my life would look like". And same for you, I'm guessing.

Caitlin: Totally. To the point where, I mean our, our society - we live in a society, right? Our patriarchal society conditions girls and women, and anyone with a uterus, to just like, assume basically you're going to want kids. There's that assumption. There's that just conditioning to be like, hey, let's get you with these mommy skills early. I would be given baby dolls as a gift from like whatever family members are at birthday parties and stuff. And I'd be like, I don't know what to do with this. I don't want this because there'd be all of these little accessories or you'd have to like, change his diaper or like feed it a bottle. I remember I had this one baby that would crawl around and then also cry. And it was just this shrill awful... And you had to like to do stuff to make it stop crying or something. I don't even know. And I would, I like, hated it. I was just like, get this cacophony out of my ears. I would throw it over a balcony sometimes, I destroyed it. I wouldn't do that to a baby. Obviously…

Zoë: Oh, no, just so everyone knows Caitlin's not…

Caitlin: I'm not a baby murderer. But any baby doll I had, I was like, "What do you want me to do with this?" But I would see other children my age, like coddling a baby doll and like, doing what you're supposed to do with it, like being nurturing. And I just like, didn't have that part of me. No part of me was like, "Yeah, I want to take care of a baby." I was just like, "Where are my ninja turtle toys? Where are my Lego's? Where are my Lincoln logs?" That's what I wanted to play with. And it continues to be fascinating to me. And I think this is changing, but just how so many toys directed at young girls are conditioning them to be like carers of a household or mothers. And of course there's nothing wrong with that, if kids want to play with those toys and people want that to be their lives and their futures, but there were like so few other options for, like playthings specifically directed at young girls. So, fascinating, frustrating, etcetera.

Zoë: Oh God, it is. I mean, it's really just, I think it's just a weird thing that we would give children - we would give young girls a baby to look after it. Just to me, it's like, why is that considered a toy for a child? I also don't really understand. I was a total tomboy as well, so I would be asking for the He-Man and the She-ra, and if I did have Barbies, I would be cutting the hair and destroying them kind of. I dunno if you have seen that there's a Twitter account, which is this woman, she documents the clothing that we give to children which basically has these gender roles that's ingrained. It's like telling women that they are, like you said, carers, that they are subservient basically. And for men that they’re brave, strong, courageous, and it's really creepy when you actually, it's like you step out of the matrix and you start looking at how we are raised, and you think: "Well, no wonder there's many people who grow up, not really knowing what they want". You know, we all kind of conditioned in these ways. Like you said, I think it's getting better. And once people start to recognise these things that are happening in society, they can kind of take steps to help it, but it's still really creepy in 2022 that we still are doing these things, right?

Caitlin: Yeah. I remember just like being a kid in like a whatever, Target or Walmart, or a store like that. And there's like the girl toy aisle and the boy toy aisle. Cause there's also of course the assumption that there are only two genders...

Zoë: Right.

Caitlin: girls want pink toys and there's just an aisle of pink and then the boy toy aisle would be lots of like blues and blacks and greens. And like, I don't know what else, but I'm just like, I would pass over the pink aisle and be like, "I don't care about this" and just, oh, what a world…

Zoë: Yeah, I hope we can, you know, smash the patriarchy basically. That's what we gotta do. Just, just the little simple thing like that. But yeah, I guess the first step is if we share our stories and experiences, then it's amazing how once see another person doing something, it really, it shows you there's another path perhaps. And people who want children that's, if they really want it, that's great - I want people to be happy in their lives, but for people like you and I, who, we just think in a different way, perhaps, maybe it's biological. Maybe we are just, born in a different way.

Caitlin: ...predisposed to not want to use our uterus.

Zoë: Pretty much, pretty much. And I'm totally down for that. I'm really happy. But obviously what we both experienced is that society is not happy about that. And I mean, I would love you to explain, I mean, you wrote this amazing Twitter thread because you've been sterilised - and Happy Sterilisation Day, but that's a belated...

Caitlin: Thank you. Yeah. A few weeks ago...

Zoë: ...and you inspired me to start celebrating my Sterilisation Day as well, because it's a life-changing day first off. It gives for many of us, it gives us a new life, you know, a life where we can take back control perhaps, and we make our own decisions. So yeah, I would love you to, well, maybe we start at that Twitter thread, it has some pretty crazy things - tell me a little bit about that Twitter thread.

Caitlin: So I basically just posted a series of conversations I've had over the years with a number of different people. Some of them were people in my family, or not even really cause my mom accepted this pretty early on about myself. I'm lucky enough to have a mom who wasn't like, "You better give me grandchildren or I’ll throw myself off a bridge" or something like that. Also my mum doesn't sound like that. I don't know why I did that impression. Whoopsie, my bad. She was always just like, you know, "You might change your mind and if you do, that's fine. And if you don't, that's also fine". And now, like, obviously after I've had myself sterilised, she's like, "Yep, I know that you won't change your mind". Anyway, so it wasn't so much family, cause I honestly don't talk to most people I'm related to, but it was friends, it was like, guys I was dating, it was health care professionals. So many people just told me so many things that were decidedly not true, but they were convinced that they were, so it was things like, I mean, I, I heard this on repeat anything to be effectively like: "You'll change your mind when you get older, your mothering instincts will kick in. You just need to find the right man, and then you'll want to have children with him." So it was a lot of stuff like that. And I, in this Twitter thread, I never had these responses in my head locked and loaded at the time. But now like, so in the Twitter thread, I basically gave these like imaginary responses I wish I had said over the years - but like, for example, when someone was like, "You just need to find the right man, and then you'll want to have children". And it's like, "No, the right partner for me also won't want to have children. Like what, do you think your dick is so magical that like I'll suddenly change my mind about something that I've held firm about myself for decades?" And then from a medical professional standpoint, I had been asking doctors about this for years. I would say starting in my mid twenties, because I had been on the birth control pill for several years before that. But I didn't like the idea of just constantly being on hormones, cause it would affect my body in certain ways, it would affect my mood. And I was like, "I just don't want to, there's gotta be a better alternative. And since I don't want kids can't I just get sterilised?" So I would say it was starting in my mid twenties that I was asking doctors about this. "Like, can I get this procedure done?" And they would tell me the same things: "You'll change your mind. You just wait a little", or like, If they did believe me and think that I wanted to actually have this procedure done and wasn't going to change my mind, they would still say, "Well, unfortunately you won't find a surgeon willing to do this until you're a certain age or until you already have kids."

Zoë: Oh my god…

Caitlin: Like, that can't be true because I did some research about like, are there any actual roadblocks, or is there any kind of legal thing to prevent doctors from performing this surgery? And the only parameters in the US from a legal standpoint is that a person has to be 18 years or older and they have to be “of sound mind”, whatever that means. I fit both of those qualifications, so I just kept being like, "Okay, well, legally if I want this there's nothing except for your own bias, preventing me from this", because there are so many healthcare professionals that harboured these really like old-school patriarchal standards. It was just so baffling to me, I mean, it's the same thing with pharmacists who like won't prescribe or like who won't give out birth control because of their religious beliefs or something like that. So I don't understand how that's legal.

Zoë: No, no. I remember you saying in the episode so in your Sludge podcast, which documents this biased and broken healthcare system in the US you spoke to two people, a man and a woman about their sterilisation procedures. And I remember you talking about the laws and the legality and how maybe someone will sue them one day and, and truly, I am thinking, do we have to take that step of actually suing the healthcare people? Because technically they’re not carrying out that duty as healthcare professionals, if the law states that you can have that operation, right?

Caitlin: Right. Yeah.

Zoë: I don't want to sue anyone...

Caitlin: Right. The fear is that they'll do the procedure and then the patient will change their mind. And then they'll be mad at the doctor, which I don't remember the exact statistics of cases where the patient does change their mind, but it's like less than 5%. It's a very small number. So for so many doctors and surgeons to deny people something that they want based on a very unlikely scenario that someone will change their mind is baffling. And I think it's honestly just an excuse for these people to carry out this like normative bias they have about like, if you, the, again, just the assumption of like, if you have a uterus, it needs to be stuffed to the brim with babies and explode them out of your body and take care of them for the rest of your life. So I just really resent that, obviously.

Zoë: Yeah, absolutely. The fact that lots of those nurses and doctors all say, "Oh, how many children do you have?" when you were going for the procedure - I remember, wasn't it, the nurse who was actually carrying out the sterilisation procedure actually asked you how many kids you have?

Caitlin: Yes. Several different people. Again, I've talked to various doctors, various nurses, they'd say, "Why are you here at this appointment?" "Oh, I'm trying to get sterilised." "Oh, how many kids do you have?" And I would say "none". And they'd be like, "What? what do you mean?" And I'm like, "Yeah. I don't want kids." And they just couldn't wrap their heads around it. And I'm like, honestly, if you never talk to another person who doesn't want kids, is this the first time you're hearing of the concept of a person not wanting children? That can't be true, but they just, their jaws would just drop. And I just blew their minds, I guess. So it was like, yeah, it was just so unfathomable to so many people that I would want to be sterilised before having any children. And so the trajectory of the rest of my story was me inquiring about it for a while. I had all these hurdles, all these people saying, "You'll never find a surgeon to do it until you're 35. Nnless you already have kids, blah, blah, blah". So I was like, okay, I'll just wait until I'm 35 then. So I then went on birth control, the one that they insert in this skin under your arm and it basically just releases a steady stream of hormones. It lasts for three years. I had two of those in, but what I was finding with that it was is that it completely diminished my sex drive. So I'm like, okay, I guess it's an effective birth control because I don't want to have sex anymore, but that's not what I'm taking this for, and it was a gradual thing over the course. It took me if you like it, that my sex drive like went away slowly, you know, gradually. But I got to the point where I was like, oh my God. I haven't even thought about sex in like a year, what's happening with me? So I wanted to correct that scenario, and that's when I finally was like, you know what, I'm going to just storm into doctor's offices and demand that they sterilise me because this is not how I want my life to be. So I had the little whatever it is taken out of my arm. And I said, okay, now's the time to get sterilised? I don't care what you say about it. And at the time I happened to be like 34. So I was like, I'm at the age, you just need to do this. And I luckily had,I found a gynaecologist who's also a surgeon. And he's like, "Yeah, I'll do it for you. And also you didn't have to wait until you were in your mid thirties". And I'm like, "Well, yeah, I did. Because every other fuckers of you that I've talked to told me that", like, I was annoyed that - I was grateful that he was willing to do the procedure, but I was annoyed that he acted like I was the foolish one for being like, "Hmm, you shouldn't have waited around so long". And it's like, "Dude, I tried..."

Zoë: Yeah,

Caitlin: " was all your colleagues. So I had the procedure scheduled, it went fine. It's been slightly over a year now that I had it done, but I honestly feel… grateful isn't the word, but compared to other people's stories in, I think like less progressive bubbles, perhaps - cause I live in Los Angeles, the procedure was done here in LA - but I've heard so many people who wanted to be sterilised... And I'm talking about like people with female bodies had to get like a permission slip from their husband, for example, or had to like all this stuff where they had to like prove for some like... I don't even know how you do that, but the thing that I heard the most, that baffled me the most, or not baffled me, but just like, oh, horrified me the most was like needing the permission of a husband, him signing off on it. And it's just like…

Zoë: Yeah, yeah.

Caitlin: …what? Do you hear yourself?

Zoë: Yeah, you can't really believe that those things happen today. I had one woman who messaged me saying she didn't have a husband. So that meant she had to get her father's approval or her brother, if she didn't have a father. And I'm just like, it's 2022 people. And we are still being, you know, treated like we don't have control over our bodies and we don't really have true bodily autonomy if we're having to get permission from family members, fathers, and brothers and husbands.

Caitlin: That is so weird. Like the father and brother thing, like what I, the logic behind that I don't even understand.

Zoë: No, you're right. You can kind of look at your experience, which was not an easy one. You should be able to go to the first doctor and ask for this and be treated like an adult and not be, you know, spoken down to, as if you don't know your own mind - that's one of the most frustrating parts of it that people just can tell you that you are going to change your mind. So your experience it wasn't super easy, but yes, it wasn't as, let's say backwardss as some of the other horrendous stories that are out that sadly...

Caitlin: Yeah, I cringe to think what it would be like if I, for example, stayed in my hometown of rural western Pennsylvania and tried to have that procedure done. It just wouldn't happen, I think. And I just have to wait until I hit menopause,

Zoë: Yeah, yeah. When it doesn't matter anymore, you're like, "Great. Thank you for that."

Caitlin: Especially because like, I'm not married. I don't know if I'll ever get married. It's not a priority for me. And yeah, if they were like, you'll have to submit a permission slip from your husband? Especially because I'm already childfree, I don't have a husband like yeah, they would just not do it.

Zoë: Wouldn't do it.

Caitlin: Which should be against the law because...

Zoë: Right?

Caitlin: ...but it's not, because we care more about the power and control that men have over our bodies than the control we have over our bodies. So that's awesome.

Zoë: I mean, when you were talking to, on your episode, with the man and the woman who had their sterilisation procedures, the differences, it's eye opening. My husband, he had a vasectomy and no lie, it was like, he walked into the office. He said, "I want a vasectomy." And the doctor's like, "When do you want to do this - next week?" You know, and he came back and I'm just like, "What, what, what?" Because the difference between so many women or people with uteruses' experience compared to men, and now I'm not saying every man has an easy experience, but that seems to me from the conversations that I've had, the messages that I get, there is a real double standard here with how we treat men and women for this procedure. And what you shared on your podcast with both of those experiences was exactly the same. Did you find that really shocking?

Caitlin: I didn't find it shocking. Cause it's exactly what I expect because of all the other double standards when it comes to gender that we face. It doesn't make it any less frustrating, but it wasn't surprising, but that double standard doesn't even make sense. I mean, in theory, if people are interested in families having children, then you would think that doctors would also say, "Hey, come on now sonny, don't you want to be a father? Don't you want to have kids?" But for whatever reason, they don't do that. It, it's a lot of things. One of them is that there's just intense distrust of people with uteruses, not knowing themselves. And just assuming that we're going to change our minds and we're fickle and we don't know ourselves and we can't make decisions or something like that. So I found that to be true. A lot of people just assume that I don't know myself very well. It's the idea that we are perceived as nothing more than baby-making vessels and like all measures need to be taken to make sure that that stays true for us. And again, I want to be perfectly clear that anyone who does what they want to do, who does want to be a mother, does want to be a parent and you know, care for children, that is absolutely incredible. We need you to perpetuate this species. Otherwise the human race would die out. So thank you for doing that. But it's all about having the choice and having the autonomy to make those choices. And so much of this situation denies people with uteruses the ability to make that choice and have that autonomy. And I also resent the expectation that because I have a uterus, I have to give birth and have to be a mother and raise children. So that's the part that I resent, the expectation, the denial of my choice and freedom that I experienced for so long. Again, I did finally find a surgeon - shout out, Dr. Flores...

Zoë: Woo.

Caitlin: ...a feminist icon. And it's been again about a year now that I have been sterile and it was such a sigh of relief that I was able to breathe afterward.

Zoë: God I bet. Yeah. What has that decision, what has it done to your life? I mean, the practical side is that, yeah, we don't have to have birth control and things that can sometimes cause horrible side effects and, you know, birth control is not perfect. And I also had my fair share of shitty birth control and hating it and I mean, it's, it's great though. Please don't take it away from us…

Caitlin: Right...

Zoë: ...We will have it. It's okay. But yeah, it's not...

Caitlin: ...but it doesn't work for everyone. Right. So...

Zoë: It's frustrating when, people can't get sterilisation procedures like tubal ligations when all those things don't work for us, people don't even take that into consideration. Doctors don't even realise the effects we can have with birth control, and actually the sterilisation procedure can be one of our only options for maintaining our reproductive health and things like that, but really it's just completely ignored. And when I have these conversations with women as well, who want a hysterectomy is, - and I was also wanting a hysterectomy when I had fibroids. And it didn't matter that I said I didn't want children. It did not matter that I was living in pain. And doctors, they just would, they did not care that I said, I didn't want children. They wanted to maintain my fertility over everything, over my quality of life. And it's really frustrating to have medical professionals kind of choose that route over what we are saying and what we want.

Caitlin: It's so frustrating because you would think as doctors our health and wellbeing would be their top priority, but it's not - it's fertility. And that's so rude. So actually, as of like, five or six days ago, I went back on the pill, even though I don't need the hormones to make me not ovulate, but I have such painful periods that I - cause I also wanted a hysterectomy. And I know that I will almost certainly need one at some point because every woman on my mom's side of my family at least has needed one because they had severe endometriosis and I've never been officially diagnosed with it, But I have to assume that I probably have it based on my family history. And based on the fact that I have awful, awful painful periods. So I was like, "Can you just take it all? Just get it all out of there. I don't need it. I don't want it". And I was met with the same thing. Like, "Oh, we won't do that unless it's medically necessary". I'm like, "Well, it is medically necessary because I'm in pain". And they're like, "Hmm let's not". So I'm like, "Okay, fine - sign me up for the tubal and then I'll just try again in a few years". So I am now back on the pill to alleviate my painful periods, but I don't want to be, I don't need to be, it's frustrating.

Zoë: Yeah. That is really frustrating. The only way I got my hysterectomy was because it became an emergency. So my gynaecologist also refused me. She just shut me down. I said, "You know, I've done my research and actually for fibroids, a hysterectomy is a better option if I don't want children because the other operation will, it removes the fibroids from my uterus wall, but this is more invasive and the fibroids chances are they will come back in a few years." So I'm like, "Why would we do this more invasive, dumber my operation? When I absolutely know I don't want children". And she just was like, "We're not going to talk about that". Just shut me down. And I'm like, "Well, at least tell me why you don't think I should have it because I'm just in the dark now." So I only was able to get the operation because, because of the way she treated me, I left there kind of feeling really dejected. And I was going to get a second opinion, but in the space of that month it became an emergency. I started bleeding uncontrollably and I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was very lucky that the surgeon she was, she just asked me one question, "Do you want children?" And I said, "No". And just like, "Right, well a hysterectomy would be the best option for you". And I'm like, hallelujah. I shouldn't have had to been put in this situation. But you're right. I mean, trying to get his hysterectomy is like the hardest - if a tubal ligation is hard, multiply it by a hundred, because for some reason, doctors do not want to do that. And if you're below the age of 30, - well I was 36 - if you are below the age of 36, I think it's really, really difficult. It's maddening when ultimately we know these procedures, some have positives and negatives and we can weigh up the options with a doctor's help, you know, tell us, help us make these informed decisions. Don't dismiss us. Don't shut us down. And for you, having to live with painful periods and so many people, they are going through exactly the same thing. And they're not able to get a treatment that actually could change their life because yeah, painful periods and endometriosis is no joke.

Caitlin: Yeah, it ruins my life for like three days a month. I can't do anything. It's horrendous. In your case, the fact that it took a medical emergency where you're bleeding out for anyone to take you seriously, it didn't need to get to that point. Cause if the first doctor had just been like, "Yep, let's do the hysterectomy", you wouldn't have had to have an emergency.

Zoë: So after that operation, I went back to her, the gynaecologist, for my checkup, and I went back and, you know, I knew she didn't want me to have this operation. So when I went back and she was asking how everything was, and I truly, I was like, "I feel like a new woman. My life has changed now since this operation, because I have no pain-" my periods were also ridiculously heavy and painful "-and I feel like a new woman". And she scoffed, she kind of did a funny thing like, "What are you talking about?" And I was just like, "I'm never coming back to you again." So I was like, I also did the thing where I wanted to say to her, but I said it with my eyes - like you said, in your Twitter thread, which made me laugh so hard. So yeah, like I never went back to her after that because I was like, "You know what? You don't actually care if I'm happy or not, you actually just have your opinion and that's all you care about. And you won't even talk to me like a human right now". So...

Caitlin: I don't get how doctors and just healthcare professionals in general and again, not all of them, but so many of them, I would say the vast majority...

Zoë: sister is a doctor, so I'm sorry. Faye! But no, there are some amazing doctors and gynsecologists. Absolutely...

Caitlin: ...for sure.

Zoë: ...but sadly, you have to sometimes deal with people who have these biases and you know, and that can really affect your life.

Caitlin: And it's completely unfair and it just shouldn't be acceptable. Like we, I don't know why there hasn't been measures against this,, I'm like, I'm not going to go to the doctor. I'm going to let myself die because I refused to go to a doctor who treats me poorly. It's tricky. I don't know. It's just, ah, gosh, I wish there was like different training in medical school where these doctors who harbour these biases, like to unlearn those biases, cause it extends so far beyond just, people seeking to be sterilised. When it comes to race, when it comes to class, when it comes to trans people, non-binary people, intersex people, disability, mental illness, things that you think doctors would have the best understanding of more so than anyone else. They still treat marginalised people so poorly. And again, I'm using broad terms here. I'm making generalisations. But I would say the vast majority of like doctors I've seen, like treat me this way, treat people this way and it's like, got to be stopped.

Zoë: Please, please! I mean, I think you're right. I think. I had a doctor, he messaged me on Instagram and he was saying, you know, "I promise you, I am going to do everything I can to make sure people can get these operations if they need them." He was, "I'm a feminist. I want to help. I want to help you." And I was like, that's awesome. So like, I hope that the training there is more, you know, current training, which can help people, things like endometriosis. We know that it takes on average 10 years,to diagnose and we need our diseases to have more funding, to have more awareness and doctors to know the symptoms that we're facing. And painful periods - so many of us, we don't even know what’s normal, because we're just told being a woman or a person with a uterus is living in pain. That's what I was told - "It's normal to have pain every month, you're going to be in pain". But actually that really can fuck us up because if we don't understand what is normal in quotes pain and what is abnormal pain. And for you, I mean, with endometriosis, it's shocking how long it can take to get a diagnosis for our diseases.

Caitlin: Yeah. I wonder if it'll ever happen at this point for me. Cause I guess they need to go inside your body, make an incision and like check and like so few people are willing to do it cause they're like, "Well, you know, the pain probably isn't that bad. We don't need to cut you open to figure this out." And it's like, "I throw up every month because I'm in such horrible pain. Can we do something about this?" And they're like, "Have some birth control pills". I'm like, "Okay, awesome."

Zoë: Yeah, no, it's incredibly frustrating, and you know, you're not alone Caitlin. A lot of people DM me in the same struggle, so I hope I see more awareness of, you know, endometriosis, especially, but it sucks that we need to advocate for ourselves. We need to you know, make as much noise as we can about, about issues that we're facing and, and getting tubal ligations is one huge issue that I just think no one has any idea - or maybe they do, and they don't care - that we are denied these procedures again and again. Just because we're a woman, because we apparently don't know our minds, things like that. So I hope getting stories out there can help. And, but it's like, we need a huge shift, you know, we see, especially in the US you know, we see our reproductive rights for women and people with uteruses all going backwards. I mean, are they coming for birth control next?

Caitlin: Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me. I mean, all of these bills being introduced that are denying people access to abortions is like something we're still dealing with in this century. But at the very least, it's just an obsession with patriarchal standards and rigid gender roles and wanting to put people with uteruses in a box. And that box being the, just expectation that if you have a uterus, you must use it to have whatever, 2.1 children or whatever, like the American Dream averages. And yeah, it's just, sorry.... I normally don't get so frustrated and worked up on a podcast, but I'm just like, just thinking, just like, thinking about this stuff and talking about it just boils my blood.

Zoë: Same for me. Like it's infuriating to hear. I'm like, you, I've been lucky with my family who've been supportive of my decision. You know, there's been a few little things here and there, little comments especially when my sister had a baby. And I think because I was good with, I have no problem playing with kids and I think that made it more confusing for my family. They were kind of just like: "But you're, you're good with them. Why, don't you want to do this? You're good with it." And I'm like, "I don't know if you understand, but you could be good at something you could even like something, but also not want to do it full time." So I've been, yeah, a few little comments with that. But I've been relatively lucky. When I hear from the women and gender-diverse people out there, their experiences - truly, it boils my blood as well. And, these can be people in so-called progressive countries, and then they can be in countries, you know, where gender roles are even stricter where religion plays an even bigger part. I hope we are getting better, but it still blows my mind that I can talk to someone who is in their thirties or even in their twenties. And they still face the same issues that our generation faces and the generation before us faced. I don't know if you have many friends around you or similar in feeling to you about children, whether you know many childfree people, if your experiences, all that you are the only person that was in your friendship group.

Caitlin: I don't know a single person with a kid. That's not true, but of my immediate friends, like my very close friends of which I have so many - you know, I'm so extremely popular and well-liked, and I have so many friends. No, but like me and everyone's about my age. A few of my friends are a bit younger. But everyone who's like late twenties into their thirties, even friends in my forties, I think I just gravitate toward people who are also childfree and some of my friends have said they do want kids eventually, or that they're very open to the possibility. But at this point none of them have kids yet. And then I have a few friends who do have children, and we just don't really hang out that much because we don't, because I don't know how to conduct myself around a baby. I'm not good with kids. I don't know how to talk to them. I don't know how to hold a baby, all this stuff that people telling you that "Oh, but you'd be so good with kids, you'd be such a good mother. You're good with kids". I've had a lot of people tell me that too, based on the fact that I am responsible and organised. Cause I kind of assume like if I've had roommates or like in a friend group scenario, I'm often the planner. I reach out to people to organise plans or, like, all the bills will be in my name and then my roommates can Venmo me, whatever, stuff like that. So because of that, they're like, "Oh, you'd be such a good parent. And you're understanding and compassionate". And I'm like, thank you so much again, for all of the compliments from all of my friends. But I don't like kids and I don't want kids. And that would actually make me a very bad parent. And that's something that so many people cannot come from...

Zoë:Yeah. It's like we're doing the world a favour by doing what's right for us and a possible other human. I mean, it is kind of weird that we would even encourage people to have children that they may not want or may not be good at that role. I mean, being a parent, it's a difficult role, maybe one of the most...

Caitlin: hard, which is one of the reasons I don't want to do it.

Zoë: Right, right. So like, let's just encourage the people who want to have children to go for it. And anyone who is on the fence, let's not push them to do anything where it may negatively affect not only their life, but the life of a child. How have we not gotten to that point yet?

Caitlin: There are so many people who maybe, I think just came up in a generation where that expectation was so heavily ingrained in them and they didn't even consider the option of not having children, because it was just like so much that rigid expectation that they had kids anyway. And then they were bad parents and then they fucked up their kids. I think we should do way more to normalise, allow people who don't want to have children to not have children, because if they have kids and they don't want them, they will absolutely fuck up their kids irreversibly.

Zoë: Right. Yeah. It's pretty simple, really, when you think about it. It's not that complicated to make the head or tails of - it makes complete sense that the people who want to do this, they've got a much better chance of doing it successfully. And that's what we need for a good, healthy society is people to be just happy - you and I, we get thrown all of these words at us, you know, we're selfish. And I don't know if anyone has ever told you, as a childfree person that you're selfish or you're career obsessed, we have lots of these negative things?

Caitlin: So much

Zoë: Yeah. And, who was coming up with his words? I mean, especially in the media. You know, your amazing podcast, which I'll absolutely be sharing in the show notes, the Bechdel Cast which is, you know, this amazing scale or test basically by this person called… What was her first name?

Caitlin: Alison Bechdel.

Zoë: Alison Bechdel. Actually I would love to hear you describe the podcast.

Caitlin: Oh my gosh this is my job, so I am happy to do it. So yeah, the Bechdel test is a media test, media metric that you apply to really anything with a narrative. And it requires - the most kind of basic familiar form of it, cause like we use a slightly different one on the podcast, but the most familiar version is - two women have to talk to each other in a movie, for example, about something other than a man. And the reason this test was conceived is that, if you'll notice that a lot again, using movies as an example, it's rare for there to be more than one woman in a movie. If there is more than one woman, chances are, they don't talk to each other. And if they do talk to each other, chances are they talk about the male hero or some other man in the story. So it's just a test to kind of use it as just a jumping off point to initiate a larger conversation about inclusivity and feminism and intersectionality when it comes to media analysis and film analysis. But it's just a way to very kind of peripherally examine: are women in a movie? Do women exist in the world of this story? And sadly often, barely or not at all. So yeah, that is the Bechdel test.

Zoë: It's an incredible podcast because yeah, I think it, it really opens your eyes to how our media culture, how it conditions us, how it informs us, how it maintains those strict gender roles. And you know, when I think about childfree people represented in the media, I mean, mostly, they're always depicted negatively, that I can think of, you know, I don't know if you have any examples. I can think of like Samantha from Sex and the City who is sex-obsessed and she hates children. And which, whenever I say that, I always want to make sure: "It's okay. If you don't like children". I always want to be clear that it's absolutely fine. Anyone should be allowed to not like children, because that's another thing that we're told as childfree people that we have to be okay with having children around us all the time. And it's like, well, no, actually it should be okay. But anyway, I digress. So yeah, I'm trying to think. Can you think of any other childfree role models out there in the media? It's a hard one.

Caitlin: None that like, oh yeah. I mean,

Zoë: Right? It's pretty ridiculous, isn't it? I've seen all the films. All the TV shows. I struggle to think of positive examples of people without children. There was, I just remembered, there was a film with Chelsea Peretti called Spinster, which maybe that was last year or the year before. And that was the only one where it was really discussing this topic of us not choosing and, that's it literally, that's it.

Caitlin: I can't think of any examples of like characters, like female characters who are outspoken about not wanting to have children. If a character is a woman or a person with a uterus that doesn't have children, it just doesn't come up because it's not part of that narrative, but as far as any characters who are like, "Yeah. I don't have children and I'm completely fine with that and I never want them. And that's great. And that's how I want to live my life." There are very few examples of that type of role model, character, that like just general representation of like childfree characters that you do see in the media who have female bodies. It's often like a scary old witch who's like gonna murder you. So, that's awesome. This comes up every once in a while on the Bechdel Cast, where if any episode where a character gets pregnant and then has to decide, "Do I want to keep the baby or not?" Cause there's a handful of movies like that such as Juno, Knocked up, Obvious Child, Unpregnant, I have not seen sometimes or some sometimes may, may be never, always, that's not the title...

Zoë: Yeah, yeah. We'll put it in the show notes.

Caitlin:, what is the order of those words? It's those words or something close to those words. Yeah. I just have the wrong order. Anyway, I have not seen that movie, but it's my understanding that it's also about that. The movies that are from like maybe 10 years ago, they have these like really kind of pro-life agendas where it's like, "Oh my gosh, I'm pregnant. And maybe I would consider an abortion, but oh my gosh, no, never mind. I have to have this baby". And it's like, why you as a character have absolutely no, considering your specific circumstances, it is not in your interest to actually have this baby. And you seem like you don't want it at all. So why are you going through with the pregnancy and the birth? It's only been in kind of more recent years. We're like women are even allowed to have abortions in movies. And it's like, I mean, I guess that is a helpful representation to see, but it's bleak out there.

Zoë: Someone just sent me an advert last week. I can't remember who was, but it was the only pregnancy ad that I've seen where the result was, it was negative and the person was happy, you know, they were like, they were like, "Yay. Okay. I'm not pregnant excited". And yeah, we just so often see the happy, "It's positive. Yes. I'm having a baby", and there's a whole other side there that we actually have people who are really excited that they weren't pregnant or so, so yeah, that's one...

Caitlin: Something even more harmful. I feel like it happens a lot where a character is pregnant and they're unhappy about it, but then they have the baby anyway, which telegraphs to audiences, basically, you don't have a choice, even if you're unhappy about this and you don't want to have this baby. Sorry, you still got to have it because abortion is evil or whatever. Like that's such a disgusting harmful message to communicate to people, but it happens so often.

Zoë: It does. Everything that's happening in America right now with abortion rights being taken away in some states and it's scary. And, yeah, it feels like we're going backwards and we need to protect these rights at all costs. Because it's abortion now, maybe it's birth control next and people can think it's a joke, but when we know that there are, there are people in countries that they don't even own their own bodies. You know, I think the UN put out a study last year, which was like 55% of women in developing countries, technically they don't own their own body, they're not able to make decisions about their own bodies, is truly harrowing. And then we add on that we have our rights being rolled back. And it's really disappointing and scary. And we have to keep fighting. We have to absolutely keep fighting for it.

Caitlin: Truly. Shout out to the movie Portrait of a Lady on Fire where these are like 17 or 18th century women, like the maid - I think Sophie is her name - she's like, "I'm pregnant. I don't want to be". And they're like, "Cool, let's take you to a coven and get you an 18th century abortion". And that was great. And also that subplot kind of has nothing to do with the rest of the movie, it almost arguably could be, it feels a little tacked on, but I don't mind that it's there at all because it's like, we need more representation, even if it's like, olden days women having an abortion because that stuff did happen. And everyone likes to pretend like it didn't, but...

Zoë: ...yeah, abortion will happen. No matter what you do it is just whether it's going to be legal and safe for people. And we know that there'll be, if you take away the rights, we know the people who want abortions, notably the rich white folks, they'll be getting abortions no matter what. But it's like, we were talking earlier, it's marginalised people or the ones most affected by these draconian laws. And, and we need to yeah, keep making as much noise and fighting for everyone's rights because ultimately if one of us isn't able to access the health care that they need, none of us really have it, that's really what we need to keep in mind. Like, just because I'm sterilised now, and it's great that I can live my best childfree life, but we know so many people that, who don't have that privilege and their lives are, are affected horrendously because of these kinds of laws.

Caitlin: Absolutely.

Zoë: So yes, we have to end on a positive note. So, tell me, what did having this procedure, how has your life changed - you talked a bit earlier...

Caitlin: Oh yes. You did ask me that question and I don't think I ever came close to answering it...

Zoë: ...Well, this is the perfect time.

Caitlin: This is the perfect time. It has affected my life in the sense that I again feel like that relief of not having to worry about getting pregnant. So I just wanted to eliminate any possibilities of me having to deal with the pregnancy. So it's just so much relief. It's just like such a weight off my shoulders. I'm out there having awesome raw dog sex all the time now.

Zoë: Yeah. Yeah,

Caitlin: I'm sort of kidding. Cause I'm still practicing safe sex with the random dudes that I meet from Bumble or whatever. But you know, every once in a while, it's like, oh, I kinda like dating someone. We can let our guard down a little bit. As long as we're, you know, safe and tested and making sure we're STI free....

Zoë: Yeah.

Caitlin: that's pretty cool.

Zoë: Very...

Caitlin: ...out there, raw dogging! But it's honestly mostly, just like sense of relief I feel. And like also, it's just so validating now to have to have been able to get this procedure, because I can go back to all those people who doubted me and - I'm not doing that, but if I wanted to, I could all those people who like, "Oh, you'll change your mind. Oh, you just need to meet the right partner, blah, blah, blah" - and it's like, that was never the case. And now I feel super validated because I can be like, I have like, proof now that this was my choice and this was my feeling all along.

Zoë: Well, we have to actually then talk a little bit about your dating experiences then. I mean, you got to tell me, on your thread, you talked a bit about the dating experiences before, and obviously some of those arseholes, has it changed now? Do you tell people straight away you'll be childfree and sterilised? Let's raw dog?

Caitlin: I say it on the first date. Yeah. I'm like, we're going to raw dog later, right?

Zoë: So yeah, run me through, how do you approach dating?

Caitlin: So I often do bring up on the first date if I haven't even mentioned it before and like our, whatever, like messaging, our text exchange that I don't want children and that I've been sterilised because that honestly is a deal breaker for a lot of people, especially because I was kind of conditioned to think, like just growing up, especially in the area that I grew up, that if you're a woman or if you've got a female body, you are baby crazy, you're just gonna have babies. And you're going to basically just have to like, find a guy who's willing to put up with your bullshit and convince him that he should be a father with like, whatever, like you should have but it's going to take so much like, convincing about all this stuff. And I was like, "This sounds like a nightmare. Why is anyone doing this?" So I was just kind of conditioned to think that no man actually wants to be a father and he just kind of does it reluctantly. But I just like, kind of had that mindset for the longest time. And then I got it out into the world and lived, started living my adult life. And I met all these men who, "I want to have kids so much. I can't wait to be a dad". And I'm like, really? What? I was so baffled by it, but it turns out this is a thing that I didn’t know about. But so it is a dealbreaker for a lot of people, not necessarily people that I've seriously dated, because again, I tend to be drawn toward people who are also childfree and want to remain that way. But there are a few people who are like, "No, I want to have kids". And I'm like, "Okay, well I don't. So we should probably just, we can have a little bit of fun, but like we might as well, part ways pretty soon". But yeah, I'm very forthcoming about it. I brought it up right away. I've had it's not so much these days that people say, "Oh, you're going to change your mind" because I've gotten that procedure and it shouldn't take to be clear about that too. It shouldn't take me having the procedure to convince anyone that this is my thing. But it does help.

Zoë: Yeah.

Caitlin: So anyway, I tell people I've gotten sterilised and I've gotten, got like men being like - because unfortunately I'm so heterosexual and it's the worst thing in the world, but I can't help it -
but a lot of men have, like, given me a high five, they're like, "Hell yeah, go girl".

Zoë: Oh, wow. Okay.

Caitlin: Yeah. I've had a lot of people congratulate me and say, "Awesome". And so that's been encouraging. It is very nice. And yeah, it's been a fairly positive experience in that regard, dating men otherwise is an absolute nightmare and I wouldn't recommend it to anybody, but I've had more people be supportive.

Zoë: Yes. I think you're right though. You kind of have to like put it out there as soon as possible. I mean, we get a lot of people messaging about dating. Are they going to be alone forever? Ever going to find someone, should they hide it? I mean, you have to be honest with people because it doesn't matter - if you don't put it out there, what, you're just going to have children and then you'll be unhappy? So you may as well save your time, save the other person's time and be honest about who you are and what you want. But that there is obviously - we are told that you'll have a lonely, sad, unfulfilling life. If you're a childfree woman, you'll have regrets. And we were just told this. So I think that narrative sadly permeates and it makes people feel scared about the future. And I mean, I feel so positive about my future as a childfree person. And, how do you feel about yours?

Caitlin: I feel absolutely amazing. I have no shred of regret. Again, all I feel is like relief and validation. I don't know if I'll ever end up with a partner ever, but it's not because of that. I think it's just because I have a lot of emotional availability issues and I have a whole slew of other issues that might prevent me from finding a partner in meaningful companionship. But I don't think that has anything to do with my childfree life path. I think that it is just that I need to go to more therapy.

Zoë: Don't we all?

Caitlin: But yeah, of the people I've dated casually here and there, it was all other people who didn't don't want to have kids, or aren't really thinking about it, or it's like not a priority at all. Or if like, maybe they would, if they were with a partner who did, but it wouldn't be a problem if they were with a partner who didn't want kids, like it's, I feel like a lot of people can kind of go either way. But yeah, that hasn't been a roadblock for me. And I don't really anticipate that cause like, that's the thing you were talking about being very upfront about it and honest, because I've known of marriages to break up because one person really wanted kids and the other one didn't and it just means, so it's like, you got to figure that stuff out before you're married.

Zoë: Yes, absolutely. Save yourself the time.

Caitlin: Yeah. So that's why I'm just extremely upfront about it. And it's been great. I feel great about my future. I feel great about my life, the end.

Zoë: But this is like, we need to just hear it. We need to see and hear more role models and just more examples of, you know, women just living their lives for themselves. And, and you said, whether you have a partner or not, - I mean, that's another thing that we're told, that you must have a partner, you must be married, you must, you know... Single people, oh my god no. How depressing. And I'm just like, what is sad and depressing is you telling women that they can't be independent. And actually, I wish we celebrated more because I think it's bloody incredible that anyone gets on in their life, pays their own bills, does their own cleaning, washing, whatever, you know, like. I think it's something that we should applaud people for not, not diminish their lives as sad. And it's like, no, fuck that. No.

Caitlin: I have a fulfilling life. I have great friends. I, Yeah, I casually date and that satisfies certain needs. And yeah, for now I'm very content with how my life is going.

Zoë: Yeah. That's awesome. That's awesome. So then if you could give any advice to anyone who maybe they also would like a tubal ligation. Is there any advice that you would give to anyone who might be thinking about doing this?

Caitlin: Yeah. I would say if you're seriously considering it, and you know, that's the right choice for you... because for me, there were a huge chunk of years where I just stopped trying because I got so discouraged and I was like, "Fine, I'll just be on this birth control that's making me have no sex drive", which is also part of why I was like, I need to make up for lost time right now. I gotta go out there and raw dog all day. But I just gave up for a while and I just got so discouraged because it is very discouraging, but my advice would be if you're considering it seriously and you just haven't done it because there are all of these hurdles, it is possible to - you just have to find the right doctor, find the right surgeon, and it a full-time job almost, but it's worth the effort. Don't give up, don't lose hope, just keep trying. And you'll find, even if you have to go to a different city or like to go to a different country - it shouldn't have to be that way and it is so incredibly frustrating that we have to jump through all of these hoops to achieve bodily autonomy - but the relief you will feel when it's over is worth the unfortunate effort that you have to put in.

Zoë: Thank you so much Caitlin, for sharing all of your experiences. I mean, I am a huge fan of your work and I just appreciate your honesty and openness and yeah, you are helping so many people by being someone who was just out that, talking about it, that Twitter thread, it's shocking I think to a lot of people, when they see the the treatment that we face as, as grown adults...

Caitlin: Yeah.

Zoë: ...and the things that people said to you, and to many people in the childfree community, have been incredibly hurtful. And I hope we can change it at least, with more stories out there, more shouting about this.

Caitlin: Yeah. absolutely.

Zoë: But thank you so much for giving me some of your valuable time. I do appreciate it.

Caitlin: Absolutely happy to be here. Happy to chat.

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