Several years ago, Dunham revealed to fans that she suffers from endometriosis — a condition in which the uterine lining "grows outside the uterus, creating pain and sometimes infertility."
While she's happy to help shed light on invisible illnesses, Dunham discovered an unexpected downside to being open about her endometriosis: Strangers think it's OK to ask her about her fertility.
Dunham doesn't mind when fans ask her about her illness, but she finds their quick "leap" from endometriosis to her fertility troubling.
"I’ve had virtual strangers asking whether I’m fertile, if I plan to freeze my eggs, and how I feel about adoption," she lamented in her essay. "These aren’t bad people — these are people who, in any other situation, would observe decorum at its finest. And yet they have suggested egg-freezing doctors, told me what countries it is or isn’t a good idea to adopt from, and pried about my feelings about my possibly faulty uterus."
Dunham continued, "It’s true I have been loud and proud about having endo, but the leap to fertility concern confounds me."
Going public with her endometriosis wasn't an invitation for strangers to dissect her private life.
"I talk about my illness to normalize it for other women, not to invite dialogue about every aspect of my private life, including my desires around motherhood," Dunham wrote. "I think we’ve been trained, through not so subtle cultural cues, that a woman’s body and her fertility are everybody’s property."
Dunham doesn't know yet if she'll have trouble conceiving. But she refuses to let trolls make her feel like an "inferior woman" if motherhood isn't in her future.
"There’s the idea that every woman wants to be a mother," Dunham noted. "I do happen to want that but plenty of women — and men and people —are satisfied by creating a family in less traditional ways."
"Do I feel like half a woman because my uterus and ovaries have misbehaved so thoroughly? Heck, naw."
Dunham doesn't want strangers' sympathy; she simply wants to explore her options without receiving unwarranted commentary.
"From strangers there is also the clear sense that if I am infertile, then I must be looking for comfort," she added. "They remind me that many women go through this, that I’m not alone, that (this makes me the craziest) where there’s a will — and disposable income — there’s a way."
"I know I’ll give myself a child in whatever way works for my body and for our lives, but moreover I’ll give all of myself to that child," she concluded. "When the time is right."
Read Dunham's full essay here.