Who wants to ever go to the gynecologist? NOT ME! I don’t think many people enjoy this task even cis women. I’ve never liked going to the gyno even prior to me coming out as a trans man. I always tense up and feel violated during the exam, even though I have a fantastic doctor. Unfortunately as a trans man who has not undergone bottom surgery I am still required to go regularly to the gynecologist in order to maintain my health.
Why do trans men hate the task of going to the gyno? Have you ever asked yourself what makes you refrain from going or scared to go? In society genitalia is considered to be taboo because it deals with sex and who wants to talk about parts of our body that have anything to do with sex. In American society we shame these parts of our bodies which causes much distress to the trans community when trans people already struggle with accepting their bodies.
The current lack of healthy, open, guilt-free discussion about our bodies feeds into a serious gap in trans men’s healthcare that has potentially fatal consequences when you consider that pap tests are used to screen cervical cancer. Body shame, combined with fears over trans-phobic treatment from medical providers and an increased likelihood of gynecological care not being covered by health insurance amounts to a potentially deadly health disparity that’s unique to trans men.
Fear is a crippling emotion that can keep us from doing things we love to doing things that are necessary in our lives. When we are fearful of something we tend to ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist. The problem with doing that with health related things is risking your own health in the process. Going to see a health practitioner is scary enough for trans people. For trans men the worse is going to the gynecologist because of how feminine oriented this doctor is seen by society.
Here are some things that trans guys can do when seeing a gynecologist.
1.Set the Expectations for using correct pronouns
Pap tests don’t have to be considered a woman’s procedure. It is a clinical medical procedure and there is nothing feminine about it. The doctor does not need to refer to your anatomy as anything other than the clinical terms. The reality is that certain people of all genders have body parts that require gynecological exams. It’s simply that our society is so gender binary that it effects every aspect of our lives and we as humans have a hard time separating that. Your doctor should not be one of those people, they did take an oath to care for each patient’s individuals needs.
The truth of the matter is your doctor may not have any trans related experience and may not know to ask what pronouns you go by. This is a conversation you likely will have to initiate. You can simply ask your doctor to use gender-neutral terms associated to your body and give them other language you would like them to use in association with your body parts. Now remember they are doctors and human so they still might use clinical terminology when relating to your genitalia. Personally I am okay with the doctor using clinical terms when relating to my body parts.
2. Ask to Verbally Walk Through the Procedure Before it Happens
If you have never had a pap smear before or you haven’t had one in a long time it’s a good idea to have the doctor walk through what is about to occur. For a trans man going through his first pap test after publicly identifying as a male, this can be terrifying. Even is a man experienced pap tests previously, approaching one as a man is a whole different story. Asking the doctor to go step by step can help calm your nerves and any fears you may have associated with the procedure. Remember you always have the right to know what is going to happen with your body no matter what anyone says. You also have the right to tell your doctor how fast or slow you want to go as well as if you need breaks in between. Just remember it’s easier to set these expectations prior to the procedure instead of in the middle of it. If your doctor cannot respect this, you can consider switching to a different doctor.
3. Bring in Other Tools to Make the Procedure More Comfortable
Think about things that calm you down on a regular basis and how you can utilize them while you are in the middle of the procedure. For some people it’s talking non-stop, blocking out sound, having someone with you, counting backwards, music, and more. If you are unable to utilize any of your tools during the procedure you can always find a way to use them to de-stress afterwards.
4. Bring Along a Support Person
When you are going through a procedure with any doctor, but especially with the gynecologist in such a vulnerable state you tend to lose power. Which than feels like you lose control of the situation. Bringing an a support person can help you feel like you have taken back some of the power you might have lost being put in a vulnerable state. Personally I wouldn’t have someone in the room with me because it actually makes me more uncomfortable, but I can see the value in having someone there to support you especially if you are extremely scared. When you have a support person in there you can discuss other topics that can get your mind off what is happening at that moment. Plus, they can help you defuse stress and tension afterwards.
Remember that you’re a man, your body is a man’s body, no matter what anyone else says about it. No matter how uncomfortable, scared, nervous, or anxious you are about going to the gynecologist you need to go in order to stay in good health. Use different techniques to combat your fears so you are able to get through it. Especially now that you are only required to get a pap test every 3 years. Once every 3 years isn’t to bad to have to go through one of the worst thing we as trans guys have to go through. As society becomes more aware of trans people and hopefully more understanding so will the healthcare system.