My Fear of Sexual Health Visits and the Community That Gets Us Through

Dysphoria is the uneasiness that a person experiences because the gender they were assigned at birth doesn’t match their identity. As a trans man, one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do is make sure I take care of my whole body, even the parts that may make me feel dysphoric.

Despite the paralyzing fear I had of seeing a gynecologist (GYN), I was able to finally make an appointment for a pap smear and follow through at age 26. That would not have been possible without the moral support of my then partner and a close friend. Once I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT), I wondered how that would change my experience with my GYN. I’m more than a year into my transition now, and am still searching for answers. Through social media, I have been able to find support from someone who understands.  

 

I sat down with Cydney Brown (they/them), who is nonbinary and transmasculine, to learn more about how being trans had affected their experience with healthcare providers.

Cris Lee: What was your first GYN visit like?

Cydney Brown: They asked questions about what kind of sex I was having and whether I was using condoms and it was at this point that I told the nurse that they didn’t have sex with men.

The doctor came in and asked me the same questions had and I realized in that moment, like oh, I have to come out again, like I don’t have sex with men.

CL: When you started your medical transition, how did your experience with your GYN change?

CB: I had to come out again, because my current provider hadn’t seen me since I started testosterone or got top surgery. She was affirming, supportive, and happy for me, but she started to make assumptions about my identity and began to gender me as male.

CL: Would you recommend that people who are on testosterone come out to their GYN?

CB: Theoretically I would [recommend you come out], but depending on where you live that may not be an option depending on safety.

CL: What advice do you have for other trans and gender nonconforming individuals who are having time following through with their sexual health?

CB: You should get as much information as you can before choosing a practitioner. I know that’s arduous and that’s a lot of labor intensive work to do; and for some folks, it’s not even realistic. So really, a lot of times you have to use your best judgement.

 

In August, Brown will be moving to California for graduate school and will have to search for another GYN. They’ll be looking to the internet and talking to more trans people to figure out how to find practitioners who provide trans-friendly care.

“Because I know the history of reproductive health in my family, I can’t not go,” said Brown. That is something that I have to stay on top of so I’m trying to figure out, am I just gonna have to be uncomfortable every time I go to the appointment or do I get lucky?”

I am due for another pap test in March and going to see a GYN. This will likely continue to be a uncomfortable experience because after more than a year of HRT, I am now consistently being read as male. The healthcare practitioners I interact with currently address me by my name and my pronouns, but I anticipate that my facial hair will trigger some dysphoria because people will stare and wonder why I am there. I still feel more prepared for what is to come though, because I have identified a GYN who is trans-friendly and because I have finally a person to talk to as I go through it.

When I first took on the important task of taking care of my sexual health, I did so blindly. I never discussed what that would look like for my body with my mom, who is a licensed and registered nurse. Instead, my only knowledge came from a presentation I sat through during my sophomore or junior year of college. Not having the space to openly talk about what I was going through made it that much more difficult for me to go to my first ever GYN exam. Now that I have been able to share and learn from Cydney, I will never be in that place again. There are others just who are also working to stay on top of their reproductive health, and we can all support each other to make sure we do just that.

 

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