When I told my girlfriend, Kaylyn, about writing this article and asked her about why she uses birth control, she said that, for her, “It’s basic economics and basic self-care.” Without it, she’s fatigued and has cramps so severe she becomes bedridden for a day or two each month. That adds up quickly, contributing to up to a $2,000 loss annually.
My reasons for using birth control are similar.
I’ve been on and off birth control pills for years. While some may assume any form of birth control is used solely to prevent pregnancy, that’s not why we use it. Kaylyn and I are both cis lesbians and lean on health reasons for the use of our birth control.
It’s hard to say how many times I’ve heard people question, either in person or online, why a lesbian would have any use for birth control. Between the “waste of tax payers’ money” remarks to the “someone’s probably cheating” comments, it seems that a lot of people still view birth control as something used only to prevent a pregnancy.
Yes, people with vaginas often use birth control for that exact reason, but it being the only reason people use birth control couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve had extremely difficult periods since my very first one. In the days leading up to my period, I would get horrible cramps that would force me to leave school early just so I could curl up in my bed with a heating pad. The first day or two of my menstrual cycle would come with a heavy flow that would give me constant anxiety that I was going to bleed through my clothes and everyone would think I was gross or dirty. Monthly, I would also get everything from PMS-related migraines to heightened episodes of depression.
When I went away to college and could finally make my own medical decisions, I made an appointment with my doctor after one awful period too many. My doctor and I discussed my symptoms and decided that birth control pills were my best option.
Within a month, I felt like an entirely different person. No longer did I get cramps that left me curled up in my bed. The headaches that sometimes hurt so badly I cried and inadvertently made them worse drastically declined in number. Sure, birth control wasn’t perfect and took a while to get used to, but it allowed me to feel like a person the entire month and not just three weeks of it.
After coming out as a lesbian, I wondered if I still needed to take my birth control pills. I didn’t know as much about sexuality or gender identity as I do now and it just seemed silly for me to be a lesbian and on birth control. I realized, though, that even before I figured out I wasn’t straight, I took birth control for reasons that had nothing to do with preventing pregnancy.
I thought about all the people I’d ever talked to, many of them cis lesbians or bisexual women dating another cis woman, who used birth control to clear up acne, for endometriosis or for other reasons that were perfectly valid. Figuring out I was a lesbian didn’t make my use of birth control any less valid, nor should it, so I kept taking it.
According to Planned Parenthood, in addition to helping with symptoms of PMS, birth control can also help prevent or reduce anemia, cysts, infections of the uterus, infections of fallopian tubes, infections of ovaries and ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Birth control became even more important to me after my mom passed away from lung and endometrial cancers. I went to my gynecologist very confused about what that meant for my future, and she informed me that the best thing I could do to reduce my risk of endometrial cancer was to keep taking birth control. Birth control took on a new meaning in my life. It was my safety net, my preventative health care.
Pregnancy was never an issue in our relationship, but the need for birth control always has been. Early into our relationship, Kaylyn and I talked candidly about what birth control meant in both our lives. She had recently gotten an IUD and loved the way it helped her “manage PMS symptoms and dysmenorrhea.” It was great meeting someone who was not only relatable but also nonjudgmental.
With her, I felt comfortable being the lesbian on birth control that much of the world didn’t understand. I can be me, cramp-free. That’s a feeling even better than never having PMS again.