So, you’re a queer vagina owner and you’re finally going to your much-needed OB-GYN appointment (aka the one you’ve been putting off for months). For queer people, it can be intimidating, exhausting and downright dysphoric to go to a doctor that specializes in your vagina. I’m going to be completely honest: I’ve only been to the gynecologist a handful of times because it can be super-exhausting to have to explain your sexuality to a doctor who is supposed to specialize in it.
Getting regular pap smears and STI checks, however, is important to your health and well-being, so despite the difficulty, it’s important to go. Whether you’re a genderqueer vagina owner navigating an OB-GYN visit or a lesbian unsure of what you’re supposed to ask your gyno, this queer human is here to show you the ropes before you go. Here are eight ways to speak with your OB-GYN to have the best experience for both you and your vagina.
Before we start, here’s a quick note: It is not a patient’s job to educate their doctor. It is unfortunate that the system we have does not prioritize queer and gender education in our medical training. OB-GYNs should strive to educate themselves on queer and trans bodies and orientations. If you feel comfortable educating your doctor on pronouns or queerness, you are a blessing to the queer community and we all thank you, but know it is most certainly not your job.
1. Do your research beforehand
I have always found it extra helpful to read reviews of any kind of doctor, but especially an OB-GYN, before going. I’ll specifically google “queer-friendly OB-GYN in [insert city here]” every time I move somewhere new. More often than not, people have taken to Yelp or Zocdoc to review their good and bad experiences.
There are also websites that can help you find queer-specific health professionals. For example, New York City has Manhattan Alternative, a site for queer, trans and kinky people to find health care providers. If you have the option to be picky (aka your health insurance allows you multiple options), doing your research beforehand can truly make the experience easier.
2. Ask your OB-GYN their pronouns
It can be uncomfortable to tell somebody what pronouns you use. “OB-GYNs are used to referring to all of their patients as she/her/female,” as until recently trans identities were forced into the closet, OB-GYN Dr. Emily Blanton tells SheKnows.
While it is absolutely not the patient’s job to educate their doctor, it can be more comfortable for patients to get pronouns out of the way right at the beginning. So start off the conversation with, “It’s so nice to meet you, my name is ______, and I use these pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” This way you are holding your doctor accountable immediately without even giving them a chance to misgender you.
3. Disclose your entire sexual history
Talking about sex is hard. But telling your OB-GYN your entire sexual history and how you are currently having sex (Does it include a penis? Is it external stimulation only? Are you having frequent anal sex?) is mega-important.
According to Blanton, one misconception that queer patients have is that they or their doctor may think that some of their medical history isn’t relevant because that person is currently in a same sex (chromosome-wise) relationship.
“Sexual history includes sexual orientation but also a history about STDs, pregnancies, etc.,” she explains. “Just because a person with XX chromosomes is with another person who has XX chromosomes doesn’t mean that they have never been pregnant, had an STD or don’t need to discuss birth control.”
4. Ask for ways to have safer sex — & be specific
No matter what kind of sex you’re having, ask your OB-GYN about the safest way to have sex for you. If you have sex with all sorts of genitals, ask about safe sex across genitals. If you only have sex with cis vaginas, ask about safe sex with other vaginas.
Your OB-GYN shouldn’t assume what kind of sex you’re having, so to stay safe, it’s important you disclose the types of partners you engage with. Ask questions like, “How do I stay safe with same-sex (genitals) partners?” or as Blanton puts it, you can generalize with this question, “What kinds of things do I need to know or do/not do to be safe while being sexually active?”
5. Ask about your toys
If you use sex toys and lube often, ask about them! Ask your gyno if your toys and lube are body-safe, and if they aren’t, ask them to recommend materials that are safe for your vagina to come into regular contact with. Be sure to also ask if anything you use will interact with any protection you are using, such as a condom or an IUD.
6. Ask how often you should get tested
Everybody needs to get tested at different frequencies. For example, sex workers and porn actors should be tested every few weeks, while those who only have sex within the confines of monogamous relationships need to be tested far less frequently.
Tell your doctor what kind of sex you are having and how frequently, and then ask them to recommend a frequency. Better yet, ask them for resources to get tested for free so you don’t have to pay a copay every time you want to know your status.
7. Ask if you should be on birth control & which is best for you
Birth control is not just for straight people. If you, a vagina owner, are having regular sex with a penis and you don’t want to be pregnant, you might need to be on birth control. Additionally, if your period is really painful or irregular, birth control can help even out your hormone levels.
And don’t forget to let your OB-GYN know if you are fluid bonded or not (whether you’ve had sex without barriers such as a condom or dental dam) and whether or not you are good at taking a daily pill or if you should choose an option that lasts for years at a time, like the IUD or arm implant.
8. Ask the right questions about medications they prescribe
According to HeretoHelp, queer people are more likely to experience mental illness than straight people. So if you have a mental illness or take psychiatric medication, it’s a good idea to tell your OB-GYN. Well, actually, it’s a good idea to tell them about any medication you’re on because medications interact. Same goes for alcohol intake and recreational drugs. Your OB-GYN is there to help you and (hopefully) not to judge you, so be as open as you can.