Tip #17: If you have one, get it checked: On going to the gynoPosted: April 8, 2012
Since embarking on my gender journey, I’ve had several questions around health care, taking care of my body, getting things checked out. I had questions about whether results should be measured by the male or female standards, and then there’s that pesky gyno business to take care of. This last one probably weighs on my mind the most so that’s what I’m going to tackle in this post.
Going to the doctor can be a difficult and awkward experience, and at times impossible altogether because of the lack of affordable / accessible health care. If you can get to the doctor, as a general rule of thumb, if you have one, it’s advisable to get it checked out (whatever the body part). That being said, gynecological exams are important for those of us transguys who still have our uterus, ovaries, and cervix because the reality is, we’re still at risk for cervical cancer, HPV, cysts and other fun stuff like that. Most doctors suggest having your first exam once you turn 21 and/or become sexually active, but each person is unique, so for when to start/how often you should go, consult your individual doctor. For now, let’s talk about how to get through these visits, shall we?
Tips for meeting with your gyno:
If at any point you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with your doctor, get up and leave.
When I had my very first gyno appointment, I identified as gay and some shade of female. My doc and I discussed female partners, coming out, etc., and she said something to me I will never forget: If a doctor is ever disrespectful to me (because of my sexual orientation, but for any reason, really), does/says something that makes me feel uncomfortable, and/or is making inappropriate statements/seems prejudice, put my clothes on and get up and leave immediately. Don’t think twice about it. Just go. You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, so don’t take crap from anyone, especially not a medical doctor during an already uncomfortable exam.
Now.. what I’m not sure of is if you’ll still have to pay for your appointment, especially since they charge you before. If you have any advice on disputing charges or cancelling your appointment because your doc was a total jerk, please comment below!
Know that it will all be over soon.
During my visit the doctor and I spent more time talking than she did conducting the pelvic exam. While it may feel like it lasts forever, it’s actually over relatively quick and then you get to sit up again.
Take some time to talk to the doctor before you lay down or try to schedule a meeting with him/her before your actual exam if possible.
I didn’t have the luxury of scheduling a separate meeting, so I took some time to talk with her before the exam started. I let her know I’m a transguy, that this is my first appointment since starting T, and that I was very nervous about everything. We took a few minutes to talk about my medical and social history and my plans for transitioning so that by the time we were ready to get down to business, I felt a little more safe and a little less awkward.
Ask if you can keep your shirt on under the grown if this makes you more comfortable.
Before your exam they ask you to remove your clothing and put on one of those fashionable paper gowns. I took everything off but my t-shirt because I felt more comfortable this way. If you’re going to do this and you want the doc to do a chest exam, make sure you let him/her know because they might assume you’re opting out. If you don’t want one, also let the doc know in case they assume you’ve opted in.
Ask the doctor to use a smaller speculum.
A what?! When the exam begins the doc will ask you to lay down, scoot forward, and put your feet in stirrups. A speculum is an instrument used to help create an opening so your doc can examine your cervix. For some of us, a smaller one can make things a little less (physically) uncomfortable, for others, it’s not as much of an issue. Just don’t be shy about asking — we all come in different shapes and sizes.
Ask if you can have a pelvic ultrasound instead of an internal pelvic exam.
When one of my good friends visits the gyno, he has a pelvic ultrasound done instead of an internal exam. This is one area I know less about, so discuss this with your doctor first. I just wanted to present this as one option because this was a totally new concept for me. Comment below if you know more about this.
What has your experience been like with getting check-ups? Do you have any advice to share with other guys? Any more questions? Talk with us!
(1) The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE): Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men & Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People