So, you’re a queer vagina owner and you’re finally going to your much-needed OB-GYN appointment (read: the one you’ve been putting off for months). For queer people, going to the gynecologist can be an intimidating, exhausting, and downright dysphoric experience. I often dread going, because I find explaining (and then re-explaining, and then re-explaining) my sexuality to be a tedious exercise.
That said, I understand the importance of regular pap smears and STI checks. So despite my frustration, I make myself go. Whether you’re a genderqueer vagina owner navigating an OB-GYN visit for the first time or a lesbian unsure of what you should be asking your gyno, this queer human is here for you. Here, eight ways to make the most of your OB-GYN appointment—even if you’re dreading going to it.
1. Do Your Research Beforehand
I’ve always found it extra helpful to read reviews of for all kinds of doctors, but especially OB-GYNs, before going. Every time I’ve moved somewhere new, I’ve specifically googled “queer-friendly OB-GYN in [insert city here].” 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,” OB-GYN Dr. Emily Blanton tells SheKnows. While it should never be your job, as a patient, to educate your doctor about your gender identity or sexuality, having a frank discussion about pronouns might make you feel more comfortable.
If you think it would, try starting the conversation with, “It’s so nice to meet you, my name is ______, and I use these pronouns. What pronouns do you use?” This opens a dialogue between you and your gynecologist that you can build upon throughout your appointment (and continued relationship).
3. Disclose Your Entire Sexual History
Talking about sex is hard. But telling your OB-GYN your entire sexual history and how you’re currently having sex (Does it include a penis? Is it external stimulation only? Are you having frequent anal sex?) is mega-important.
“Sexual history includes sexual orientation but also a history about STDs, pregnancies, etc.,” Blanton 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 (Specific) Safer Ways to Have Sex
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 to 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 (and Which One)
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 Prescriptions
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 can interact. The 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.
Originally posted on SheKnows.