The Dangerous Bias of Assuming You Have a Male Sexual Partner
I've never been a woman who likes to toot her horn when it comes to talking about my sexuality, but since I've become an ovarian cancer thriver I've got something to say.
To be honest, I can't remember a time where I had a rewarding conversation with a GYN practitioner. Rewarding in the sense that we discussed my increased risk of GYN cancer because of the following risk factors:
- No birth control history because I've never had male sexual partners and never had problems with menstruation
- I've never attempted pregnancy
My experience as a member of the LGBTQ community
If you're reading this post and are in the LGBTQ community, the fact is we are the minority in a GYN exam room. And unfortunately, it's up to us to speak up and remind our GYN practitioner what gender we are having sex with and our past childbearing history (if any).
As uncomfortable as that sounds, the majority of women going to a GYN exam are heterosexuals and it's up to us to remind the GYN practitioner that we are a special population. A population that has a whole set of risk factors that need to be addressed because if you are born female, you are at risk for getting ovarian cancer.
Most of us in the LGBTQ population haven't tried to get pregnant. Therefore we don't have a history of pelvic ultrasounds unless there is a history of complicated menstruation issues such as endometriosis. A GYN exam is also an appointment most LGBTQ people put off because of fear of being judged as the GYN profession is full of older practitioners who are "out of touch" with the LGBTQ population.
Most GYN practitioners are clueless to realize that the worst day for a trans man (who hasn't had sex reassignment surgery) is getting a GYN exam. I don't have opinions on how to fix the education for GYN practitioners, other than to change the history intake. The female parts that are being examined have a vast history that sometimes goes unnoticed due to a vague intake.
The red flag
Get out of the GYN practice if you know you aren't being treated well. You'll know because we always know when someone isn't treating us well. Follow your gut and do your research on a good GYN practice. This might take time to find a good practice that is taking new patients. COVID-19 did a number on creating a huge backlog for regular appointments. Be persistent and keep calling the office to get onto the calendar as a new patient.
Educate your GYN practitioner
It's up to us to give a good history at the start of the exam. That also includes new changes you are feeling. Be your best advocate. No one knows your body best, but you. I'm writing this article because my wish is that GYN practitioners would take the time to investigate "new changes" instead of offering The Pill as a fix.
That's what happened to me when I told my GYN practitioner that at 46 years old, I was noticing changes in my pain and period flow. She considered me "healthy" and saw no reason to investigate. I was caught off guard and didn't know what to say when she dismissed my new symptoms. I knew that I needed to change to a different practitioner but didn't.
Don't do what I did. I kept going back every year to the same person and 3 years later after feeling the first symptoms of pelvic pain, frequent urination, and clotting periods I was diagnosed with stage 2 epithelial endometrioid ovarian cancer.
What stage were you diagnosed with?