January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month. One group frequently gets left out of the messaging, transgender people on the masculine spectrum.
Apicha Community Health Center (CHC) knows that for many transgender masculine-spectrum guys, having a pelvic exam can be difficult, challenging, and traumatizing. In fact, the National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 48% of transgender men reported postponing or completely avoiding preventative care out of fear of discrimination. The same report found that one in five trans* men refuse healthcare because doctors and other medical personal refer to them as the wrong gender.
Why Transgender People on the Masculine Spectrum Should Get Pelvic Exams
According to a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a "measurably higher risk of cervical, ovarian, and uterine cancer faced by transgender men who retain genitalia they were born with. Due to stigma and social exclusion, many do not regularly receive gynecological examinations and concomitant cervical and ovarian screenings."
What Can You Do to Make the Exam More Comfortable?
To combat the barriers surrounding pelvic exams, Apicha CHC staff sat down with some of our transgender-masculine patients and their friends to figure out the best way to them more comfortable during a pelvic exam. We discussed the language that makes them the most comfortable and how we could make the procedure easier for them. Below is the list of what we learned.
- Tell your Primary Care Provider (PCP) what you want to call the parts of your body that are going to be examined
- Tell your PCP whether or not you want the process to be described while it happens
- Ask your PCP to show you the speculum or pictures of what happens during a pelvic exam prior to the actual exam
- The procedure can be done with you sitting in different positions. Discuss with your PCP which position is the most comfortable for you
- You can ask your PCP to divide the exam in two parts: Talk (questions) and Exam. You can have these parts on different visits. During the talk portion of the exam, you'll talk with your PCP about your sexuality and the kind of sex you are having
- Discuss with your PCP whether taking a pill for anxiety can make the exam more comfortable
- Set a "safe word" with your PCP so any time you feel you need some space, you can say it and your PCP will know to stop what they are doing
- Ask your PCP to let you read a book, listen to music, or have a friend or partner in the room, if these are things you would like
To download this list and more information about Pelvic Exams, click here.