Friday, March 4, 2011

Sexual Health, Planned Parenthood, and other stories

I've been sick, lately. I'm blessed with good health insurance, and a lifestyle that will allow me to take a week off to let the fever go down and my lungs clear up. I'm fortunate. I try to remember this.

I've made a few trips up to Planned Parenthood lately to get STD testing done and reproductive health things dealt with. This is what I saw. And if you haven't been paying attention, this is what the government might defund.
  • In between "Male" and "Female" on the "gender" form on their admissions questionnaires, they had "Female-to-male" and "Male-to-female." There may have been an "other" box as well. I love this - not so much because it respects gender-variant identities, but because people whose genitals might not look the way you'd expect don't have to choose between checking a patently wrong box to get their reproductive health needs met and potentially facing trans prejudice because their genitals don't look the way the nurses think they should. Also, trans people have different needs for reproductive health and sexual health care than cisgendered people. Being able to start the conversation by checking a preexisting box significantly cuts down on the awkwardness and possible danger. The organization is saying on its forms, not some out of the way corner of a website that you have to search to find, that they are trans-friendly. The staff need a certain amount of training in trans issues simply to interpret that information.
  • The only other Planned Parenthood I've been to was a full-service clinic in Manhattan, complete with bulletproof glass and metal detectors. The particular branch I went to last week doesn't do abortions (they'll refer you to the PP 20 minutes away) and so doesn't have the high security. Apparently people occasionally protest outside--because birth control and affordable pap smears are wrong!--but this place could have been a dentist's office. 
  • The requisite doctor's office question: "Check here if you are being hurt, hit, or made to feel afraid." My friend was so amused by this that he had to point it out to me. Kitten did the same thing. Neither of them checked the box. 
  • It's on paper, folks. My method of birth control is officially "lesbianism," but only because "I don't let men put their penises inside of me" didn't fit in the blank space.
  • I had Kitten come with me into the nurse's office, fearing that they would need to take a cervical swab. I'm 24, have never had a pap smear, and have serious issues with people doing things in my vagina, so I needed a hand to hold. My friend was informed that if Kitten and I were checked out at the same time, he would have to do it. I could tell that he didn't want to, but he's a good friend who loves me enough to put up with it. As it turned out, they just needed urine and blood, but Kitten came in with me for the first part anyways.
  • I am apparently incapable of answering the question, "Have you ever had sex with a man?" without help. After I flailed for a minute or two, Kitten told the nurse that I'd never had vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a man. I almost contradicted her on the anal part, but what I do to boys with fingers and dildos really wasn't relevant to that part of the exam. 
  • The nurse took a minute to check in with me after Kitten had left the room, to make sure there wasn't anything I needed to talk about that I couldn't say with my partner in the room. She was so delicate that I almost didn't realize she was doing it. It's good practice, though.
 I'm late to the table, here, but there's still time to make your voice heard. This is something worth protecting.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment