LGBT Health Awareness Week: Trans Health
As you may or may not already know, this week is National LGBT Health Awareness week in the United States, which we here at Hysteria! are going to have a series on, since it is both awesome and important. I’m starting with trans health because I have the sense that there’s a pervasive ignorance about trans people and trans issues, even within larger queer communities: I volunteer at a local LGBTQ bookshop/resource center, and even in this space (with that “T” and everything!), people are frequently confused by images like those above.
These pictures are from an awesome Canadian campaign, Check It Out Guys, which exists to raise awareness in trans men about the importance of having routine Pap smears. And, in a bonus of awesomeness, Check It Out Guys also provides a tip sheet to medical providers on providing Paps to trans men in a way that is respectful, nondiscriminatory–and also just straight-up informed. A sampling:
2. Do not assume anything about a person’s sexual orientation or the type of sex that they are having. Some trans men believe that testosterone is a sufficient form of birth control -it isn’t and it is important to have frank and open discussions about sex.
Questions to engage this type of conversation may include: Do you have a sexual partner? What are the genders of your partners? Are they also trans? Is there a possibility that any
of your partners could get you pregnant?
7. Many guys who are taking testosterone will have fewer secretions and things can be much dryer. Using lube and warm water can be very helpful for speculum insertion.
As well as…
9. Do not make a trans person feel like they need to provide an education session. This can destroy their trust in the relationship and compromise their health seeking behaviors
in the future. This may mean no students or unnecessary questions about what it’s like being trans, the effects of hormones, surgeries, etc.
What’s great about this is that it doesn’t treat the health of trans men as just their responsibility, but as the responsibility of medical practitioners–who should know how to care for a variety of populations. In this respect, Check It Out Guys is unique–while the LGBT Health website importantly encourages Paps for trans men and breast self-exams and mammograms for trans women, and the National Center for Transgender Equality provides a helpful link to find queer-friendly doctors at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, neither of these sites seems to address providers specifically.
Still, the LGBT health website offers some great resources, including a list of upcoming health fairs where trans people can find trans-friendly providers, plus fact sheets featuring more tips like those above (i.e., even after SRS, trans women need prostate exams starting in middle age; smoking while taking estrogen, like the birth control pill, increases the risk of blood clots). In the end, it seems that the more trans-health is talked about, the better–though it sure would be nice if the American campaign were as careful about educating cis-doctors and providers as the Canadian campaign is.