A man walks into a gynaecologist…
…No, this isn’t a shitty joke. There is no punch line. For the thousands of trans men worldwide, visiting a gynaecologist is a very real and a very scary thing. If you identify as cisgender (meaning the gender you were biologically assigned at birth lines up with how you feel in your head) you probably haven’t considered this. Fair enough – why would you?
But take a second to think. You’re trans. You know who you are, how you should have been born, but instead, every day, you face life in a body that isn’t yours. Maybe you’ve begun your transition, maybe you haven’t. But you’ve just turned 25, and you’ve got a letter asking you to come and have a pap smear (cervical screening test).
There’s a film called Headspace by trans filmmaker Jake Graf, in which trans individuals are in everyday situations, made difficult by their gender identity. In his own scene, Mr Graf enters a gyno clinic. He, like many trans men, is on testosterone, is presenting as male, but has not had ‘lower surgery’ (the common term for genital reassignment surgery. And NO, it’s not ok to ask trans folk about their genitals!) and so, he needs to visit a gynaecologist.
The discomfort on his face is apparent, but even more so is the discomfort of the cis women, when a bearded man sits down next them. “They know I’m not supposed to be here, I know I’m not supposed to be here,” is the line running through Jake’s head – and that’s how it feels. We’re not supposed to be here, but we need to be. Even if you’ve started testosterone, and your periods have stopped, if you are a trans man with a vagina, you need to look after yourself.
And this will take (sorry about the pun) a lot of balls. But just being trans takes this. To stand up to a society that, for the most part, sees gender as fixed and binary, to identify as ‘other’ takes more bravery than most people will ever know. Even if you haven’t socially transitioned, just to self-identify as trans is a huge step.
So what do you do? You have a vagina, and however you feel about it, it needs looking after sometimes. And you need to be able to get through this without too much stress. The first step is to find a doctor who is trans friendly. A quick google, or chat to your assigned GIC (gender identity clinic) is probably the best idea. Once you’ve found the right doctor for you and made an appointment, well then, it’s over to you.
One thing worth doing is really knowing what is about to happen. You may have had an appointment before coming out, or this may be your first ever visit. Talk to a female partner, friend or family member you trust about exactly what will happen. Maybe even take them with you as moral support. This may eliminate ‘looks’ in the waiting room, if that is a big concern to you.
Another good tip is music. If music is something you escape with, let your doctor know, pop some headphones in and drift away to some dulcet tones. I hear Dream Nails have a great new release out, if you’re stuck for new music ideas.
And just remember, you are brave, you are strong, and you are not alone.