Youth Blog—Your Annual Check-Up: Going to the Gynecologist as a Trans-Masculine Individual
(At IMPACT, we understand that gender is a diverse experience! This blog uses the term trans-masculine to refer to trans*-identified individuals who were female-assigned-at-birth (FAAB), and may use any term(s) to describe their gender now. Check out our Gender Identity Map for more information!)
With a new school year starting, it’s a great time to get an annual check-up and take charge of your health! Folks who have a cervix are at risk for cervical cancer. If that applies to you, it’s important to visit a doctor who specializes in sexual health for FAAB folks – a gynecologist.
When you become sexually active, part of staying safe is getting regular sexual health screenings. It is recommended you get tested for STIs every 6 months to 1 year , and medical professionals recommend that individuals with a cervix should get a Pap smear every 2 to 3 years, starting at age 21. This test checks for abnormal cells on the cervix. Additionally, until you’re 26, you can get vaccinated against certain strains of HPV that could cause cervical cancer.
However, going to the gynecologist can be scary, particularly for trans* folks. Research shows that transgender individuals have uncomfortable experiences with doctors and nurses more often than their cisgender peers . Everyone has the right to feel safe and validated while at the doctor. Here are some tips to help you feel more comfortable.
Lead with preferred name, pronouns, and preferences for gendered-wording.
- You may see a provider who asks for preferred name and pronouns on intake forms, but many do not. Introducing yourself with your preferred name and pronouns sets expectations for the exam.
- Let your provider know the words you prefer to use for anatomical parts before an exam begins.
Bring something (or someone) to comfort you.
- Bring your iPod to play music, or bring a small object to hold, like a stress ball.
- You may be able to bring a friend! Some offices allow a support person in the room. Having a friend or loved one can help you feel safer. They can also help advocate for your needs as a patient .
Ask your doctor to explain procedures before they happen.
- Not knowing what to expect can be the biggest source of anxiety before going to the doctor. Ask your provider to tell you exactly what will happen beforehand to calm your fears.
You don’t have to do anything you feel uncomfortable with.
- Doctors are on your side when it comes to your health and comfort. If you’re feeling anxious or uneasy, tell your doctor, and ask to talk with them about your options.
- If you have a negative experience with a doctor, don’t feel pressured to stay or to return to that provider.
Like exercising and eating a balanced diet, doctor’s visits are an important part of staying healthy. Schedule an appointment with your gynecologist, and once you know what to expect, you’ll feel prepared for your yearly visit!
For more information on pap smears, HPV and cancer, see Fenway Health’s guide for folks on the FTM Spectrum.
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 Advancing Transgender Equality Blog. (2015, January). Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People. Transgender Equality. Retrieved September 11, 2015 from https://transgenderequality.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/cervical-health-awareness-month-trans-men-and-genderqueergender-nonconforming-people/
 University of Western Ontario. (2014, March 12). Majority of transgender patients report negative experiences in emergency departments. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140312132627.htm
 Kellaway, M. (2015, January 2). Guys Need Pap Tests, Too: A Trans Man’s Guide to Visiting the Gyno. EverydayFeminism. Retrieved September 1, 2015 from http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/trans-mans-gyno/.