For as long as I can remember, I have experienced migraines with my menstrual cycle. Like clockwork, every month I can tell when I’m getting my period because they day before, I get a migraine. I have tried every remedy there is: migraine medication, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractors, prescription pain killers, non-prescription pain killers, as well as hormone therapy. Over the years. I have seen medical and other health professionals in almost every field of medicine, health and wellness and still I have not found a solution to my monthly situation.
Three of the health professionals (Neurologist, Gynecologist and Naturopath) I have seen for this condition all agree that I should be on birth control because I have hormone imbalances that result in serious chronic headaches. As a result, I have been taking prescription birth control for over a decade now in an attempt to try and curb the severity of my symptoms.
Oh, one other detail. I’m a lesbian.
I have never thought twice about being a lesbian and having a medical need for birth control; but, there have been many shocked responses from both medical professionals and lay people when they find out that I take birth control.
“Why would a lesbian need birth control? Clearly it is not for sexual reproductive purposes!” seems to be the usual remark.
I am always taken aback that people are a) first confused as to why I take birth control just because I’m ‘a lesbian’ and then b) answer the question themselves.
“Yes,” I say, “You’re right. I am a lesbian and I do not use birth control for sexual purposes. I use it for medical reasons-I get chronic migraines.”
“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,” goes the usual response. “That makes sense!”
I have had similar experiences when being screened for a doctor’s visit.
Technician: “Any chance of pregnancy?”
Technician: “Are you sexually active?”
Technician: “Do you use protection?”
Me: “Nope. I have been with one partner for the past three years and we have both been tested.”
Technician: “And there is absolutely no chance of pregnancy??”
Me: “Nope. I’m a lesbian.”
Now, I try my best to be patient and understanding but in this day and age, homosexuality is a known part of society and society needs to change and adapt to our out presence. My sister, who works in the field of women’s reproductive health, excitedly texted me all this past weekend because she was attending a health conference for LGTBQI medicine and I’m glad that there are conferences like this one happening.
The above interaction, which I have experienced at almost every single doctors appointment I have been to (I can think of two doctors, both gynecologists, who did not assume my sexuality) is annoying but fortunately, not blatantly discriminatory. I have had friends however, who upon disclosing that they are lesbians to their gynecologists, have had their appointment abruptly stopped with the doctor’s justifications of “why are you wasting my time? You do not need my services because you do not have sex with men.”
Interactions like these are demeaning and unprofessional to say the least. More importantly, experiences like these have put lesbians’ health at risk. The reproductive world and those working in it need to progress with dynamic populations of this world. From gynecologists to legislation to intake questions in a medical office, assumptions need to stop. Birth control is not only used for sexual purposes and not all women’s reproductive concerns result from having sexual intercourse with men.