On Lesbians and Birth Control

Birth Control Pill Container

Image Credit: ThinkProgress

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?”

Me: “Nope”

Technician: “Are you sexually active?”

Me: “Yes”

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.”

Technician: “Oh.”

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.

Categories: Health

Tags: , , , , , ,

6 replies

  1. I agree with most of what you’ve written, except that the technician said anything wrong. His/her job was to find out definitely whether or not you could be pregnant, and until you said you were a lesbian, that wasn’t positively clear. Should s/he just have made that assumption from the conversation? 90% of the time, it would be the wrong assumption. If you had said you were sexually active with a female partner and THEN s/he responded negatively, then I’d agree with you but just from what you’ve written it would feel to me like a “gotcha.”

    Those doctors, on the other hand, should be outed on yelp. Save other women from going to them.

  2. You know something, I get killer migraines before my periods too! And the only way I can stop them dead in their tracks is either throw up or try and go to sleep.
    If you are experiencing this too.. you may have cyclic vomiting syndrome.

  3. Doctors are quick to make assumptions when a person “falls outside the box”. Instead of doctors trying to learn the specific needs of a patient, they make quick assumptions and prove their limited scope of thinking, of compassion and of practice. As a transgender woman, I can attest to many I know who have run into the same problems in the medical community regarding reasonable care. This is a HUGE problem within the medical arena that you are broaching. Thanks for sharing from your realm, something that affects us in the transgender realm.

  4. There’s absolutely no way I would continue seeing a medical professional who conducted themselves so unprofessionally.

    I think a lot of people just assume that birth control is just that–birth control. I have had friends that weren’t even sexually active yet, but were prescribed birth control for the intense/painful cramps they’d get every time they had their period.

    I also think that there are medical organizations/pharmaceutical companies out there that are pushing the message that birth control does have other benefits for women than just as a means to control birth. It’ll just take time, and probably more posts like these to get the word out.

  5. “You don’t need my services cause you don’t have sex with men”?? Wow. So, gee, all risks to women’s reproductive organs come from contact with men according to those “good” doctors?

    And the shock at your need for the “pill” is just a profound sign of how much the anti-contraception crowd has done their work at making America forget it is a MEDICATION and not “abortion light”.

    My eyes, they will roll right out of my head…

  6. Bravo! You’ve written another very good piece :)))).

    Sent from my iPhone

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