By Charlie McNabb
I’ve known I was genderqueer since I was very young. When I was four, my parents told me boys had penises and girls had vaginas. I asked if there was a penis-vagina, because I was a boy-girl. They laughed and said “no.”
I tried to push the feelings I had about who I was away, because I believed the adults in my life and thought they were correct. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I met another genderqueer lesbian and could have discussions about how I related to my body.
But while as an adult I’ve come to know and understand who I am, when I seek medical care I still encounter resistance, and outright discrimination, about my identity from medical providers.
Sometimes this shows up in small ways. For instance, most medical forms offer no recognition of nonbinary identities – just two boxes, one for female and one for male. When I don’t choose one of the boxes, they choose one for me. When I create my own, they ignore it.
Likewise, clinics that focus on reproductive care usually have names like “Women’s Health.” I have dysphoria about this kind of care anyway, and those names only heighten it. But my insurance only covers certain places, and usually it’s one of those.
Sometimes the discrimination I experience as a genderqueer person is more serious, though. I sought care recently at a trans clinic in Portland. I’m body-literate, and the provider I saw, who was not transgender, said I was the first transgender person she met who knew the difference between cervical fluid and arousal fluid and the first who wanted to keep their cervix (despite the fact that I know plenty of transgender men who like their cervixes).
The tone she took implied that a “real” transgender person wouldn’t have been aware of what was happening in that part of their body. This provider wouldn’t approve my hysterectomy because she said I didn’t have enough gender dysphoria, but she never asked me about my dysphoria. This was especially upsetting because she seemed to think I shouldn’t experience pleasure in my body, that I should be upset and sad all time.
This was a doctor who seemed well-versed in binary transgender health care, but wholly unfamiliar with nonbinary patients. Sadly, this isn’t uncommon.
I’ve had providers who have been outright dismissive of my identity. In one case, a person I saw misgendered me. When I corrected them, sharing my correct pronoun, they ignored me and continued misgendering me, even though I saw that they heard me.
Doctors and medical providers need training around this issue. Even specialists in transgender health care seem totally unfamiliar with nonbinary identities. I have had good experiences with medical professionals, but even then, I’ve carried the burden of educating of the people I paid to see. In fact, there’s never been a case in which I haven’t had to do that.
It’s time for that to change. It’s time for nonbinary people like myself to be believed and to receive the medical care we need and deserve.