Written by guest blogger Nova R.R. Gardner, who identifies as gender fluid
If you are someone who has questioned your gender, felt weird about being called “female” or “male” or identify as an intersex person, then I’m sure you have felt really uncomfortable filling out forms that ask your “sex” and give you two choices -- “M” or “F.” What do we do when institutions, like health care clinics or doctors’ offices, want to help us with our health questions or issues, but are not affirming our identities? Well, time to act like our inner child and draw outside of the lines! Remember, you don't have to fit into a box if it is not right for you.
I came out as non-binary in the summer of 2018 and started socially transitioning. Of course, being responsible for my own sexual health, I went to my health care provider’s office for a routine STD screening. When I started filling out their intake form, I realized that neither option – M or F – felt correct. Even though I was assigned female at birth, I am a non-binary person who did not identify with the gendered experiences of men or women.
Just the act of filling out a simple intake form made me feel worried and anxious. Would they accept my intake form if I didn’t check either box? Would they allow me to change it later? Would they care if I wrote in my own gender marker? In the end I decided that affirming myself was more important than satisfying the paper in front of me, so rather than draw an “x” next to the M or F options, I wrote in “non-binary” on my form.
I was incredibly nervous submitting my paperwork to the person in the front office — afraid they would question my drawing outside the parameters of their intake survey. But to my (much appreciated) surprise, the person reviewing the forms did not question what I meant by non-binary or tell me I needed to select a pre-approved gender marker (she did have more questions about my sexuality, but that’s another blog post for another time).
Overall, my experience with demanding that my health care provider recognize my gender went rather smoothly. And although my anxiety was understandable, I was relieved that I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone at the clinic (as far as gender identity was concerned).
Remember, it is okay to want respect of your identity when seeking healthcare! That may mean drawing outside of the lines and making yourself a space that you can identify with or answering people’s questions. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable but at the end of the day, it might feel affirming. And if you are not ready to publically announce your identity, that is okay, too!
Feeling ready to visit a clinic? Want to get STD tested yourself? Find a clinic near you!