Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People

January is cervical health awareness month, and NCTE wants to remind everyone that cervical health is a critical issue for trans men and genderqueer/gender nonconforming folks.

Paps Matter for Trans MenAnyone with a cervix can contract cervical cancer, so this means that lots of trans men and genderqueer/gender nonconforming people are at risk. But because trans people face widespread discrimination from health care providers and insurance plans, they often avoid seeking or cannot access preventive care. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, nearly half (48%) of trans men reported postponing or avoiding preventive care out to fear of discrimination and disrespect. One in five trans men also reported being refused health care because of their gender identity. Cervical cancer is preventable through regular screening and treatment where necessary, which means that trans men who aren’t getting preventive care are likely at greater risk of developing the disease.

Trans men and genderqueer/gender nonconforming people are at risk of developing cervical cancer even if they do not have penetrative sex. The major cause of cervical cancer, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), is transmitted through genital skin-to-skin contact with anyone who has the virus. This includes oral sex, sex with fingers or hands, genital rubbing, and sex with toys. So if you’re sexually active and you have a cervix, you may be at risk for cervical cancer regardless of who you are and you have sex with.

Here are four ways we can prevent cervical cancer among trans men and genderqueer/gender nonconforming people:

1.      If you have a cervix, keep it healthy. Here’s how:

 

  • If you’re between 9 and 26, you can get vaccinated against most forms of HPV.
  • Beginning at age 21 you should get Pap tests every two to three years (even if you’ve been vaccinated, and more frequently if recommended by your doctor), and sexual health screenings every year.
  • Get HPV tests when recommended.
  • Using condoms, gloves, and other barriers during sex can significantly reduce – but not eliminate - your risk of transmitting HPV and other infections.
  • Visit http://www.checkitoutguys.ca for more info on cervical health for trans men. (Note, however, that some information on this site reflects Canadian medical guidelines that differ from those followed by U.S. health care providers.)

2.      Public and private insurance companies should ensure coverage for Pap tests and other preventive health care for transgender men and gender nonconforming people. Starting in late 2012, most plans are required by law to cover these screenings at no cost for individuals. But whether out of confusion or discrimination, trans men frequently have coverage for these crucial preventive screenings rejected by insurance plans. Plans should take steps, as the Medicare program has done, to eliminate these coverage denials. If you have problems with coverage, you can learn about filing an appeal here.

3.      Health care providers should provide culturally competent care. To treat transgender and genderqueer/gender nonconforming patients effectively, providers must be knowledgeable about their unique health needs and be able to communicate with them respectfully. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has formally urged OB-GYNs to provide routine treatment and screenings to transgender patients, including Pap tests. OB-GYNs, other providers, and health facility administrators should consult resources such as the ACOG statement and the Joint Commission’s field guide to serving LGBT patients to ensure that these screenings are given routinely, properly, and respectfully.

4.      The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should continue working to add gender identity questions to federal health surveys. There is currently no data on cervical cancer among trans men. To combat this disease in our community, we need to know more about how it affects us. Data on the rates and demographics of cervical cancer among trans men will help us advocate for more competent health care and health policies.

This blog post was originally submitted as part of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s blog carnival on Cervical Cancer Awareness Month.

15 Responses to Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People

  1. [...] National Center for Transgender Equality has put up a blog for Cervical Health month, recognizing the importance of this issue for trans, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people: [...]

  2. Lee McKeever says:

    Thanks for the post and all the pushes to help make healthcare provides offer more queer/trans* competent care.

    I do have a minor quibble with point number one — US providers follow pap screening guidelines offered by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The ACOG guidelines differ a bit from the Health Canada and individual Canadian province recommendations described in the article and referred to on the Check it out Guys site.

    Most folks with cervixes don’t need paps until age 21 regardless of timing of first sexual activity, and only need them only 2 to 3 years thereafter unless there are abnormal results. There’s a pretty good summary of the guidelines here (though the article thinks everyone with a cervix is a woman – sorry!): http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/712840

    Annual sexual health screening is still recommended though, even when a pap isn’t required every year.

  3. [...] Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People by the National Center for Transgender Equality. [...]

  4. [...] Cervical cancer is caused by specific types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is transmitted through genital skin-to-skin contact, so this includes genital rubbing, fingering, oral sex, sex with toys, and penetrative sex. Anyone with a cervix can contract cervical cancer, and this is an especially critical issue for trans men and genderqueer/gender non-conforming folks. [...]

  5. [...] National Center for Transgender Equality reminds everyone that cervical health is a critical issue for transgender men and genderqueer/ gender nonconforming [...]

  6. [...] Why Cervical Cancer is a LGBT Issue by Verónica Bayetti-Flores, NLIRH policy research specialist; Cervical Cancer Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People by the National Center for Transgender Equality; Screen More Women for Cervical Cancer – Not [...]

  7. [...] National Center for Transgender Equity also discuss the importance of impact of cervical cancer screening for all who have cervixes, including transgendered and gender non-conforming people, who face discrimination and bias. They [...]

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  9. Gx says:

    @Lee:
    “Most folks with cervixes don’t need paps until age 21 regardless of timing of first sexual activity, and only need them only 2 to 3 years thereafter unless there are abnormal results.”

    This is not true. The cervix undergoes large changes from puberty, and at least an annual pap smear from the time of one’s first period is absolutely essential to establish that person’s natural state. Pelvic dysplasia can occur in mid-teens and, if malignant and left unchecked, can turn squamous. Not to mention that during puberty, with hormones constantly affecting the body, yeast infections and UTIs can be a problem – especially when left unchecked. One should get checked more frequently is they ARE sexually active, especially if they are not using protection. After age 23 or so, pap smears become less important unless there is an abnormality, or if that person is having unprotected sex/sex with multiple partners.

  10. Glucosamine says:

    Glucosamine…

    [...]Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men and Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People « National Center for Transgender Equality's Blog[...]…

  11. [...] (1) The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE): Cervical Health Awareness Month: Trans Men & Genderqueer/Gender Nonconforming People [...]

  12. Kyle says:

    Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Nonetheless, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

  13. Edie Fabacher says:

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  15. […] National Center for Transgender Equality has a good article on how we can protect ourselves from cervical […]

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