I’ve spent the last 10 years of my life avoiding gynecologists. I hate writing that as a women’s rights activist, but it’s true. I’m the first one who will sing the praises of women’s health care providers and take to the streets when our reproductive rights are threatened by megalomaniacal politicians, but I will go to the ends of the earth to avoid making an appointment with a health care provider. And it’s not because of financial barriers or traumatic experiences with providers. Like millions of Americans, I benefited from the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and decided to stay on my mother’s health care plan until I turn 26. So my issue wasn’t access — it was shame and fear.
Even though I was raised by women, sex was never discussed in my house. My Catholic high school exacerbated that silence by promoting “abstinence-only” education, which denies students basic information about sexual health (including information about or access to contraceptives), pushes harmful stereotypes about women and virginity, and ignores the existence of LGBTQ folks all together. By the time I entered college, I didn’t know anything about my sexual health. All I knew was it was shameful and not to be discussed. So when I started college, I avoided gynecological exams. When my partners asked me about my HIV and STD status, I deflected. I used birth control, but invariably refused to answer questions about sexual activity out of fear that I would be forced to get a pap smear. I kept this up for years.
But last week, I got a Pap smear. And blood tests for HIV and STI/STDs.
And I did it because:
1) It’s my body and I love it.
2) I’m finally starting to understand what it needs (shout out to Teen Vogue for helping me along).
3) By not managing my reproductive health needs, I was doing exactly what the Trump administration wanted.
Make no mistake: the Trump administration is waging a war on our ability to access affordable health care and our right to access that care free of stigma and shame. By attacking the Affordable Care Act (ACA), abortion access, and birth control coverage, they are trying to deny people — especially women of color, LGBTQ folks, and others who face health disparities or are especially in need of health care— the ability to access basic, affordable, and stigma-free care. They’re also brazenly trying to take us back to a time of sex stigmatization and miseducation. If we don’t fight back, we lose the ability to control our reproductive futures.
The good news is we’re in the middle of Open Enrollment, the annual period when people can enroll in a health insurance plan. The Trump Administration has already done everything in their power to prevent people from finding health care coverage, but they can’t stop us from signing up. Head over to HealthCare.Gov to find a plan that fits your needs because we can’t fight Trump unless we’re taking care of ourselves.