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5 Tips for Trans, Nonbinary, and Intersex People Navigating Sexual Health and Birth Control

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Because you are your own best advocate.

There is more conversation than ever before about trans, nonbinary, and intersex folks: who we are, how we know who we are, and what to do about that. As unprecedented numbers of people begin to understand themselves as trans, nonbinary, and intersex, it’s becoming obvious that sex ed and health care are often outdated and unhelpful when it comes to keeping our bodies healthy and safe. As a queer transman, I’ve had good experiences, bad experiences, and a lot of ugly ones, too.  

Over the years, I’ve built a toolbox of skills for taking care of my sexual health despite the overwhelming misinformation out there. This includes methods for communicating with health care providers, lovers, and randos who stick their noses in my business. Here are five skills I’ve come to rely on: 

1. Learn What’s Possible 

For birth control: bodies change all the time! Our age, health conditions, medications, and life events can all impact our ability to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant. Educate yourself with each new change in your health, whether it’s starting hormones, changing your dose, stopping menstruation, or having surgery. The providers at your nearest The Right Time health center can help you find a method of birth control (for free or at a low-cost, of course) that can support you and your overall health.  

For sexual health: sex lives change all the time! Your partners and their parts may shift over time. Sex education is a lifelong journey—stay on top of current information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and other health risks that may be relevant to the types of sex you have. 

2. Shun Misinformation 

You are your first line of defense against misinformation, and the wide world of research and second opinions is there to help you follow up. Sweeping statements like “you don’t need to worry about that” or “there’s zero risk for you,” should be double checked. You can also ask your provider for clarification about what’s true and what’s not. 

3. Pick Sources You Trust 

There’s a ton of information out there, not all of it good, and not all of it current. New data about sexual and gender health emerges constantly, causing guidance for best practices to change just as often. The same skills you use for identifying false news articles come in handy here. Check the date, the author, the organization, and their motives. Search engine results are only as helpful as your ability to identify trustworthy information. 

4. Talk to Your Partners 

Remember: everybody gets exposed to different information. I’ve never once had a partner who had the exact same understanding of sexual health as me. This gap is just one more reason to keep the lines of communication open. Be prepared for your partner to understand things differently, and be patient/request patience as you look for information together when a question pops up, like “What STI testing should we both be getting, and how often, based on the types of sex we have?” 

5. Listen to Yourself 

If someone is saying things that land wrong, or not listening to your needs and questions, they’re not the right fit for you. Consult your own instincts and judgment on every sexual and medical decision, no matter what. If you notice some hesitation in your heart or mind, that means it’s time to press pause, do some research, spend some time contemplating, get a second opinion, or just get out. My instincts have gotten stronger and more accurate every year, and I’m always learning more. 

Updated May 2021 

Lou Forrester is a transgender health activist and advocate. Lou’s background includes accompanying transgender patients to the emergency room to help navigate care and coordinating medical care and community support for transgender, intersex, and HIV positive prisoners.  

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