Before you leave me notes commending me on the courage to prioritize my health, and face my fears, and see a doctor I really didn’t want to, let me make one thing clear: I had no intention of getting a pap smear when I got up this past Monday. In fact, I thought I was just going to get STD tested, since I’ve got a new partner (Code name: N; you’ll hear about her at some point later, if she lasts.) and we want to both get tested before sleeping together.
Alas, all was not to go as planned. Upon learning that I’d never visited a vagina specialist before, my doc filled me in on all that I was missing out on. Which is to say, she kindly but firmly suggested that, so long as I was already there, maybe we should just go ahead and do a full exam. And then, ten minutes later, it was all over.
The whole experience got me thinking though, about this idea of dysphoria and how ridiculous it is to take it out of context. We talk about trans folks as having “body dysphoria,” as if that’s an enduring experience that they carry around with them always (or until they change their body in the desired way). For me, though, that’s not how it functions at all. Dysphoria, in my experience, is situation specific, triggered or relieved by different experiences or people. In some situations, like during my visit to Dr. V, I feel it acutely and it’s deeply distressing. At other times, I really don’t feel much of it at all.
When I’m having sex, I don’t have a problem with dysphoria. I can get on board with someone staring at my bits if they’re also sucking and licking them, and making me generally feel incredible. But everything about my visit to Doctor V was the far opposite of sexy. The lights were too bright and the instruments were cold and, frankly, I really prefer sheets to the obnoxious paper coverings they use in doctor’s offices. And it’s not that my doctor didn’t have real skill in the ways of manual stimulation, but I gotta be honest: having my ovaries and uterus massaged just aren’t my favorite erotic touches. No, the trip to the gyno was pure, dysphoric, violation. Highly unpleasant.
Over the past few days, I’ve been wondering what might have made it better. Could she have used different language? Made the lights less bright, or the paper gown less dry? Doctor V repeatedly asked me whether there was anything she could do to make me more comfortable, and I couldn’t come up with anything. No matter how we sugar coated it, that exam was an up-close analysis of my anatomy, an anatomy I have very mixed feelings about. And so I’ve stopped trying to figure out what could have made it better. I think the fact is that, for me, a trip to the gynecologist will never be anything short of painful. And that’s okay too: I’ll snuggle up to N, talk things over with the important people in my life, and this too shall pass.