Birth Control From the Queer Perspective

Updated: Nov 15



For many of us, our journeys with birth control began in high school and are an experience we continue with for many, many years to come. Maybe you, your friends, or some classmates you heard about first started taking the birth control pill to help with acne or period pain. Then the next thing you knew you were practicing putting a condom on a banana in health class and learning about the importance of contraceptive protection for your sexual health, all in preparation for what was to come. Eventually, as time continues on we all start our separate explorations of all the birth control options that are out there, in the hopes of finding the perfect fit for our own unique bodies and personal needs.


These lessons we learn so early on about birth control make it easy for us to view contraception as a singular universal experience, but we don’t recognize this exclusive focus that is developed from a heteronormative perspective. Birth control and contraceptive use are not exclusive to penis to vagina penatrative sex, despite this being such a common misconception. This narrow minded view has been very harmful to queer people, whose experiences and concerns are so often dismissed or ignored.


Moving forward, it’s important we use inclusive language when discussing birth control because contraception is not synonymous with only those who identify as a woman.


Here at Reya, we want to be a part of a changing narrative, one that encourages everyone regardless of their gender or sexual identity to speak about their experiences and be heard. In an effort to achieve this, we spoke with 2 people, to learn more about their experiences and concerns as queer people navigating the birth control space.


Reya, your birth control best friend xo



Reya: What has been your experience thus far with birth control as a queer person?


(Person 1 - Queer, Cis, 24, Canada)

I have found that birth control is often overlooked and underappreciated for queer people needing the medication. My experience with birth control has never been pleasant, from the life-altering side effects that I was told were “normal” to the general misinformation and lack of knowledge that doctors prescribing birth control have on the topic. As someone in a long-term same-sex relationship and therefore having no current need for contraceptive, birth control was looked over when discussing medications that could be helpful to me when experiencing recurring ovarian cysts. Once using contraceptives, there was a lot of misunderstanding from medical professionals as to why a gay woman would even need to use the pill. I have even had an emergency room doctor ask me why I was on birth control if I can’t get pregnant, which was shocking to me, considering the multi-faceted use that the pill can have. Additionally, the lack of information about the pill and how it interacts with hormones and every-day life was appalling. When I was experiencing symptoms, doctors would look the other way as if it was an expected part of life. I soon learned that some doctors don’t even know what possible symptoms could be before prescribing birth control to patients. Being underrepresented and misunderstood in modern medicine is something queer people face often, and birth control was my first experience of understanding that position. I also know many trans men, intersex, and non-binary folks that have been mistreated or misunderstood when talking about reproductive health, and it is apparent that the medical world needs a re-education in queer medicine and its nuances. Anyone who has a uterus should know about and have access to birth control and any other health information related to that organ, because it’s not about ‘female health’, ‘reproductive health’, or ‘family planning’, it’s as simple as caring for the health of every individual in a specific way that suits them.

(Person 2 - Queer, Genderfluid, 28, Canada)

My experience has been varied! I have been on oral contraception, the NuvaRing, condoms, IUDs, and have taken emergency contraceptives. It has been quite a journey and none of them were easy. I often forgot to take my pill, the NuvaRing didn't feel right to me, the IUD (Mirena) took 4 practitioners to insert, and Plan B is not feasible and the side effects are far too great. As a queer person, I don't always have a lot of friends I can ask on what their experiences are with birth controls. Many of my queer friends are in relationships where their primary use is not preventing pregnancy but other health issues. As a queer person, I have an internalized bi/panphobia I try to keep in check. I find myself feeling “not queer enough” when I reflect on my sexual history and therefore my historical uses of birth control. Word out to the queer folks out there who are using birth control as a way not to get pregnant, you are definitely queer!

Reya: What do you think the contraceptive space could do differently to ensure inclusivity? Where do you see gaps? What would benefit you?

(Person 1 - Queer, Cis, 24, Canada)

I think that the contraceptive space could include gender identity and sexuality as an important consideration in the language used for birth control. Focusing on the female experience excludes a large amount of people who still need and use contraceptives for a variety of health purposes, and that misrepresentation could cause non-female-identifying people to feel undervalued and not cared for. The contraceptive space should focus on individualism, as Reya so aptly does, because experiences vary so widely from person to person. I see gaps in the language of inclusion, and in the practice of blind prescription. It would benefit me to know that medical professionals are adequately trained, both in the understanding of queer relationships and identities, as well as the causes and effects of birth control and how they specifically interact with each person.

(Person 2 - Queer, Genderfluid, 28, Canada)

Inclusivity needs like using birth control beyond controlling birth as a need/side effect. There are many reasons why anyone could be taking birth control. It is important to talk about the “undesirable” aspects of birth control. How painful it is to get an IUD inserted and for how long. The mood shifts that can happen when you take hormonal contraceptives. How Plan B is not as effective for people who weigh 160lbs / 72.5 kg and over and that it’s better to take Ella. The side effects that can happen with Plan B. What are ways we can mitigate the inevitability of pain that comes with every type of birth control that is not just chronically taking ibuprofen?

Reya: What are some questions and concerns you have about contraceptives?

(Person 1 - Queer, Cis, 24, Canada)

I am curious about contraceptives from the trans & non-binary lens when paired with hormone medication. Information sourced form medical professionals about hormone medication used by trans, non-binary, and other LGBTQ+ folks is not easily accessible. As contraceptives are also a hormone altering medication, I would be curious to know more about how they can interact both positively and negatively. My concerns are more geared towards my own negative experience with birth control, and how my side effects were responded to by professionals. I am concerned that this is a recurring event for many people using contraceptives that feels unavoidable.

(Person 2 - Queer, Genderfluid, 28, Canada)

I am concerned that it seems practitioners downplay the pain and cost (dollars and time) of birth control methods. I was told that an IUD would be “uncomfortable” however after consulting with other people who have had an IUD, most people would probably use words closer to “excruciatingly but temporarily painful”. We should let people choose whether or not they want to experience that level of pain, not trick people and effectively make the decision for them.

 

In just this short discussion, we can already see how damaging the heteronormative perspective of birth control is for queer people. The biases held against them can and do impact the medical care and advice they receive concerning their health. Birth control serves many purposes beyond pregnancy prevention and the process of obtaining the right contraceptive for you is one that should be more accessible and comfortable for queer people. Birth control can be for anyone and everyone!


This discussion is only the start! We would love to talk more about the queer, LGBTQ+ experience with birth control. If you would like to be a part of the discussion, please contact: team@reyahealth.ca or send us a DM on instagram @reyahealth.


Together with Reya, we can work towards improving the experience of birth control for everyone and we are honoured to provide even a small platform to help raise up the voices of those who have been underrepresented for too long.


For more information & further reading on the topic we recommend these articles:


Queer, bisexual, and pansexual birth control experiences

Having the Conversation: Birth Control and LGB+ Teens

Why We Need To Talk About Queer And Trans People And Birth Control

Not Up for Debate: LGBTQ People Need and Deserve Tailored Sexual and Reproductive Health Care

Trans & Non-Binary Folks on Why Birth Control Isn't Just for Cis Women


Birth control can be tricky. We are here to listen and help.


Editors: Lisa Hou, Dallas Barnes

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