Health. Care. Healthcare.

By , February 1, 2012 12:32 pm

Is there a difference between health care and healthcare? Between caring for one’s health and being subjected to the medical establishment, the industry of health, the clinical experience? Is there – or should there be – such a thing as queer healthcare?

“When was your last period?”

“Do you think you might be pregnant?”

“What medication are you on? Are you on birth control?”

Those questions, most recently (and repeatedly) asked when I was in the hospital in 2010 to get my gallbladder removed. Doctors came in and asked. Nurses came in and asked. More doctors. More nurses.

To some extent, I accept the medical necessity of such questions. From one perspective, they’re affirming: the person asking assumes I’m a cisgender woman, complete with uterus, ovaries, and the ability to menstruate and get pregnant. From another perspective, they’re oppressive: they are making assumptions about my body, my identity. And for trans men, the opposite may be true: they may be menstruating, pregnant, have gynecological problems that doctors won’t or don’t know how to acknowledge and treat.

Fitting in makes other people’s lives easier. We live in a culture that says “You can be anything you want! If you can dream it, you can do it! Reach for the stars!” But when you’ve reached, when you’ve become that thing you want, can only be that thing. Not more than one thing. Not one thing one day, and something else the next. Self identification is one thing, but ambiguity (perceived or real) is something else entirely.

Being queer – and especially being trans – is in part an act of redefinition. At least I’ve found that to be true. From the most obvious “gay sex act,” anal, there’s a reappropriation of what body parts mean. Asshole only for waste? Nope! For pleasure, too! That type of redefinition makes questions like “When did you last have sex?” somewhat silly in a medical context. Well, I always reply, define sex! Oral, anal, vaginal, hangs, toys, straps, harnesses, what does sex mean?

More abstractly, my trans-ness allows (requires) some redefinition of my body. My penis isn’t male, in spite of being the “male sex organ.” My penis – my body, my identity, my self – is female, inherently and completely. Even if/when I have penis-in-vagina “real sex,” it’s a lesbian, queer, subversive, redefining-my-body act.

I’ve drifted from healthcare. I’ll try to get back on track. Sex is just so distracting! ::grin::

I’d argue queer healthcare is the same type of thing as queer therapy or queer theatre or queer anything. Queer is the adjective, modifying the noun: healthcare, therapy, theatre. The healthcare service needs to fundamentally be good healthcare, before it can be queer healthcare. If there isn’t knowledge, comfort, caring, it can’t be any kind of good healthcare. There needs to be a knowledgeability of what ‘sex’ can mean in the queer community. How bodies and body parts are defined. An acknowledgement and understanding of the existence of spousal abuse even in same-sex couples. And yes, knowledge of how queer sex acts and/or populations can lead to STDs.

But, at its core, it needs to be healthcare. Care relating to one’s health. Lets start there.

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