This is a piece I wrote in August of 2013.
“It’s my BIRTH-day!” was all I could think, lying there in the (thankfully) cotton open-front robe waiting for the male gynecologist to come in for my exam.
As a queer woman, this was far from my preference. The female doctor I scheduled an appointment with was out of the office. I was out of birth control and had already used all the sick leave from my new job to attend the original appointment, so there I was.
Waiting for the patriarchy to probe my vagina.
I feel uncomfortable with the IDEA of male gynecologists. It feels a little creepy at best; patronizing at worst. Even if her vagina doesn’t have the unique functioning of mine, I feel more comfortable knowing my doctor has an intimate knowledge of the organ, and not one that’s purely academic.
I’m sure there are honest reasons to become a male gynecologist – the love of a wife or mother or daughter. The belief in health and so on. But the system seems rigged to ensure male doctors become members of the “boy’s club” in a way female doctors never could – and gladly so. I want a doctor who treats me like a person of knowledge in my own right, despite her expertise. Who knows about what might have been called “women’s knowledge” in another place or time.
Additionally, and perhaps BECAUSE we define, delineate, and separate human beings into two distinct genders, women tell other women things they don’t tell men. And vice versa. In such an intimate setting, where so much is at stake, I am more likely to feel comfortable asking a woman questions.
Instead of just a prescription, I want a conversation… not something I’m sure this doctor is willing to have in a real way, despite that being the pretense under which I sit in his office before my appointment.
To be brutally honest, being a queer woman, I’m particular about the men I want near my vulva. An older straight Texan man with a cowhide chair and cowboy boot flowerpot decorating his office is not that kind of man. Believe me.
Walking down the hall, the doctor wrapped his arm around my shoulder in what I am sure he thought was an innocently congenial way, but which felt very patronizing and invasive, and called me “kiddo.” As if I know so little as to hardly be worth consideration. As if to him I’m still a child, which perhaps most women are.
My lover, who I call Uncle, calls me “little girl” but he knows that I’m a full-grown woman and that this exchange of power is just a game we play. That the power is mine to give and not his to take. He’s just as likely to be fighting in the Capitol for women’s rights as pinning me down to kiss me. Or fucking other men, or putting on a flowery skirt to cook me dinner, or painting his toenails, or letting me paint them for him. We help each other, not because neither of us can take care of ourselves, but because we WANT to. Because it feeds us both.
I wanted to switch birth control methods and the doctor suggested Nuva-ring; said men could hardly feel it during intercourse. Because he assumes when he sees I’m sexually active that I’m having intercourse with men. Or one man, anyway.
And I am.
But it wasn’t always that way and won’t always be.
I love the taste of cunts and the swell of breasts and the smooth curve of a woman’s hip as much as I love feeling my current lover’s cock quiver at my touch.
The doctor’s familiarity reminds me of another summer when I was on an evening walk with my sister. A few boys pulled up along-side us in a pick-up truck. One called to my sister, “Hey, how old are you?” When she replied, “14,” he said, “Oh,” and drove away. Even then I had to wonder at what age their response would have changed.
The presumptions men make about women’s bodies continue to this day, and often in subtle or overlooked ways.
What happens after the summer? When nights grow cool and leaves turn brown and young girls blossom into women overnight. What happens when men take advantage of their privilege and their power without even knowing it?
I try to smile as he shakes my hand, knowing after this summer I will not see this doctor again.