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How to advocate for your sexual/reproductive health

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Mar 24, 2022

How to advocate for your sexual/reproductive health
  • Women have faced a long history of barriers when it comes to receiving adequate access to sexual and reproductive resources and rights. In the spirit of Women’s History Month, let’s educate ourselves on how to become our own advocates for sexual health in a society that historically fails to do so. Particularly with recent 6-week abortion laws passed in two states, Texas and Idaho, it’s more important now than ever to learn how to advocate for your sexual and reproductive health as a uterus-haver!

    To this day, women face discrimination in healthcare, with LGBTQ+ women and women of color experiencing disproportionately higher rates of discrimination. Adequate sexual education is also lacking in schools which continues to negatively affect young women, and sexual education catered to LGBTQ+ students is practically non-existent. It’s important to educate ourselves on these issues and know how to get the care we need.

    Keep reading to learn how to advocate for your sexual health as a woman and/or queer person, as well as for some resources to save to help you get the sexual and reproductive care you deserve.

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    Importance of Sexual Health

    Reproductive health is a combination of physical, mental, emotional, and social health. Women and uterus-havers have unique health concerns to be aware of. This includes ovarian issues and cancers, STIs, pregnancy, menstruation, abortion, and more. Reproductive health concerns for women aren’t prioritized in education, and we’re often left to educate ourselves on how to care for our health.

    Some ways women can take care of their sexual health include:

    • Getting regular check-ups.
    • Getting regular mammograms, pap smears, and certain cancer screenings.
    • STI and STD screenings.
    • Having healthy relationships.
    • Practicing safe sex.
    • Taking care of your physical health.
    • Taking care of your mental wellbeing.

    Access to proper health care is also very important for maintaining sexual and reproductive health, yet getting this access can be a struggle for many women, especially for marginalized groups of women. We’ve listed resources below to find providers that are LGBTQ+ and women-of-color-friendly. 

    Sex Education

    Sex education still fails to provide young women and uterus-havers with the information they need to take care of their sexual health. Sex education is also almost solely catered to heterosexual individuals. Currently, 39 states require sex education and/or HIV education, with 26 of those states required to stress abstinence. Additionally, only 18 states mandate that their sex education is medically accurate– yikes!

    In terms of sex education covering LGBTQ+ topics, only 10 states mandate inclusivity of sexual orientation in their programs. 5 states even require sex educators to provide negative information on homosexuality and emphasize heterosexuality. Sex education programs in the United States also have little to no requirement of covering menstruation care or female reproductive health issues.

    It’s clear that sex education for LGBTQ+ women is lacking, making it all the more important to take personal initiative to learn how to care for your sexual and reproductive health. 

    Female Discrimination in Healthcare

    There is a long history of women not being taken seriously in the medical field. This includes women’s chronic pain being dismissed, health concerns not being explored further, getting misdiagnosed at higher rates, and more. People who work in the medical field, like anyone else, have biases about groups of people that can affect how they treat them. This discrimination disproportionately affects women of color, especially Black women, and LGBTQ+ women and individuals.

    Many states now have a variety of anti-discrimination laws that protect women, people of color, and queer folks from discrimination. A recent amendment to the Affordable Care Act has made it illegal for health care providers and insurance companies to discriminate against “race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in certain health programs and activities” (NPR). This means that in many states you can now take legal action if you’ve faced discrimination in the medical field.

    Ways to Advocate for your Sexual Health

    Given the discrimination women and uterus-havers face in healthcare, and the lack of education and overall support they receive, knowing ways to advocate for your sexual health is vital. To help stand up for your reproductive health, it’s important to:

    • Know your rights. Knowing your rights against discrimination in your state can help you champion the healthcare system. In addition, it’s smart to know your state’s laws on abortion and access to reproductive care.
    • Educate yourself. Educating yourself on the adversaries women face in the healthcare field is helpful to be aware of what you’re up against, so you can prepare to take the further steps to get adequate care.
    • Find providers. Women, LGBTQ+, and women-of-color-friendly providers are out there. We’ve listed resources below to find medical providers that want to advocate for you too.
    • Confidence. Gaining confidence in yourself and strengthening your ability to speak up for yourself can be life-saving. Before going into medical appointments, it’s helpful to be assertive in what you know you need care for, firmly express your symptoms, and do your research prior. It’s not fair that women aren’t always taken seriously off the bat, but we still have the power to fight to be heard.
    • File complaints of discrimination. If you’ve faced medical discrimination, you can file a report to The Joint Commission and The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • Support Health Care Equity. Advocate for all women by supporting healthcare equity through spreading awareness, speaking up when needed, donating, and calling your representatives to enact change.

    Resources for Sexual / Reproductive Health

    Check out these helpful resources to learn more about women’s sexual health, your rights, and finding healthcare providers that will actually root for you.

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    Katie is a writer and creative person based in Seattle who is passionate about the arts, environmental justice, and all things vintage fashion. She celebrates queerness as a natural yet radical state of being, and she strives to make the world a more inclusive place for all. You can find her taking meditative strolls in the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest channeling her inner Bella Swan, or just on IG @ktmarieeee.

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