Thursday, July 7, 2011

My Planned Parenthood: About the Menz

by Shaker Vanshar

I hesitated a bit about writing this, since I'm a straight, white, cis male and always think twice and thrice before injecting my own experiences into these conversations. But I feel it's important to say that yes, even a guy like me, with my mountain of privilege, can and has benefited from Planned Parenthood.

See, when I was 20, I contracted an STI. I was/am normally very, very careful with safer sex practices, but I'd just joined a polyfidelitous commune, and was certain that everyone inside was safe, and I was in love, etc. Turns out one of the other men in the group had an interesting definition of what "safe" meant, and I woke up one morning in an awful lot of pain.

I was in a new town, a thousand miles away from my old support structure, with no job, no insurance, and no idea what was wrong with me. I remembered the abstinence-only sex-ed I'd received in high school and was absolutely convinced that I was ruined for life, that some horrible deformity would befall me and no one would ever love me again, and other horrible things that felt like certainties. And I had absolutely no idea who to talk to about it, or how to afford treatment.

Then my girlfriend (now partner) suggested Planned Parenthood, and I was all "Wut? Don't they only treat women?" A common misconception that I am VERY fortunate was wrong.

I was already indebted to the organization because they provided low-cost birth control to everyone in the commune, but I'd never actually been further in than the waiting room. The health care professional (it's been long enough now that I can't recall if she was a doctor or a nurse or what, other than awesome) I saw was very understanding and patient with my nervousness and embarrassment, asked careful questions about my sexual history and symptoms, and ran a few tests. She didn't so much as bat an eye at my, hrm, unusual living circumstances, and she quickly figured out that I had chlamydia, in the very early stages, and all I needed was a blast of antibiotics, which they had on hand. She also very tactfully suggested that everyone else in our home swing by for testing and treatment as needed.

All told, the experience cost me about $20, which was about all I had. A few of my family also needed treatment (I was just the first to show symptoms), and what could have become a medical catastrophe for us was dealt with quickly, empathetically, and affordably, thanks to PP. I owe my health and continued sexual freedom to PP, both for all that they've done for my partners over the years, and for myself.

Read the rest of the My Planned Parenthood Carnival posts here.