Words by Clark Hamel (he/him) @arm_and_hamel
Everyone should be able to get the healthcare they need without having to go through a vetting process. Now, this feels like a given, but it’s harder than you think.
Before finding my gynecologist, a modern miracle, seeing as she is LGBTQ+ friendly and competent, I didn’t feel safe or comfortable seeing a doctor. I’d had too many negative experiences where I was misdiagnosed, misgendered, and mistreated. But before I met her, I was getting chronic infections. That was when I first turned to Momotaro Apotheca’s products.
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After a lot of trial and error, I still swear by Momotaro Apotheca products. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
The thing that drew me to Momotaro Apotheca was the experience of finding a vulvo-vaginal care product without the word “woman” attached to it.
The bright pink “femcare” aisle that I not only feel uncomfortable in, but truly unsafe in felt like something I could leave behind. And when I voice this to women in my life, they share with me that it’s not just because I’m a trans man.
The fluffy pink florals on a bottle of vagisil or the clinical and chemical aesthetic of a box of monistat is simply not for everyone.
The same way a gender neutral bathroom is not just for transgender folks, neither is gender neutrality in healthcare. Someone might want to use a single stall bathroom because they have a disability, or because they’ve experienced trauma, maybe they have an ostomy bag, or perhaps they could just use the privacy. Or maybe it is because neither the men’s or women’s rooms are right for them.
Gender neutral vulvo-vaginal care has to acknowledge that there are identities and abilities that require more expansive care than that of the highly gendered products and brands we have access to in the “femcare aisle.”
So, what is it, exactly, that we need from vulvo-vaginal care? That we expect? That we deserve?
Someone who CARES. - Whether it’s from a product or a doctor, we need:
Comfort — I’m talking physical and emotional. No more shoving a speculum in with no warning, no more BV turned Yeast Infection from the antibiotics, no more discomfort buying a product that doesn’t actually center your identity in its attempt at care.
Affirmation — If my pronouns are not respected in a doctor’s office, I’m outta there. If I see the word “woman” on a product made for vulvo-vaginal care, I won’t buy it if I don’t have to. If a person, place, or thing does not acknowledge and affirm my identity while I’m receiving care, I’m going to feel uncomfortable, and at times, unsafe.
Respect — This feels ridiculous to have to say, but, hey. I just want to be respected. Not being shamed by a doctor for not coming in sooner, or not recognizing the signs of an infection when they don’t present exactly the webMD describes… whether it’s because you’re menopausal, taking hormones, or taking certain medications that alter your pH or microbiome already.
Expertise — Know what you’re talking about. Seriously. People who take Testosterone and people in menopause have different vaginal PH and need different types of care. Understand that everyone’s body is different, and how those bodies need to be cared for differently.
Safety — I genuinely fear being seen in the “feminine care” aisle. It’s not about being misgendered. It’s about someone realizing I’m there because I’m trans, and hurting me. Safety should be the bare minimum when getting treatment, but it’s still something I don’t always have.
Clark Hamel (he/him) is a queer trans man living in Brooklyn NY. A gender and sexuality educator, he holds a BA in Sociology and is working on his Master's in Human Rights. He currently works for PFLAG NYC coordinating the Safe Schools Program, bringing LGBTQ+ education to students, teachers, and parent communities. He is passionate about transgender rights, particularly in relation to access to education and healthcare. When he's not working with PFLAG NYC, he serves on Columbia Gender Identity Clinic's Advisory Board and APICHA's Community Advisory Board. You can find him online @arm_and_hamel or check out pflagnyc.org to see more of what he does professionally.
Advocating for My Manhood by Clark Hamel (he/him)
The Thing No-One Tells You About Taking Testosterone by Max (he/them)
In Exploration of My Trans-femme Sexuality by Alexandra Chandra (she/her)
On Black Masculinity, From a Trans Masc Black Baddie by Caroline Colvin (they/them)
Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition.