Navigating Cancer Survivorship as a Transgender or Non-Binary Person
This article originally ran on Cancer.net, a site developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Read the entire post here.
Cancer and its treatment can be very isolating, and navigating the health care system can add even more stress onto people with cancer. Being someone who identifies as transgender or outside of the binary, especially in the health care system, can further add to that feeling of isolation and the feeling of not being seen for who you are. Oftentimes, you may even feel like you have to educate the medical staff who are supposed to be taking care of you.
Since my cancer treatment, I have changed pronouns and have affirmed my identity as non-binary. However, that term wasn’t used 10 years ago when I was going through treatment; at the time, I used the term “genderqueer.” When I started with my surgeries and treatment for cancer, I wish I had been more outspoken about how I identified and had direct conversations with my medical team so that we could move forward on the same page. Because I had ovarian cancer, there was an assumption that I identified as a woman. And my care, even though it was excellent, could’ve been more tailored to me as a gender non-conforming person.
Today, the entire health care system is still very heteronormative and binary. And although some institutions are moving toward inclusion, it is slow and not without bumps in the road. Before going into every medical appointment, I have to take a deep breath and be prepared to be misgendered, called the wrong name, or face the assumption that what’s in my medical records is my whole story. If you add that on top of my ongoing cancer screenings, during which I’m holding worries around recurrence, that is a lot to manage emotionally. I want to be seen for the entirety of who I am, not just what’s on my chart.