Get Papped’s Katie Norbury takes a deep dive into why queer people with vaginas aren’t getting papped as much as they should be.
Every five years after turning 25, the Australian Medical Board recommends that all women and those with a vagina have a cervical screening (or previously and more commonly known as a pap smear). Being vaccinated with the Gardasil vaccine (a vaccine created to protect you against certain types of HPV that cause cancer) and having on time cervical screenings is the best way to protect yourself against cervical cancer. So if we can protect ourselves against cervical cancer, why aren’t us queer gals doing it?
Fear. Judgement. Lack of education. Inaccessibility.
These are just some of the reasons.
A cervical screening is invasive, it’s a swab of your cervix. It’s not an appointment you’re going to get excited to see in your calendar. You need to feel safe and confident in your doctor when you commit to having your screening but not every doctor is created equally. Some doctors still discriminate and don’t create a safe space for queer women to ask questions and feel heard. Being queer and visiting a new doctor can be a frightening experience. Will they judge me for having a same sex partner? Will they ignore the fact that I have a partner?
Some queer women are under the (very wrong) impression that women who only have sex with women (or non-binary and trans folks with a vagina) do not need to have a screening as it isn’t sex with a penis. This is a wild misconception that not only puts you at risk of developing cancer but insults queer sex. If you have had any form of sex, you are at risk of contracting HPV which puts you at risk of cervical cancer.
So how do we break down these barriers?
A couple of years ago, I had a cervical screening that returned abnormal and resulted in a few cervical biopsies. I felt scared but I also felt ashamed. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection which means the shame that came with it was a bigger deal than the infection.
After some scary initial Googling that told me I’d develop cancer, I found more comforting information letting me know that 75% of the adult population have HPV at some point in their lives. But I was overall disappointed at the information many were seeing when they Googled something so common.
So why is there shame in something most adults contract?
Probably because no one is willing to start the conversation. I used my frustration to start something to change that. Get Papped was born out of what I felt was a necessity. I created an online store selling birthday cards with a cervical screening reminder, shirts that say ‘Get Papped’ and an Instagram to smash the stigma that surrounds it. It’s not always easy to bring up cervical screenings at brunch, or over text but I figured a birthday is a perfect reminder considering they’re recommended at age 25 and every five years after that. The cards spark the conversation and also give you the opportunity to remind and hold your loved one accountable to book.
Get Papped is also home to a practitioner directory, with over 100 GP’s recommended from the Get Papped community. Visiting a doctor isn’t an easy process for everyone, but knowing that someone had an experience positive enough to warrant a recommendation, should offer some ease in booking your appointment. When a LGBTQIA+ person has had a positive experience, a note has been added that they are LGBTQIA+ friendly.
So if you’re reading this and you’re over 25, this is your sign to book your cervical screening and protect yourself against one of the most preventable forms of cancer (and be flipping proud of it).
To visit the practitioner directory or to take a look at the Get Papped cards, visit: www.get-papped.com Or get involved with our online community on instagram @GetPapped