In reversal, board says gynecologists may treat men

Yesterday Vero wrote about the “arbitrary, discriminatory, unnecessary, and dangerous” rule that obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) must only treat cisgender women if they plan on keeping their board certification. “There is no good reason why any physician should be barred from providing services they are qualified to provide,” she wrote, adding that it is was “worrying” how little thought the certifying board appeared to have given to trans folks or anyone existing outside of the gender binary.

Yesterday the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ABOG) released an updated statement clarifying the policy and listing a number of select cases in which certified physicians are “allowed” to treat men. As reported by the New York Times the statement reverses the earlier directive and says that Board members are permitted to treat male patients for sexually transmitted infections and to screen men for anal cancer.

Forgive this feminist for failing to immediately gush eternal gratitude — in fact I’m feeling about as grateful as Laurie Penny after Ryan Gosling saved her from a speeding car — but it’s hard to look at this as a “win.” Both the initial restrictions announced in September as well as the updated policy seem to completely disregard the needs of trans men, trans women, and gender non-conforming people who may be seeking preventive treatment for either cervical or anal cancers.

Case in point: in the updated statement, the Board still defines OB/GYNs as physicians who “possess special knowledge, skills and professional capability in the medical and surgical care of the female reproductive system and associated disorders” (emphasis mine). Thus the Board maintains that certification is contingent on physicians limiting their practice to the care of cisgender women, and prohibits the care of male patients except in a number circumstances, one of which is “management of transgender conditions”. This strikes me as a wholly insufficient and back-door way of addressing the needs of trans folks, especially since many trans folks may consider their OB/GYN needs as just, y’know, healthcare, rather than as related to the “management of a transgender condition.”

The original ABOG statement also included this exception, which complicates the issue and causes confusion around whether ABOG is talking about cisgender women when they say “women.” Their statements actually make it sound like when they say “men” they mean male assigned folks and when they say “women” they mean female assigned folks. This is frankly a whole other big can of worms for a whole number of reasons, not the least of which is that being legally medically identified with your assigned gender is a requirement for getting coverage for some transition-related healthcare.

So while I’m glad that doctors won’t be explicitly compelled to stop treating male patients, I am also sort of incredulous that I had to make that statement to begin with. I think it’s clear that we still have a long way to go.

Lori is generally stingy with the dispensation of feminist gratitude, but fuck it, it’s Thanksgiving. Shout out to her gynecologist. 


Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to serving as an Executive Director at Feministing, Lori is the Director of Global Communications at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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