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September is upon us, and next month has been designated both Prostate Cancer and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Months. Indeed, the Big C is an issue that is not to be taken lightly for anybody of any gender identity or any other category in life, however, I feel the way in which we recognize these two horrible diseases makes me and other people who do not identify as the gender which we were assigned at birth feel left out.

From the American Cancer Society:

There is no better time than September, during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, for men to talk with their health care providers about this disease so that they can make informed decisions about maintaining their prostate health.  Although prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among men, when detected early it also boasts some of the highest survival rates.

This year approximately 217,730 men will learn they have prostate cancer and more than 32,050 men will die from the disease. African-American men are disproportionately affected by prostate cancer, having higher rates of prostate cancer diagnosis and death than men of all other racial or ethnic groups in the United States. Almost one third of prostate cancer cases are found in men during their prime years at work.

Today, 1 man in 6 will get prostate cancer during his lifetime, but only 1 man in 34 will die of this disease. More than 2 million men in the United States who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point are still alive today. When detected during these earliest stages the 5-year survival rate is close to 100%.
 

I am a woman. I have a prostate. I will always have a prostate, even after gender confirmation surgery (which does eliminate the risk of testicular cancer). Although gender confirmation surgery as well as hormone therapy can reduce the risk, and as much as I and any other transwoman or intersex or non-binary identified person with whom this is a relevant concern may not want to think about a "male" organ, this will always be a relevant concern for us.

Furthermore, the American Cancer Society is equally as non-inclusive of transmen:

Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. Women have 2 ovaries, one on each side of the uterus in the pelvis, as shown in the picture below. The ovaries produce eggs (called ova). They are also the main source of a woman’s female hormones, estrogen and progesterone. The eggs travel through the fallopian tubes to the uterus. Here they may be fertilized and develop into a fetus.

I know several female assigned at birth people, one a transman, the other, a genderqueer person, who liked a status I wrote on my facebook which said how women can get prostate cancer and men can get ovarian cancer. For them, until they decide if and when to get a hysterectomy, ovarian cancer can still be a relevant health concern.

Indeed, this gendering of cancer not only is psychologically jarring, but has resulted in massive healthcare discrimination. I decided, as an affirmation to my identity and to further defend my right to access hormones, to have the gender designation on my insurance switched to female, which the state of Pennsylvania allows me to do. Were I to get testicular, prostate, or any other male associated cancer, the bean counters could look at my gender designation and refuse treatment and/or sue and/or prosecute me for "fraud". Same with an FTM insured as M in reference to ovarian cancer.

I know that for the most part, men get prostate cancer and women get ovarian cancer, and the concerns posed with gendering the big C would not apply to most people. However, if one person is medically or psychologically marginalized due to medical authorities rigid views on gender and anatomy, then it will be one two many, and we all will have failed in our mission to treat and prevent cancer.

FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS:

We are all aware of how state, local, and national governments like to pass non-binding resolutions in favour of awareness months, especially when it deals with a powerful disease such as cancer. However, when a traditionally gendered form of cancer is being spotlighted through a resolution, it is far too likely that they will use gendered terminology (ie: implying only women get ovarian cancer and only men get testicular cancer). The best, and least controversial solution to this issue would be to use non-gendered language in these resolutions, in deference not only to the transgender community, but also those who are intersex or gender non-conforming.

FOR ACTIVISTS:

Here is a list of awareness months for certain cancers. If you know that your local, state, or national elected officials are going to be introducing a resolution for a gendered cancer, please get in touch with them and ask that non-gendered language be used. Usually, the resolution will be introduced and passed quickly the month BEFORE. Here is a list

January: Cervical Cancer Awareness Month
April: Testicular Cancer Awareness Month
September: Prostate/Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month
October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month

And there is probably more that I can’t think of.

In conclusion, gendering the big C hurts us all by invalidating our identities and propping up a system that does not care about the needs of the trans/gender variant community. Let’s work to change this, for women can get prostate cancer and men can get ovarian cancer too.

-Jordan Gwendolyn Davis

Categories: Uncategorized
  • David micheletti

    I was born a so called male but my testis failed to drop into place. At age ten I had surgery to repair it and bring it down. Years later this same testis became malignant and surgery found it to be in fact a fetal ovary. The other so called normal testis failed to mature to normal adult size either. In other words I am Intersex with mostly a male body and yet had ovarian cancer. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic said they have seen this condition before.

    I am married and managed to have two children over a 15 year span. Doctors where amazed.

    As you would expect I have strong female feelings but will not transition because of on going health issues and marriage. Did I say money also.