Birth control is generally marketed and designed for heterosexual women, but they’re not the only ones using it. We reached out to queer, bisexual and pansexual people who use birth control for their experiences and advice.
“Using birth control for non-contraception reasons is rarely talked about”
I’ve had the Mirena IUD for about three years. I started using birth control [to lighten heavy periods] because I have an iron storage deficiency. I wasn’t looking for a way to avoid pregnancy, but instead to decrease or eliminate menstrual bleeding. I chose an IUD because it’s one of the least noticeable options day-to-day—which feels affirming in terms of my sexuality.
My experience with the Mirena has been fine. Being queer, I didn’t really have anyone in my personal community who I knew had one, but after the insertion some of my straight friends gave me advice that would have been helpful to make the experience less painful.
We need to expand our understanding of who is using birth control and why, and subsequently make information and support more widely available—both in the healthcare system and socially.
Using birth control for non-contraception reasons is rarely talked about, especially in queer communities, I think it’s probably more common than we all realize. Talking about it could help others access birth control if they need it, and better support those of us who already do.
—Anonymous, queer, cis woman/genderqueer, 33, Canada
“Don't think you're immune to pregnancy or STIs, just because you're not in a hetero relationship!”
I'm currently using condoms, and have been for about 6 months. Previously I tried a hormone-based IUD, but had to change from that. It exacerbated my anxiety disorder, and I also found out it had been inserted incorrectly and had actually pierced my cervix! I approached multiple health care providers with concerns that something was wrong with it, but was told my symptoms were a typical experience with this kind of IUD.
It wasn't until I went for my first smear test that I found out something was wrong. So while the “apply once and don't think about it again” aspect of an IUD was lovely, it wasn't a great experience for me overall. Condoms, while fiddlier and potentially riskier, are much kinder on my body.
My advice to others? Don't think you're immune to pregnancy or STIs, just because you're not in a hetero relationship! Carefully examine your choices, do your research, and don't be afraid to speak up if you think something is wrong. Clue is a really useful app for tracking any symptoms caused by your birth control, and I have showed it to various health care professionals to help describe my experiences.
—Jill, pansexual, female, 25, North Wales, UK
“I lost my job after admitting I was taking the pill”
My choice to take the pill doesn’t have any link with my gender or sexuality [it’s for medical reasons]. Where I live, birth control is very frowned upon, and considered sinful and wrong. People will outwardly say they think you must be a murderer, or rapist, etc.
I lost my job after admitting I was taking the pill and after becoming open about my opinions on sexuality, gender identity, birth control and supporting the LGBT+ community. I’m now unable to get a job in my local town and nearby businesses because of this. I’d like to see people open up to the idea of birth control, and gain an understanding of it—so people, like myself, can live happier and better lives.
—Amanda, bi (I guess, partners’ gender doesn’t matter to me), female, 22, Kentucky, USA
“You don't have to explain yourself to anyone if you don't want to”
I take the mini-pill (Desogestrel) to treat heavy and painful periods, which would keep me in bed for at least three days. I used to medicate using Mefanemic Acid three times a day, and I felt it would be easier (especially on my liver) to not have periods at all.
There is no particular connection to my gender or sexuality, although sometimes I wonder if there is any point in taking birth control, given that my choice of sexual partner won't necessarily lead to pregnancy.
Once my doctor was not available to give me my birth control prescription and her (male) assistant unkindly told me to "just keep your legs closed.” I hated the assumption that I was taking the pill to avoid pregnancy, the inappropriate response and even worse, I didn't know how to explain my queerness (or even if I should)! I felt so ashamed.
You don't have to explain yourself to anyone if you don't want to. You don't have to out yourself (or make yourself uncomfortable) just to change people's perceptions of birth control.
—Anonymous, (gender not provided), queer/asexual, 30, Amsterdam, Netherlands
“I have multiple sexual partners and to me it's important to tell my doctor”
I’ve been using the pill for two months, because I want control over my body. I love my doctor. She understands the importance of birth control and regular STI testing. My advice? It's important to find a doctor you trust and can have good communication with. I have multiple sexual partners and to me it's important to tell my doctor and be safe. Also, dental dams are very expensive where I live. My doctor told me to cut open condoms and use those.
—Anonymous, pansexual, female, 32, The Netherlands
“At first, I bled on a near constant basis”
I’ve been using the Mirena for one year. At first, I bled on a near constant basis, which made sex (with people of multiple genders) more difficult. This has improved over time. My advice? Don’t be afraid to question if something is working for you, don’t be afraid to try different kinds of birth control, and remember—birth control doesn’t guarantee safe sex.
—Anonymous, bisexual, cisgender female, 23, Ohio, USA
“Birth control doesn’t have to be about preventing pregnancy”
I’m using birth control to treat acne. I started with Aviane, which caused a lot of spotting. My period used to be perfectly regular before birth control. If I took my pill even one hour late, I would have spotting the next day. Three months ago, I switched to Ortho Tri Cyclen and it has been less extreme.