Here’s how I’m learning to reframe contraception as a queer experience

I’ve only known contraception as a heteronormative experience, so I had to learn how to reframe it as a queer one, writes Meggie Gates

I grew up Catholic, the way every great queer story starts. At my school, a woman’s body came with stipulations: do not have an abortion, and for the love of God, do not use contraception.

We were taught to be afraid of STIs, on top of our fear of getting pregnant. Girls went on birth control to avoid those two things while ignoring all the side effects that might come with hormonal contraception: depression, nausea, heartburn, sore breasts. If the pill prevented the shame of walking around our Catholic high school while pregnant, that was enough for us.

I went on birth control at age 18 and had sex at 19. I begged my mum to let me go on birth control and we discussed what would happen if I got pregnant: we’d keep it, obviously, and figure out the rest of my life as my parents saw fit.

I broke my pledge to God when I lost my virginity and severed the tie when I figured out I was queer. Now, at 27, I’m in my first lesbian relationship and I’m completely re-evaluating what birth control means when not filtered through the cisgender, heteronormative experience.

I realised that I hadn’t been centring my own needs, because I was so afraid of getting pregnant

Without the prospect of an abortion looming over like a constant storm cloud, I had no idea what else birth control was meant for. Would stopping the pill have an impact on my mental health? My menstrual cramps could be bad at times, was that enough reason to stay on it?

I realised that I hadn’t been centring my own needs, because I was so afraid of getting pregnant.

In 2015, I “upgraded” to an IUD and became so depressed that I peed the bed for months. I was having the worst mood swings I’ve ever had in my life and I chalked this up to drinking, a bad habit yet staple of my college lifestyle. I’d get so depressed the week before my period that I refused to get out of bed — my boyfriend would come over to shower and feed me.

Despite how it made me feel I got the contraceptive inserted for us, so that we could have sex without fear of pregnancy. I was more afraid of being pregnant than my mental health tanking — which was happening in real-time.

I had only ever known contraception within the context and pressures of heteronormativity, as something to meet the needs and expectations of others. It was time to make it about me.

Queer people use contraception, too, and it’s time our needs and experiences were included within the conversation

Now, as a queer individual, I debate going off the pill as a means of taking care of myself. I talk to my therapist about how this would help or hurt the mood stabiliser I’m on and never once bring up the fear of pregnancy or abortion, in relation to what others might want or expect. I wonder what taking one less pill would look like; how this would affect me, for better or worse.

Queer people use contraception, too, and it’s time our needs and experiences were included within the conversation. We might use it to manage our heavy periods, to help us with conditions such as endometriosis, or to treat our acne. We might use it for a combination of those reasons or none of them, but you’ll never know unless you ask us.

There are also queer people who do use contraception to prevent pregnancy, but whose experiences are not heteronormative. Where are their stories?

I know that now, I am at the center of the conversation about how and why I use contraception. At the end of the day, it’s no one else’s body. It’s mine.
Featured image is an illustration of two hands popping a contraceptive pill out of its foil packet, against an illustration of the lesbian pride flag
Page last updated April 2021

Meggie Gates

Meggie Gates is a comedian and writer in Chicago, IL. Their work has appeared in Bitch Media, Collider, Consequence of Sound, and the Chicago Reader. Follow them on social media @yeehaw_meg

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