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By Rebecca Hazen
Planned Parenthood’s motto is “Care, no matter what.” I did not know this, or what it encompassed, until I recently walked into Planned Parenthood for the first time.
I had just moved to Houston from Pennsylvania. I was worried about finding a new place to get birth control, until I discovered that there was a Planned Parenthood a few miles away.
While I was in the waiting room, I was asked to fill out paperwork as a new patient. I was happily surprised to see that for the question that asked my gender, there was a third box to check labeled “trans.” When I was seen by the doctor, I was asked if I had a partner, and again, a gender binary was not assumed.
Originally from a rural, conservative area with no Planned Parenthood nearby, this option would have never existed for me.
“It is rooted in our core value of being an open, safe, and welcoming healthcare provider,” says Rochelle Tafolla, VP of communications and marketing of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. “Our healthcare centers ask open-ended questions and do not insert judgment. People are very anxious about sexual history given our culture. People need to not have fear and withhold information from their doctor, which could have a negative impact on their health.”
According to Tafolla, Planned Parenthood has sent out patient comment cards in the past, and the feedback they tend to hear the most is that the patients are thankful that Planned Parenthood provided them with more questions than they had coming in, and they were not judged in the process.
“It makes us feel sad that these people might have gone to any other healthcare provider and felt anything less,” Tafolla says.
According to Tafolla, Planned Parenthood has always been on the progressive edge, but there was one particular moment that solidified their motto and their reputation as a place where everyone was safe.
“HIV and AIDS was becoming more of a health issue and more known in the 1980s,” Tafolla explains. “People were challenged, were not sure what to do, and wanted to categorize it as a gay men’s health issue. We were primarily a women’s health organization, but we took root in taking a stand, and we wanted to give information about HIV and AIDS testing and prevention and provide counseling. We knew that this was a sexual and reproductive health issue. There was a stigma with homosexuality, but we knew we had to address the crisis, because it was clearly something that was going to impact everyone.”
Planned Parenthood has its roots in being a healthcare and birth control provider for women, but today, the organization is inclusive to everyone.
Services offered at Planned Parenthood health centers vary by location. Some centers have services specifically for clients who identify as LGBTQ, such as education resources, hormone treatments, and referral for other services.
Some of the services for men include: checkups for reproductive or sexual health problems, cancer screenings, contraceptives, STD testing and treatment, urinary tract infections testing and treatment, as well as general healthcare and routine physical exams.
Planned Parenthood’s website can also be used as a learning tool for those on the LGBTQ spectrum. There are resources online at plannedparenthood.org for sexual orientation and gender, as well as sex and sexuality.
“We realize that we are a reproductive rights and healthcare provider, but we have allies and partners in our community and that we need to provide those resources,” Tafolla says. “People may not be ready to come to Planned Parenthood just yet, but our partners must be able to support them. We sometimes forget that people might not have resources or live in a more judgmental community and have not come out yet. As much as we can help in a variety of channels, the more better off we will be.
“We pride ourselves on nonjudgmental care. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, or whatever your history, we want to make sure you are healthy and you have the care you need. You can get that at Planned Parenthood,” Tafolla says.