Keeping Track of What's In Your Vagina
And rooting for basic human decency from lawmakers
I wanted to start this week by saying that Utah’s Republican Governor Spencer Cox was giving me hope in much the same way that other members of the GOP, like Topper McFawn, have done when they show logic and compassion. Unfortunately, that glimmer of hope has already been dashed by his legislative colleagues.
Last week, Cox vetoed a bill that would ban transgender kids from competing on girls’ sports teams in the state. His letter of explanation went into detail on the politics of the bill and failed negotiations to amend it, but then it said this:
I must admit, I am not an expert on transgenderism. I struggle to understand so much of it and the science is conflicting. When in doubt however, I always try to err on the side of kindness, mercy and compassion. I also try to get proximate and I am learning so much from our transgender community. They are great kids who face enormous struggles. Here are the numbers that have most impacted my decision: 75,000, 4, 1, 86 and 56.
75,000 high school kids participating in high school sports in Utah.
4 transgender kids playing high school sports in Utah.
1 transgender student playing girls sports.
86% of trans youth reporting suicidality.
56% of trans youth having attempted suicide.
Four kids and only one of them playing girls sports. That’s what all of this is about. Four kids who aren’t dominating or winning trophies or taking scholarships. Four kids who are just trying to find some friends and feel like they are a part of something. Four kids trying to get through each day. Rarely has so much fear and anger been directed at so few. I don’t understand what they are going through or why they feel the way they do. But I want them to live. And all the research shows that even a little acceptance and connection can reduce suicidality significantly. For that reason, as much as any other, I have taken this action in the hope that we can continue to work together and find a better way. If a veto override occurs, I hope we can work to find ways to show these four kids that we love them, and they have a place in our state.
This is the empathy and compassion that is missing from most of the culture war debates that are playing out in state Capitols across the country. As the Republican party tries to score points with its base by banning words, cancelling sex ed classes, and discriminating against trans kids, very few seem to notice or care that real kids will suffer real pain. I applaud Governor Cox for showing some basic human decency and I wish more of his colleagues would do the same.
His legislative colleagues, however, were apparently unmoved. By a vote of 21-8 in the Senate and 56-18 in the House, the legislature overwhelmingly agreed to pass the law without him. Somehow, I doubt they bothered to come up with another way to show trans kids they love them.
For more on state legislative efforts to forward a conservative agenda, you should read my colleague Eleanor Bader’s TruthOut article, “Fear-Based ‘Parental Bills of Rights’ Are a Right-Wing Siege on Public Education, Advocates Say.” In it, I sound uncharacteristically optimistic about the Right’s ability to win in the long term.
Finally, a Potential New Male Birth Control Method Comes in Pill Form
We’ve talked about a number of potential new male birth control methods in the past, but most have involved procedures that were unsettling at best. There was the condom-for-the-tip that might hurt coming off, the ultrasonic testicle bath, and of course, the injection of tiny hot magnets right into the family jewels. The newest entry into the book of “someday there might actually be more contraceptives for people with penises” will be pleasing to many, if for no other reason than that it should come in a simple pill form.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota presented findings last week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society on a new compound that was 99% effective in preventing pregnancy among mice when given to the male mouse. Even better, papa mouse was able to start fathering pups again just 4 to 6 weeks after he stopped getting the formula. Wait, there’s more. This magic formula—dubbed YCT529—is not a hormone, so there is less risk that when given to humans it will have side effects like lowered libido or depression.
Instead of hormones, the researchers targeted a protein called the retinoic acid receptor (RAR- α). A form of vitamin A, RAR-α helps in cell growth and differentiation including the formation of sperm. It also plays a role in embryonic development. Past research was successful in targeting this protein along with two other retinoic acid receptors, but the University of Minnesota researchers were hoping that if they only suppressed one of them, the resulting medication would have fewer side effects. They created and evaluated 100 compounds and found one that inhibited RAR-α but not the other forms. They then gave it to mice and found that it dramatically reduced sperm counts without any other observable side effects.
The researchers have licensed YCT529 to YourChoice Therapeutics, a company founded by sperm scientists with the hope of creating a unisex, non-hormonal contraceptive. The goal is to start clinical trials on this new compound by the end of 2022, but it will be a long time before YTC529 hits pharmacy shelves (undoubtedly under a new name), and the researchers are still developing other versions of the compound since mice and men are different.
In the meantime, please remember that condoms are a great, inexpensive, and easy-to-obtain birth control option for people with testes and there are a plethora of choice for those with ovaries. There’s no need for any unintended pregnancies while we wait for that male contraceptive that is still just around the corner.
What We’re Sticking Where This Time
Apparently, Urology Case Reports is the place to go for medical mishaps of a sexual nature. In January, I wrote about the 45-year-old man who had “accidentally” squirted weatherproofing foam into his urethra which led to a massive bladder infection and ultimately required reconstructive surgery. Now, we are learning of a woman, also 45, who showed up in the emergency room with a glass tumbler lodged in her bladder.
The woman had been treated for a urinary tract infection a few times in the recent past but still had symptoms including a feeling of urgency to empty her bladder. There was no blood in her urine and she wasn’t suffering from incontinence or leaking. Her physical examination was normal. An x-ray, however, revealed a bladder stone that was about 3 inches around. More surprising, inside the stone was what appeared to be a drinking glass.
I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too: a female urethra is about 7 millimeters wide, even a shot glass couldn’t get in there. That’s true. Unlike weatherproofing man, this woman did not put the glass in her urethra. She was using it as a sex toy and put it inside her vagina and forgot it was there. For four years.
According to the case report, the presence of a foreign body in her vagina likely caused inflammation and, ultimately, deterioration of the walls of the vagina and the bladder. She likely developed a fistula—an abnormal connection between two body parts—which gave the glass a path for migration to the bladder where it calcified.
Putting something into the vagina for erotic purposes is pretty common and not a problem in-and-of-itself. There are tons of sex toys on the market created for just this purpose and they are likely the safest bet, though there are certainly vegetables and household items that seem like the right shape for the job. Making sure whatever you put inside is clean is the first step to being safe. And, now we know that the next step is remembering to take it out.
Whether it’s a tampon, a contraceptive sponge, or a menstrual cup, it’s important to keep track of what’s in your vagina.