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How can we create a more inclusive discussion about the very common endocrine disorder, PCOS?

By Toni-Marie Gallardo Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an endocrine disorder that affects 10% of people with ovaries. It can lead to ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, problems with ovulation, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. It is caused by the body’s overproduction of androgens, under production of progesterone, and insulin resistance. This is a brief explanation, but I don’t want to regurgitate the same narrative that most of the PCOS online community spouts. Black, indigenous women, trans and gender nonconforming people of color (BIPOC) are often left out of the narrative. I was officially diagnosed with PCOS in 2014. I say officially, because if you’re anything like me and other BIPOC, then you are already familiar with the dangerous but necessary tradition of self diagnosis. It took me three years to overcome the generational trauma that most BIPOC experience when going to the doctor’s office. Low income communities and hourly wage earners often aren’t able to take time off from work, aren’t made aware of all their options, don’t trust physicians, or are simply used to creating their own remedies through traditional means. Today, although I am Mexican American with the privilege of healthcare, the trauma manifests as telling myself  “it’s not that bad,” or “I’m being dramatic,” which is usually reinforced by family members. I brought up the symptoms of PCOS to my mother–she laughed and said I was just Mexican, thick and hairy, and gave me twenty bucks to start waxing.

Amber Rose will not save feminism or completely dismantle body hair negativity for good - and she doesn't have to. Her activism is powerful in the ways that it starts the conversation for those who are not embracing feminism already.

Summer is nearly here, which means that conversations about body hair, body positivity, and feminism are heating up once again. The conversation of how body hair plays into body positivity and feminism isn't a new one. Since second wave feminism, women and femmes have been fighting for the freedom to present in the ways that make them the most comfortable for decades. Body hair, much like every other aspect of a femme-presenting person's appearance, is political in that it is a conscious and unconscious personal choice. It is something that one chooses based on emotion, and/or societal pressure, and/or survival. There are so many factors that influence whether someone decides to shave, including why, where and how. Body hair is interesting in that through its heavy policing, it can become a weapon for unconscious femininity and misogyny.

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