I went to the hospital yesterday. First of all, I’m fine. But I was in a bit of a predicament, as I am not currently living close to my Primary Care Provider and my insurance didn’t cover any Urgent Care centers nearby. I really needed to get checked out by a doc and so my only option seemed to be the ER. As I was on the phone with my parents discussing the pros and cons of driving over there and admitting myself, I had to be honest about the potential of being mistreated or misgendered because of my trans status. This was the first time since transitioning that I’d interacted with a medical provider besides my current doc who is trained in trans medical issues and sensitivity, etc.
I worried that at the least, my trans status would be met with confusion that would make me uncomfortable. And at the worst that they would insist on admitting me as “Female” so that any nurse or doctor looking at my chart would be confused and likely to misgender me. Or that my symptoms, though unrelated to transition, would be attributed to my testosterone or my surgery or mental issues related to being trans. Or I guess at the very worst that people privy to this knowledge would feel it appropriate to comment judgmentally on my transition. I knew it was worth the risk and that my health reigned supreme and I could stomach the worst of it as long as I could get treated.
I wasn’t sure when I would volunteer my trans status/history. I knew it almost certainly wasn’t related to my symptoms or any possible treatment, but I also wanted anyone looking at tests or treatment options to know my full history, and I knew they absolutely needed to know about my hormone treatment. So I told the admitting nurse when she asked about my current drugs and my medical history. I said “The only medication I’m on is biweekly testosterone injections. And I take those because I transitioned - I was born female. I have not had a hysterectomy.” Those were the facts I decided were important in my treatment and I laid them out calmly. She nodded and wrote some stuff down as though I had told her my eyes were originally green. Actually with even less reaction than I think she would have had to that. Like it was no big deal, just a fact that needed to be documented. And I don’t think she even fully documented it, because I later heard a nurse outside my room wondering why I was prescribed testosterone.
After I told her, she didn’t stop calling me “sir” or using “Mr.” or male pronouns. I’m not sure if the hospital had good trans-inclusive sensitivity/diversity training, if she personally knew her role in the situation, or if she was just being a good nurse which honestly means not judgmentally reacting to much of anything, but I as immediately put at ease and felt safe. Which is how we should feel, how we have the right to feel when we seek medical treatment.
It’s not always great. And I was in Vermont (though truth be told only parts of the state are the “progressive” meccas you’ve heard about and I wouldn’t call it a queer place). But I thought it was important to share to add to the collection of stories about positive and negative medical experiences.
Hope all is well with all of you!
I’ll address whether it bothers me in depth in the upcoming post, but the short answer is no it doesn’t bother me. It bothers me that it might bother other people and dealing with that is one of my personal mental health goals.
Right now I’m not interested in pursuing bottom surgery. It’s expensive and risky and I’m not the healthiest person, so going through multiple stages of surgery in an area prone to infection would require a strong strong need on my part and I just don’t need it or want it that badly.
- Watching Ally McBeal as a Man Without a Penis: How To Believe in My Manhood When Our Culture Defines it Based on the Presence of a “Dumbstick”
- Five Days a Week, I Live Somewhere and Work Somewhere Where People Don’t Know My Trans Status
- ++(for Autostraddle) Lesbians and Trans Men, an Opinion Piece
Now if I could just find the time to write all this. Got a 7am shift tomorrow.
Pardon my enthusiasm. I’ll reign it in.
If you didn’t hear, last night (as I was on the verge of dying in the worst mountain storm driving of my life) New York Senate legalized “same-sex marriage.” In 30 days, there will be marriage equality in New York. It’s a really big deal. I’m really proud of the state and really happy for all of the queer people in New York whose relationships and/or future relationships can be fully legitimized under the law now.
(photos via Autostraddle’s gallery)
You go NY!
Eva Kraus, in her opinion piece from Bay Windows
I need a level playing field. If Massachusetts had already had a law on the books prohibiting employment discrimination against transgender people, I would not be forced to live in fear of never being able to work again. I would not be forced to use state resources to stay afloat. I would be supporting my family, and paying the state substantial income taxes.
But that’s not the case. As a 12-year veteran of the US military, as a Naval Officer and the former CEO of a finance company, I assure you that my capabilities remain undiminished. Like so many other transgender men and women, I am ready to work. I am ready to contribute. We just need the opportunity to do so.
It’s time to pass the Transgender Equal Rights Bill in Massachusetts.
I think that the debate about the name really speaks to the variety of identities within the trans male population. And the variety of ways that trans men view their transition and trans status/history.
Original Plumbing seems to me to be a publication/website/scene for trans men who really value and celebrate the trans part of their identities. Many of the men involved use the term transman (all one word) as opposed to trans man (two words) and I think that this really illustrates how they feel about their identities - being trans is central to that. Many of the writers and people profiled in the quarterly and online identify as queer and really dig being queer. The photos from the various OP parties suggest a strong queer element is present there, too.
So I would posit that the title “Original Plumbing” is a clever way to either a) celebrate that you’ve got yr original plumbing and you are a man without an anatomical penis or b) acknowledge that what you’ve got now is different from yr original plumbing and you are celebrating that fact.
I think it can be inclusive of people who have had or plan to pursue bottom surgery, but certainly it is scene that is about identifying as trans, and to a large degree identifying as queer. I wouldn’t call that problematic as it isn’t really ostracizing the trans men who don’t fit into that scene, it’s just not the zine/parties/etc for those men, you know?
And I, by the way, am saying this as someone who doesn’t identify as a transman or as uberqueer and probably wouldn’t fantastically enjoy an OP party (though I almost went to Boston to see Micah perform at one). I love that OP exists and I even love the name, but I also know it’s not a community that I exactly fit into.
problem with saying transman is that you’re saying that trans men dont acknowledge that they are trans, and it’s still an oppressive use of language.
This is not what I meant. It is in my experience that people who specifically refer to themselves as transmen (and do so consciously as opposed to “trans man”) do so because it is a way to show that them being transgender is just as important if not more important than being a man. There is a part of the population of transgender men who identify as men who are different from non-trans men in critical ways, and they often use the term “transman” as a way to show that.
Language is murky, but that is what I meant. Not everyone uses the language this way, certainly. And also I am not saying that by not using the term transman I don’t acknowledge that I am trans, I’m just saying that it doesn’t really have that much to do with who I am and certainly doesn’t have more to do with who I am than being a man does. Hope that makes some sense.
I’m 23. On Monday I start what I am considering my first “real” job. I’m in a union, have been talking to HR, have a dress code, will eventually have benefits, and even have a commute. I just bought my first car. I had a car in high school, but my parents bought and maintained it. Now, the car I’ve just bought is nothing fancy and won’t last me more than a few years, but I own it. I have two insurance policies, my apartment’s utilities are in my name, and I’m probably going to sign my first year-long lease at the end of the summer.
I write all this to suggest that I am truly turning the corner and heading toward adulthood. I’ll go to graduate school in a year, and within the decade I will likely be on a steady career path, have a long-term relationship, and be thinking about starting a family.
I feel like we train all our pre-adult lives for these things (jobs, weddings, family, dress codes, etc.). We play house and dress-up, we watch movies and TV shows about adults, and we study our parents and family. Most of us, whether we know it or not, are observing our parents and taking note of how they do things - what makes them successful, what makes them unsuccessful. And a lot of our aspirations are based on what we see (i.e. I want to do it like my mom did or I want to be as different from my mom as possible). And because we live in a society where gender matters a lot, we tend to align our aspirations (or anti-aspirations) with the parent(s) that matches our gender.
When I first came out as trans and knew I was going to be living as a man for the rest of my life, I sort of panicked, thinking I didn’t know how to do it. I was worried that I was 21 years behind the rest of the male gender in figuring out what it meant to be an adult man.
But as I transitioned and grew up, graduated from college, etc., etc., I realized that without realizing it, I had been studying my father my whole life. And I think I am incredibly fortunate that I have him and have had him as role model. I aspire to be (in most ways) the kind of man he is, and particularly, the kind of father.
(reposted from Huffington Post)
In my last post, I highlighted an amazing dad who supports his transgender teen daughter. Sadly, parental support is not common. Few parents have heard about transgender issues, and some react so strongly to their child’s gender nonconformity that they force their child to leave home.
I’ve wanted to know more about what life is like for these rejected children, and so I finally cracked open my copy of Cris Beam’sTransparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers. It’s an eye-opening peek at an experience quite different from my own.
Beam met over 50 transsexual kids during the five years she worked at a small high school for gay and transgender teenagers in Los Angeles. The kids “came from as far away as Alabama…and even Hawaii.” She says, “many had been kicked out when their parents caught them (their sons!) trying on a dress in the bathroom or stashing stilettos in a schoolbag.” Beam describes how one of the transsexual women she connected with, Christina, was treated by her mother:
Gloria was starting to notice her son’s femmy touches…and she wasn’t having it. She thought her son was probably gay, which, for her, was a black mark upon the family, an indictment of her already-questionable parenting. She told Christina she wished she (Christina) would just die of AIDS if she was going to act this way; she called her “whore,” “puta,” “slut,” and, in their nastier fights, would throw her out, once even changing the locks. Later I would learn that Christina attended five junior high schools in the span of two years as she shuttled between foster care and homelessness and her mother’s house.
Gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation, but parents often conflate the two. Beam tells another story — the one of Nina:
Nina’s mother cried and cried and said wasn’t there something they could work out? Maybe Nina could just dress up on weekends and leave late at night, when the neighbors wouldn’t see? Maybe they could work together to hide Nina’s girl things from the mother’s new live-in boyfriend, who wouldn’t tolerate girlie dress-up? This new boyfriend had a decent heart, her mother said, and he paid half the rent so, Dios mio, the boyfriend had to stay. The boyfriend helped Nina’s mother afford her youngest son’s good Catholic school. Everybody has to sacrifice something in this life, and wasn’t there a compromise, wasn’t there a way?
Nina told her mother no and gently hung up the phone. For Nina, then 16, prostitution was easier.
Of course, not everyone Beam met had been thrown out by parents. Dominque’s mom had been a crack addict since her birth, leaving Dominque to forage for her siblings with little support. Lenora was abandoned by her mother at birth and raised by her loving grandparents in Mexico, but when they felt she could have a better life in the United States, they let her go into the foster care system in the U.S.
But regardless of background, these students were all experiencing the same life. Beam says all knew where to:
… find girls trading secrets about how to shoot-up black-market hormones purchased from the swap meets in East L.A.,…find out about ‘pumping parties’ where a former veterinarian or a “surgeon’s wife” from Florida will shoot free-floating industrial grade silicone into hips, butts, breast, knees — even cheeks and foreheads … and learn which dance clubs let in underage kids and have go-go boxes for dancing.
Beam’s insight into these lives helps explain one of the key findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on Health and Health Care:
Respondents reported over four times the national average of HIV infection, 2.64 percent in our sample compared to 0.6 percent in the general population, with rates for transgender women at 3.76 percent, and with those who are unemployed (4.67 percent) or who have engaged in sex work (15.32 percent) even higher.
Unfortunately, resources remain scarce for loving parents who have chosen to take a new course and support their transgender child. One of my favorites is The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals by Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper.
But at 200 pages, it can be a lot for a newly understanding parent to digest. Fortunately there is a new option — Helping Your Transgender Teen — A Guide for Parents by Irwin Krieger, a clinical social worker with years of experience. Krieger’s style is gentle and accessible, yet it covers all of the basics. The best part is that, at 86 pages, it’s the perfect intro for parents wanting to go where few parents have gone before — support their transgender child.
Follow Joanne Herman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joanneherman
Bay Windows - Pass This Bill (re: Massachusetts’ Transgender Equal Rights Bill, for which lawmakers are hearing a number of testimonies today)
IN FACT, discrimination against trans people COSTS Massacusetts millions of dollars each year (source).
Thanks for the heads up - can’t believe I missed this. It’s major! And thank you for being a part of the effort to change this Sally