Doctors, Healthcare Givers and Transsexuals: Discrimination Happens Part Two
The first time I visited my endocrinologist he took what seemed to be a gallon of blood. He ordered more kinds of blood test than I ever imagined existed. About a week later I got a call from one of his nurses. They wanted me to see my internalist. They were worried about two of the test results. My cholesterol level was slightly high and the results of the test for prostate cancer were troubling.
I called my doctor and made an appointment. I had yet to tell him what was going on in my life. (I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I only saw him once a year. He would give me the once over and write a prescription for a year’s worth of my hypertension medicine.)
Let me tell you a little about Dr. H. He had been both my personal doctor and my family’s doctor for 20 years. He knew me when I was a graduate student. He knew me when I was starting my career. He knew me when I got married. He knew me when I got divorced and moved back in with my parents. He was there with me through both of my parents’ final illnesses and subsequent deaths.
Dr. H often said that he considered me a friend. When I turned 40 and my divorce became final I celebrated by buying a very expensive European sports car. (Everyone at work said I was having a mid-life crisis. The truth of the matter was it was a last desperate attempt to deny the fact that I was Transgendered. “I’m a successful 40-year old male business executive and they drive around in these things, damn it!”)
When I told Dr. H. he got all excited. He had to go out into the parking lot and look at it. (I even ended up taking him for a ride around the block!)
I considered him a sort of real life Marcus Welby MD, so I thought he would be understanding and sympathetic about this. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
When he came into the examining room he greeted me as always. When he asked the reason for my visit, I took a deep breath and told him about this enormous thing that was happening in my life.
At first he was very professional and addressed the medical issues that had brought me there. He reviewed my file, brought out the results of the blood test he had ordered for me three months before. He explained that the endocrinologist had done a combined cholesterol test on me. He hadn’t asked to have the score broken down into good and bad cholesterol. (Turns out my good cholesterol is off the scale and that’s a very good thing.) As far as prostate result, he said there was no way that could change that fast. It had to be a lab error. So he ordered another blood test for me. (He was right.)
That done, he looked at me for a moment and then said: “I don’t mean to be judgmental or seem to be preaching to you, but do you know what the suicide rate is among people who have that operation?” (And, of course, the tone of voice was judgmental and he did sound like he was preaching.)
I was stunned. I just looked at him for a moment.
Finally, I said: “what are you talking about? I would think the more dangerous course of action would be to do nothing. If I did nothing, that’s when I could conceivably imagine one day finding myself in such a dark place.”
He just looked down his nose at me and said: “I’ll make sure I forward the results to that other doctor.” That was it. Examination over.
I left there shaken and thinking that it was time to find a new doctor.
Then I procrastinated. There was so much happening with my transition. There were so many things to do all at the same time. Then, all of a sudden, I realized I was on my last refill for my hypertension medicine.
I didn’t have a choice. I had to go back to see Dr. H. It was creepy. It was one of the most disturbing things that ever happened to me.
I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable, so I dressed like Craig. (After all, they had never met Ashley.)
It started when I walked into the waiting room and signed in. The two office staff didn’t say a word to me. They just stared. I could imagine what they were thinking and it wasn’t good.
When Dr. H. walked into the examination room, he didn’t say hello. He didn’t shake my hand. He just started the examination. Then I noticed he was wearing latex gloves. (He never wore latex gloves for routine examinations.)
He didn’t want to be in the same room with me. He didn’t want to touch me. Normally he would take my pulse by touching either my wrist or my neck. He did neither. When he listened to my heart he normally rested the stethoscope on the bare skin of my upper chest just inside the collar of my shirt. He didn’t do that. (He rested it right on the fabric of my shirt.)
When he was finished he wrote the prescription, handed it to me and said: “we’re finished and I’m outta here.” He left the room and that was the last time I saw him.
Interesting, he detests the Transgendered, but he’s not above billing a Transgendered person’s health insurance. (That is so morally bankrupt.)
Don’t put money into these doctor’s pockets.
Find a GBLTQ friendly clinic in your area. (I use one: the Mazzoni Center for LGBT Health and Well-Being.)
I know that these clinics are often seen as being primarily for people who have no health insurance and can’t afford anything else. What I want to say to people who have health insurance is this: consider using one of these clinics for your primary care. You, the people with the health insurance, are the ones who make it possible for these clinics to stay in business. When they treat you they get a reimbursement that’s actually in the ballpark of what the care costs them.
You will also be among friends. They are staffed by doctors and healthcare workers who are just like us. They are sympathetic. They understand the unique medical issues the Transgendered face. (A great many healthcare workers don’t. They don’t spend much time, if any, on us in medical school.)
In short, you will get the proper care you need and you will receive it from friends and allies.
We need to support these clinics and encourage the establishment of more of them. It’s one of the many things we need to do so that the Transgendered can finally come out of the shadows and take our fair and rightful place in mainstream society.
Don’t be afraid to stand up for us.
Photo credit: stock.xchng.