Wow, has it really been four months? Feels like only a week.
It didn’t back then, though. About a fortnight before my first interview, I started freaking the fuck out, overwhelmed by anxiety and uncertainty. I had no idea what to expect.
Well, that’s not true. I had some idea what to expect. The picture that had been painted was more than a little grim. The word ‘gatekeepers’ came up a lot in my research, and I’m not gonna lie, I was scared.
For the uninitiated, gatekeeper is a word used in some trans communities to describe the people who control access to things like hormone replacement and sex reassignment surgery. To quote The Matrix, they are guarding all the doors, they hold all the keys. And traditionally, they are less than generous with sharing access to these things. There’s a long and storied history of trans people being denied treatment for not being feminine/masculine enough, and of doctors trying to ‘fix’ them rather than help them.
My hopes were not exactly soaring.
Also, it wasn’t exactly easy to get there. My options were a 40 minute drive (and I don’t have a car) or public transport, which looked like this:
So we make our way down there, find the place, I let them know, we wait for a bit. They’re operating out of a converted house. The reception is in the kitchen. My confidence is not boosted.
I was wearing a skirt that day. I’m very rarely brave enough to wear anything obviously feminine in public; I feel like a target. I hate that I can’t wear the clothes that I want, when I want, but hey, that’s life in the trans lane. I don’t get to do a lot of what I want to do without fearing for my safety.
The doctor takes me into his office, and I sit down on his leather couch, and we talk. He lays out what I can expect over the course of the interviews, and assures me he wants to help me, not obstruct me. He tells me something like 98% of the people he sees end up getting what they want. It’s comforting, but I also don’t have the heart to tell him I think it’s bullshit we even need his permission to do what we want to our own bodies.
Over the course of five weeks, we talk about me. We discuss what gender means to me, and why it’s important. He asks about my life, the people in it, how I live and how I want to live. We talk about my family, and my history. He’s digging deep, trying to find familiar patterns and signs. I receive no feedback on whether or not I’m providing that. All I can do is be honest, so I am. Because I genuinely believe that it’s right for me, and he has no reason to deny me.
After the second session, he gives me a bunch of questionnaires to fill out. They’re full of garbage, terrible questions from an outdated form of thinking. A lot of it is heterocentric and sex-based. “Have you ever dated a man?” “Have you ever kissed a man?” “Have you ever been intimate with a man?” Some of it is fetishist. “Does wearing female underwear excite you?” “Do you dress in female underwear for sexual pleasure?” A lot of them talk about “the female role” and traditionally sexist assumptions. There are others, probing for signs of mental instability and depression. I answer honestly, biting my lip the whole time, and bring them back the next weeks.
He skims over them, tells me most of the questions are garbage anyway, he just wanted to see how I answered them. I feel relieved, and a little irritated. The last interview, he doesn’t ask me much. He wants to know what I want, what I’m looking for. He asks if I’ve considered the risks, not just physical, but social. Of course I have. I think about nothing else.
He lets me know what I can expect, including everything that won’t change, or might go wrong. I gladly accept all risks; nothing short of certain death would deter me from this. There are other questions, like if I’ve considered freezing sperm, and a referral to a vocal therapy clinic (who were supposed to call me but still haven’t). Then he lets me go, telling me he’ll send his report to a specific GP who deals with transgender patients. It’s the same GP my trans friend from OKCupid suggested. I briefly wonder if I could have skipped all this by going straight to him, but then I remember I still needed that psychiatric approval.
And that’s it. I have it. It hasn’t quite sunk in, because he never specifically said those words. He just talked as if it were decided, and even my skeptic, paranoid brain couldn’t deny that. I drive home in a daze, not really sure how to feel.
As soon as I got home, I called the doctor and made the earliest appointment I could. Another two weeks, because the psych needed time to write his report and send it off.
We’re nearly done with the approval process now. One more week of this, and then we can talk about what happens after. Are you excited? Come back next week, because I don’t stop for anything. Not even Christmas.
Of course, if the world ends by the end of the day, you can probably skip reading part 4. I’m sure you’ll have a lot more to worry about than this stupid blog.
What you should do is come back Christmas eve. I have something prepared for you.