The Queer Body and Healthcare

By , March 27, 2012 11:09 pm

As a child, I would fantasize about not being trans. Not that I’d fantasize about “really” being a boy. Rather, I’d imagine what life would be like if I were “really” a girl. I dreamed about developing along with the other girls, growing breasts and body hair and geting my first period. About sleepovers and braiding hair and bikes with streamers on the handles. I didn’t imagine a wholly different life, in a different city or with different parents, simply the proper life; the life I should have had. The life I deserved. Too much normality is boring, but I was dying to feel a bit more like everyone else.

I’ve revisited this question from time to time: Would I wish to not be trans, if given the opportunity? I wrote a story about that question last year. I should try and expand that story, since I sort of dodged the actual question. Because the short answer is, I don’t know. If our lives consist of diverging possibilities, the roads not taken, every day takes me further down the road of being trans. Put another way, every day makes my identity as a trans woman a bit more concrete, a bit less theoretical something to consider for “the future.” The future is here, I’m considering The Surgery. Being not-trans, a cis woman, might make my life prior to transitioning more enjoyable, but it would effectively reshape my life since I began to transition into something unrecognizable.

The question becomes simpler when dealing with healthcare. I would love to be cis when it comes to dealing with doctors and the medical profession. Every time I go to a new doctor, I get asked the same questions: When was the last time you were on your period? Is there any possibility you could be pregnant? Over and over. Most recently, when I had my gallbladder removed, I saw how pervasive gendered assumptions are within the healthcare community. It would have been blissfully simple to give them the answers they were expecting, and not have to reassert my identity every time a new doctor came into the room. Fortunately, none of the doctors were bigoted or gave me any problems, but the possibility was always there, lingering as a fear in the back of my mind.

Last Monday I visited Dr Bowers south of San Francisco. She’s one of the surgeons I’m looking at for gender reassignment surgery, and the first of my top three (Bowers, McGinn, and Brassard) that I’ve had a chance to meet in person. The experience was positive, and primarily for me to get a feel of her personality, but also somewhat surreal. I was sitting in a doctor’s office, with my mom, discussing the possibility of this woman cutting open my penis, removing the spongey tissue, and using the remaining flesh, blood, and nerves to make a vagina. One that I would need to continue regularly dialating for the rest of my life, lest by body decide “Whoops! That shouldn’t be there” and close back up on itself.

So all of my thoughts about healthcare and the queer body are filtered specifically through the lens healthcare and the trans body. I don’t pretend trans people are the only ones who have issues with doctors. (I know lots of lesbians who are sick of being asked “How can be positive your’e not pregnant if you’re sexually active?” Umm, because they’re not sleeping with anyone who produces sperm? Get out of your heteronormative assumptions. )

I keep thinking about this, and keep not coming to any conclusions.

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