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Jun05

Not all posts are happy posts . .

Tuesday, 05 June 2012 Categories // Health, Sexual Health, Sex and Sexuality

Wes Austin shares “I feel like I have no face-to-face support system who truly understands what kind of an undertaking transition really is.”

I wanted to write a post that was light, and humorous and full of good cheer.  I was looking forward to highlighting some of the awesome things that have been happening recently. I planned to get my post in on time. I had the best of intentions and, as most things built with only intentions, they have failed miserably. Instead, I’d like to tell you about the last couple of weeks and how it’s affected me. 

Two weeks ago, I headed down to see my cardiologist in Hamilton. I was born with a congenital heart defect and, although it’s repaired and I’m more or less stable, as a result I head down to a special clinic at least once a year for a bunch of tests and a chat with my specialist.  The catch this year is, I had a new specialist.

After my last visit, about a year ago, I made a decision to fire the doctor I’d been with for nearly a decade. When I came out as trans to her about 3 years ago she pretty much pitched a fit. She was vehemently opposed to me taking testosterone and, in fact, badgered my endocrinologist (a man who is more than qualified to balance my transition with my cardiac status) about his choice to prescribe me hormones. At my visit last year, she had a student with her and, with me still in the room, repeatedly referred to me with female pronouns and using my legal name.  All this despite having been asked to use male pronouns and to call me Wes or Wesley. I spoke to her nurse practitioner about her reprehensible behaviour and was delighted to hear that there was another doctor in the clinic I could see. As you may imagine, I fired her and signed up to see the new doc. This was my first visit with him.

What a visit it was. As part of my yearly check-up, I have to go for a bunch of test, which means interacting with all sorts of different staff members.  Some of them do their level best to get the names and pronouns straight and I’m happy to cut them slack. Honestly, I can tell the difference between not caring and making an error. The former irritates me to no end, the latter is corrected with grace and a laughing smile. This year I had a new tech for my echocardiogram (a heart ultrasound). We’d never met before and so had no history to work with. I introduced myself as Wes and she left me to get undressed. She came back about 5 minutes later and promptly called me by my legal name. With a very, very sharp tone of voice, I corrected her and lay down on the table.  I was hurt and angry. In that very brief moment, I realized she hadn’t even been listening to what I’d said in the first place. I truly was just another ultrasound for her to perform.  This was the pattern for the remainder of the day, some folks remembered and tried, some folks didn’t even care.

Then it was time to see the doctor himself. I went to register and was informed in a very pointed way (after asking to be called Wes) that if it wasn’t on my chart, it wasn’t going to be used. Folks, if it weren’t for the fact I wanted meet the new doctor at least once, I would have walked out right there.  Fortunately the nurse practitioner (this woman is a godsend, let me tell you) stepped up and ushered me in post haste. Turns out, they’d actually been waiting for me to arrive.

And the very first words out of the new doc’s mouth? “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mr. Austin” I was pleased as punch that the doctor got it right on the very first try. As we chatted, we reviewed some of his concerns about my upcoming surgery. He was very clear in telling me that although my surgery is technically an elective procedure, he understood that it is a very necessary step for me to take and he wanted to support me as fully and safely as he could. This was the reason I decided to take his advice and postpone my surgery. The surgery I’d been waiting months for, was excited and terrified about has now been postponed for an unknown length of time.

I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until this week. This was supposed to be my last week to get things done in preparation for being out of commission for a few weeks. Instead, I’ve spent this week unreasonably irritated and downright angry. What normally would be a bunch of small things that would roll off my back have instead simply left me feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope. I had to take my top off earlier this week in order to have yet another cardiac test performed, I was she’d as a result. Later that same day someone verbally attacked me, in what should have been a safe space. All because I asked someone to use ‘I’ statements to clarify who they were speaking about. Physically I’ve been in an enormous boatload of pain this week dealing with a shoulder that left me barely able to lift my right arm. Many little things piled up and I just can’t seem to cope. My urge to drown myself in alcohol (a very ineffective coping mechanism) has been strong and I’m thankful I’ve gotten good at just sitting and letting it pass.

I feel like this journey, this path I have to walk, is never-ending. I’m afraid that every time I get close to one of the goals I’ve set, something will happen to set it back yet again. Part of me wonders if I’m unconsciously orchestrating all these obstacles myself. I feel like I have no face-to-face support system who truly understands what kind of an undertaking transition really is. Mostly, I’m afraid I won’t have the strength to get there.

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