Invisibility part two

Yesterday I posted the story of a transgender person and the sort of stories many of us non-trans people do not hear about employment concerns of transgender individuals.

In her homily about “how transgender lives are mostly invisible to the community around us,” Shannon shares the story of the indignities a transgender woman suffered at the hands of medical professionals.

Medical treatment can be a big problem for trans folk. I had just moved to a different area and needed to find a new primary care physician. I found a particular pattern to the interactions with a new doctor. First you would make an appointment with a new doctor. Then you would go to the first appointment. When you were taken back into the exam rooms, the nurse would get your vitals while chit chatting and then the doctor would come in sit down on a stool next to you while the nurse finished the blood pressure or some such.

At some point the doctor would always get to THE QUESTION. The question….when was your last period? At this point you have a choice: lie….or tell the truth. If you try to skirt the issue, they follow up with more questions. I just tell the truth. At that point, the doctor or nurse or both move to the opposite side of the room. They pull back away from you.

After that, the questions if there are any more, are curt and not friendly any more. Then comes the inevitable question about your sexual activity and if you would like them to perform an HIV test. What’s that you say? You’re doctor doesn’t always ask you if you want to be tested for AIDS?

Welcome to our world. Their goal from that point on seems to be just to get you out of their offices as quickly and with as little interaction as possible….well that is for the ones that will treat you. There are always those that tell you that they don’t approve of your “lifestyle,” that they cannot treat you, and they think it would be better if you find another doctor.

Of course, that is just the ones that will actually see you. Another incident was just after I had come home after having my surgery. I needed to find a gynecologist and I started calling around to find recommendations. One of my other doctors recommended the local university women’s medical center.

Upon calling them and explaining that I needed to see a gynecologist, I was asked a number of questions about why I needed to see a gynecologist. I answered that I was transsexual and needed post-surgical treatment related to healing of my wounds. I was told that I should go back to wherever it was that did the surgery where they treat people like me, at which point she hung up on me.

This post has 7 Comments

  1. Whittier on March 4, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    That’s why I call it the Hypocritical Oath.

  2. p2son on March 4, 2009 at 3:27 pm

    Whittier, indeed!

  3. Kelli Busey on March 5, 2009 at 9:27 am

    In my early years (70’s) of transition finding a qualified therapist or medical doctor who was not out to $calp transgender people was nearly impossible.
    I ended up moving 1,200 miles to find a community where I could begin transition. Even then there were piranhas lurking.
    Medical care, buyers beware!

  4. mary ann petersen on March 9, 2009 at 3:32 am

    To all trans people (oh and gay and lesbian and bi too!) check out It is the website for the gay and lesbian medical association. I attended this wonderful conference last October in Seattle.
    The website provides a list of providers who are glbt and sensitive to glbt patients. The conference had many meetings specifically on trans care.
    Trans people do not have to put up with this.

  5. p2son on March 9, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    mary ann peterson, thank you for sharing this resource!

  6. Cameron on March 10, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Thanks for that piece, Peterson,



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