Getting healthcare as a trans person is goddamn difficult. I avoid doctors to my own detriment because it’s so unpleasant. I get caught in health insurance hell as various agencies attempt to determine my sex and thereby decide what healthcare I deserve. I’m one of the lucky ones–indignities aside, I always get the healthcare I need.
Through the ups and downs of appointments and procedures, a few dedicated people have gone out of their way to show me respect, advocate for my rights, and deliver the care I need. Where would I be without lesbian doctors?
- My step-mom, who prescribes me antibiotics in a pinch, who referred me to the doctor who prescribes my testosterone, who is one of the few doctors in her city who treats trans patients.
- My primary care doctor, who prescribes my testosterone, who takes a genuine interest in my wellbeing, who makes pelvic exams bearable, who uses the right words for my body, who goes out of her way to help queer patients.
- The surgeon I’m consulting with for my hysterectomy, who is happy to see transsexual men in her gynecological practice, whose staff is highly informed and respectful.
- The doctor who takes care of billing for the surgeon, who is also her partner, who personally called my insurance company and insisted they come up with a real solution for trans patients, who is arranging to give me a discount on my consultation so I can afford it without insurance.
All four of these professionals are lesbians who make a point of being allies to other queer people, a commitment they’ve discussed frankly with me. I’ve never a bad experience with a lesbian doctor–and as you can tell, I’ve seen quite a few–nor have I ever had a doctor of a different identity go above and beyond the call of duty like this. (Never had any other queer doctors, as far as I know.) I was referred to each doctor by another on the list, so it’s really my local lesbian doctor community that has done so much for me.
Thank you, thank you, lesbian doctors, for your life-saving solidarity.
Will LGBT people always need to come out? This question reverberated in my mind as I reflected on the steady pace of progress on LGBT issues in the US in recent years. Like so many issues that affect our community, I see a big difference between LGB on the one hand and T on the other.
Alma and I were recently discussing the amazing shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage we’ve seen just in the last decade. We made friends through youth activism, a lot of it centered around marriage equality. Every legislative session, we swarmed the state capitol, asking our representatives to vote “No” on proposed DOMAs and “Yes” on domestic partnership bills. We thought we would see marriage equality in our lifetimes–but we didn’t think it would arrive so soon, or so decisively.
This year, marriage equality came to our state. I shed a few tears watching the first same-sex marriages performed in my county, a ceremony in English, Spanish and Hebrew. What will it be like for kids who grow up in a marriage equality world?
The gap between my generation and my parents’ is massive. When they were growing up, coming out young meant one’s early twenties. In contrast, many people my age (mid-twenties) came out in high school or even middle school. Realizing you’re gay at 25 seems surprisingly late to me. No disrespect meant to those who come out later in life; it’s just a cultural norm. The point is that in some spheres, “early” and “late” have completely shifted in just a couple of decades.
This means that “coming out” for young LGB folks can have a completely different meaning from earlier times. For example, my mom, who is in her fifties, sensed she was a lesbian from a young age. But she had no words and no role models. She married my dad, and ended up coming out in her late thirties. For her, “coming out” meant letting go of a false self she’d presented to the world for many years. Of course, many in her generation came out at a younger age and never entered a different-sex marriage, such as my step-mom. Still, the phrase “coming out of the closet” surely suggest a sojourn in a narrow place of hiding, shame, and restriction.
But what is coming out for the person who is able to say “I’m gay” (or whatever) at age 14? Many of these people will move smoothly from childhood to adolescence to adulthood without ever presenting a false straight self. They will have their first kiss, first date, and first marriage with a person they are actually attracted to.
So I wonder whether in the next generation, “coming out” will have the same resonance for LGB people. More and more individuals may have the chance to simply “come in” to their selves, without no detainment in the closet.
But what about trans people? Acceptance and awareness of our lives are on the rise, too. The Time piece on Laverne Cox seems to suggest a new level of mainstream affirmation. Yet it seems certain that for the foreseeable future, trans people will always have to come out.
Ascribing sexual orientation to a child is different than ascribing gender. I think more parents will be willing to wait and see who their child loves. But how many will be willing to wait and see who their child is?
I am not advocating gender-neutral childhoods. Many of us wish we’d had the chance to grow up as a boy or girl–why deny that to others? The fact is that for the vast majority, sex assignment works.
So there may be no getting around it. In cultures that have a deep and wise appreciation of gender variance, trans kids may be sensed by the community, and may not need to come out. But in this country, I believe we will always need to announce ourselves. We will do it younger and younger, til many come out as children and young teens. We will do it to greater and greater acceptance, til rejection by one’s family becomes rare. But I do not think there will come a day when being trans doesn’t come as a surprise. Maybe someday they’ll have a test to diagnose us, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. They’ll probably try to exterminate us if they do.
Because the shackles of assigned gender will always confine us, we will always know the narrow place of the closet, even if we only know it for a few youthful years. Because no one is going to find our genders for us, we will always walk a crooked path, a path that forever remains less traveled. We are rare birds. Twenty-five years from now, trans kids may be less different–but we will always be different.
That’s my guess, anyway. What do you think? Feel free to speculate about identities I did not address.
The opposite of LGBT is not straight. The opposite of LGBT is not heterosexual. Sexual orientation is not the topic raised when we talk about people being LGBT.
I cannot count the number of times I have heard or read people use “LGBT” in one breath and “sexual orientation” in the next, completely conflating them. I cannot count the number of times I have heard or read phrases like, “Compared to their heterosexual peers, LGBT youth…” and “LGBT people are more likely than heterosexuals to…” Same goes, over course, for all the aconymous variations–LGBTQQIA, etc.
I appreciate that people are trying to be inclusive. I’m glad that LGBT is now the politically correct term. But unthinking inclusion is meaningless. What is the point of tacking on the “T” if you’re still going to talk only about gay and lesbian (and maybe, occasionally, bi) people? LGBT refers to marginalized sexual orientations and gender identities. The opposite of LGBT is straight and cisgender. I don’t buy for a second that this is purely a question of semantics. It is no coincidence that trans people are both linguistically elided and extremely marginalized, often even within LGBT organizations.
The T stands for transgender/transsexual. Transgender is not a sexual orientation. LGBT is not a synonym for gay.
I had just paid for two full pints and was headed back to where my friends were sitting. As I turned around, I found myself directly in front of a couple, two short-haired women with tattoos and gauged ears. I gave them my biggest tipsy grin.
The women responded with a barely perceptible look of disgusted surprise and instantly turned away, pretending they hadn’t seen me. I was left holding my beers in complete confusion. These two had to be the meanest lesbians I ever met!
Shuffling back to my table, I realized what had happened. While I had seen them and thought we were members of a common tribe, they had looked back and seen some drunk dude with really horrible gaydar, presumably hoping to chat them up.
This was about a year into my transition, right around the time I started being read as male with complete consistency. It was time to say goodbye to the lesbian smile and the lesbian nod, like I’d said goodbye already to lesbian identity.
I still sometimes give a queer nod or smile–when I see a butch with a badass pompadour, when I see a gay or lesbian couple in love. I’ve learned to pick the time, place and manner so that I don’t bother people. They respond pretty well, though they often look a little confused, like they’re trying to figure out if I’m just a really cool straight dude, or maybe thinking, That guy’s gay? Really? I doubt that they ever suspect the truth.
These days I’ve also learned to give women a very different kind of smile, what Alma rather glibly calls the “I’m not gonna rape you” smile. This is the distinctive closed-mouth, eyes-averted, head-down grin a man gives a woman in strange situations, such as being the only two people walking on a street at night, that’s meant to say, I am totally not a threat to you. The body language is exactly like a submissive dog, leaning way, hunching down to look a little smaller.
This gesture is second nature to me now. I do it without thinking, moving to give female passersby a little extra space. I hurry past them on my way, because I hate getting stuck ten feet behind a woman who walks the exact same speed as me, who keeps turning the tiniest bit, trying to look at me without showing it, obviously extremely uncomfortable. I can’t say anything in these moments–anything I could possibly say would only make it worse. All I can do is make a wide parabola around her, smiling with my head down, hoping she can tell that I just really want to get home.