To celebrate IDAHO 2012, Polari Magazine is publishing stories from its writers about their experiences of homophobia and transphobia. Some tales are funny, some are shocking and some are sad.
In this moving story, T Form’s Emma Bailey writes about a visit to the Doctor’s in which she was treated like a thing and not a person.
Visiting a GP shouldn’t be an experience we should fear. GPs are a cornerstone of our local communities, people we should be able to approach with any problem, whether that be because we have an allergy, a newly discovered lump in a private area, or the fact we may be suffering depression and anxiety through every day interactions or situations in life.
They should be a safe haven and not the actual source of such anxiety and depression, which is unfortunately the situation I found myself in a couple of years ago.
Transition for me was something I feared hugely when I was considering coming out, which was then exacerbated when I did come out because of my parents’ reaction to my telling them; so I was already less than comfortable with myself when I started my RLE (Real Life Experience).
For those who are not aware, RLE is a two year period when transsexual individuals aiming for medical help with their condition, must first live in their identified role; proving in essence that we’re serious about what we’re undertaking in transition. This can be a time fraught with abuse, violence, harassment, lack of opportunity and depression.
I attended my GP surgery because there was a form for me to sign, which should have been sorted out without any reference to my actual identity. After fiddling about with paperwork for a short time, my doctor sat back in his chair and said “So, WHAT exactly are you then?” I was stunned and asked him what he meant, thinking he couldn’t be seriously asking me ‘what’ I was! He asked me “Had I had a sex change?”. I told him no, but I was going through transition. He then asked me, “What to, male or female?”. Even more stunned as I was in a floor length skirt, a low top and a cleavage, my hair up, make-up, knee high boots with a handbag, I just said female!
His reply was, “oh right well there’s all sorts isn’t there these days!”. I missed the very last bit because I was shaking by then. He just gave me my prescription and told me to go to the pharmacy and pointed out of the room. I went to the pharmacy and handed in my prescription, but I was so upset. I stood back up and asked how to complain, was there a complaint form I could complete? The lovely receptionist called through the practice manager and she took me down the hall to have a chat.
By the time I got there I was in tears and I was literally sobbing for about 15 minutes while I tried to explain to her what had just happened. I even apologised to her for taking up her time! I couldn’t speak for the first few moments as I was crying so much. I was embarrassed, shocked, shaking and just gutted that he’d said that and managed to invalidate me in such a small space of time.
A natural consequence of this was that I recoiled somewhat into my shell and although I still carried on with my RLE, I would try and find excuses to not see a doctor, or not need bread from the shop or not need to see my friends and it took a long time to get over that, because if someone in such a trusted position could be so ignorant, then really, so could anyone.
I did recover and now spend my time trying to make sure that instances like this become less and less common, which was easier once I realised that the problem wasn’t mine, but his. Whether a lack of education, social ignorance or simple prejudice contributed to his attitude, I’ll never know, but the simple facts are that the issue was his own.
We should never be ashamed of our identities. We have plenty to give to society and should be proud of that as the individuals we are. Please don’t let anyone else ever make you feel any different.