Not many people deal with a physical change as big as gender transition. Jess Jones opens up about dealing with doctors when you go from being an average curvy woman to a short skinny man.
Among the worst experiences I’ve had accessing healthcare as a trans person was the time a doctor wanted to look at my genitals for no reason but curiosity.
I’d been in the emergency room with stomach pain so bad they couldn’t give me enough morphine to relieve it.
I was out of my mind with pain and drugs, and when the doctor indicated my pants to ask if he could “just have a look there” I agreed, thinking he was going to examine my lower abdomen.
Instead he looked in my underwear, and remarked that I had “had a reassignment”.
I’d had no such thing, not that it was any of his concern. I was humiliated and forced to explain that I was a trans man, not a trans woman. Being mid-transition meant I looked androgynous and had to explain this constantly.
The letter sent back to my GP referred to me as a transgender ‘man’, complete with scare quotes. I’d never been so angry.
Another time, a nurse asked me if I was a man or a woman. I suggested having a look at my chart for the answer. She later apologised, admitting also that it should be obvious given my beard.
I’ve struggled with body image throughout transition, impatient for my body to catch up with the mental image I have for myself. I was too short, too curvy, eyebrows too thin, hands too small.
Earlier in my transition, when I still looked rather feminine, I had a mastectomy. The very first thing I heard when I woke up was nurses calling me ‘she’. It continued throughout my stay, but to their credit the hospital instituted trans awareness training in response to my formal complaint.
Being mistaken for a trans woman has only recently stopped. I’ve finally come out the other side of androgyny and people recognise me as a small man with a scraggly beard and a receding hairline.
I still worry about how masculine I look. I’m short, and there’s not much I can do about that. I’d like to be hairier, more muscular. The body hair will come in time; I’ll need to go to the gym more often for the muscles. Hormones are a nice helping hand but they don’t do all the proverbial heavy lifting.
I try to conceal being trans when I can in my daily life. While it’s nothing to be ashamed of, I like just getting on with my day and being treated like a normal guy.
My regular GP knows I’m trans, of course, and unfortunately it’s now on my records at the public hospital, so I can look forward to being asked about my genitals again next time I’m there.
Now that I’m generally read as male, the worst of the treatment by medical staff seems to have passed. It’s a tremendous relief, because that was part of a horrible tapestry of microaggressions that chipped away at my confidence and made me question whether I looked male enough, all the time.
My latest interaction with a new doctor was a few weeks ago when I had to have a pelvic ultrasound (all normal, thanks for asking).
The imaging technician was kind enough not to say anything, and the report to my GP merely noted the absence of a prostate and the brief comment ‘patient is transgender’.
I’ll never get to forget that I’m trans, and it will always come into how I see my body.
It’s such a relief, though, to be more or less at the end of transition and be able to just think of myself as a guy, at least some of the time.