Well, it’s what I’ve been wanting for months – the magic ticket that will hopefully convince an endocrinologist that I’m eligible for testosterone therapy. It’s what us transfolk need to be able to proceed with physical modifications to our bodies – a letter from a psychologist or sexologist confirming that we are transsexual, or “afflicted” with “gender identity disorder.”
Back when I made my decision to physically transition and I started joining online communities for support and information, I quickly learned that “the letter” is a highly coveted item in trans circles. People on LiveJournal FTM communities or other online groups despair about how long it will take them to convince their therapist to write them one. People exchange tips on how to make sure they are in enough despair over their ascribed sex/gender to warrant hormone theraphy without appearing SO distraught that they come across as mentally unstable. People complain about therapists who “jerk them around” for months before giving them their prize.
When I chose to undergo the process, I decided to not worry about it too much. I didn’t want to deal with these kinds of frustrations so I figured I would just find someone who seemed decent (ie. not condescending or pathologising), be honest with myself and with him (I was specifically looking for a guy) and, if that didn’t seem to be fruitful (ie. if I was feeling disrespected and unheard), I would look again. My approach worked: I found a good guy who gets me. And voilà – three months later, I got “the letter.”
Honestly, it’s a weird feeling. On one hand, I know that this one person took me seriously and understands that my desire to transition is “legitimate”, or at least as legitimate and anyone’s reasons can be. On the other hand, as he acknowledges himself, it’s a bit of a condescending process to have to go through to get someone’s “permission” to transition and to have to be “diagnosed” with a disorder. Although I knew that it was going to be that way, and although I thought I was mentally prepared to see something like that in writing, it still came as a shock. To see yourself described as meeting criteria for diagnosis of a disorder is quite a bit jarring, to say the least. It’s a painful reminder that we live in a society that views gender variance as an anomaly rather than simply a grade in a wide spectrum of ways of being; something to be cured rather than celebrated.
I know that I don’t have a “disorder.” I’m pretty sure he knows it too. And I know that those of us in this safe and relatively friendly little bubble of trans/queer folks know it. Nevertheless, the social structure within which we are located negates this knowledge and delegitimises it by the very nature of the process whereby which some of us choose to be ourselves.
So, yeah . . . seeing that in print leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth and a really gross feeling in the pit of my stomach.
If physical transition and all of its related processes form a rite of passage, then “the letter” marks a stage in this rite of passage, an entry into a kind of limbo period, or liminal state, while I wait until my appointment with the endocrinologist to see if *he* will take it seriously. Unlike most rites of passage that exist in the world, though, I *chose* to put myself through it. Today, for about 45 seconds, I imagined what it would be like if I changed my mind at this point. It would be easy. I could simply burn or shred both copies of the letter (the sealed one and the one my psychologist provided for me to read), cancel my appointment with the endo, cancel my next appointment with the psych and never go back. Then I could ask all my friends, family and acquaintances to go back to calling me by my female name and, as quickly as they have all adapted to calling me Jacky, they would re-adapt and, in a few years, they will have nearly forgotten.
Would I do this? No. While I’m not at an actual point of no return, I’m at a point where I’m sure of what I’m doing and have no inclination to stop moving forward on this. Am I scared? Of course. Who wouldn’t be. If nothing else, going through these formalities underscores the magnitude of what I’m doing. And certainly, seeing in print, in someone else’s words, something that locates me in a category of people that is considered by the medical establishment as a discrete group of people with “special medical needs” does nothing to soothe this malaise.
All that being said . . . I’m fucking happy this is all happening with relatively little hassle and that I have not (yet) had to face judgement, criticism or assessments that I’m not REALLY transsexual. As the beautiful and wise Lazlo Pearlman said recently after a screening of his film: “Unhung Heroes” in Montreal, if you respect yourself, others will respect you. That formula seems to be working so far.