Hot on the heels of my previous post about medical treatment of transsexuals, here is a letter I will be sending to a local medical clinic after some horrific treatment I received today. I have removed the name and address of the clinic to avoid any legal issues.
I would like to call to your attention an incident that occurred today at your clinic. Although this has been a unique occurrence in all my dealings with the medical profession since the beginning of my medical transition from female to male, I feel that attention needs to be drawn to it and preventative measures taken so that future trans people in my situation do not have to face the same thing.
As specified, I am a female-to-male (FTM) transsexual, meaning that I was born in a female body and am currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy to masculinise my body. Since I have been on hormones since May 2008, I have a significant amount of facial hair and a deeper voice, both of which contribute to my male appearance. My name has been legally changed to Jacky L. However, since the archaic Québec law concerning change of gender designation has it that one cannot have their gender marker changed until one has had some form of genital surgery, my official gender marker is still “F.” While this discordance frequently leads people to ask me questions for the sake of clarity, which is understandable, I have never been faced with humiliation and contempt the way I was today at the **** clinic.
At the request of my doctor, I went there for lung x-rays. I handed in my form and my health care card at the reception then waited for my turn. When the technician came out, he asked for “Mme. L.” The receptionist corrected him but he insisted that it was Mme since the paperwork indicated “female.” Unsure whether I had even heard the name correctly since there were other people in the waiting room before me and I wasn’t expecting to be called so soon, I asked whether he had said: “L.” Instead of responding to me, he simply reiterated that the paperwork said: “F.” He did so loudly and contemptuously. I approached quickly with the intention to clarify and hoping that, as most reasonable people would, he would take me into the back so that we could have a more private conversation. I initially said: “It’s because I’m a transsexual male.” Upon seeing that he had no intention to budge and that he merely stared at me, I added that I felt it was inappropriate that he kept being so loud so that everyone could hear. He proceeded to give me a deprecating speech that was loud enough so the other patients could hear about how he had to make sure whether the person was male or female to avoid fraud and that this is why he kept loudly saying that the records said: “F” even though there was clearly something different going on. He ended his speech with a patronizing and angry: “Do you understand what I’m telling you?”
What he failed to realise and acknowledge was that I was confronting him not on the fact that he was confused but on his lack of discretion and respect. As a trans person with ID that does not match my gender, I know that this is confusing to people. But whereas most professionals I’ve dealt with have handled the situation with respect, regardless of their own feelings about it, this man treated me first like a fraud, then like someone who was not worthy of human dignity.
I asked for my form back so that I could go to another clinic where I would be given the respect that I deserve. There was no way that I was going to be exposed to medical equipment at the hands of this person who showed only contempt for me, especially since this was a lung x-ray and would require me to remove my chest compressor with which I hide my female chest. He simply gave the form back to the receptionist without a word or a look my way.
All in all, this person acted in an extremely unprofessional manner. He acted as though his lab coat gave him authority over me. The receptionists seemed sympathetic to me but defended his actions by saying that he had not done it on purpose.
I’m not asking that you take any corrective actions toward this individual. If you hired him, I imagine that he must be worthy of the job you have given him to do. However, I would ask that you obtain sensitisation material on the proper treatment of transsexual and transgender patients and ensure that all members of your staff receive them and abide by them. A top priority is to be aware that some people’s names and gender markers do not match their appearance. To avoid embarrassment, gendered titles such as Mme. et M. should simply be avoided, as is the practice at the #### clinic across the street where I wound up going. Furthermore, an option to use only the last name should be available. To make trans people feel welcome, you could have a sign that indicated to all that this is an option. Not only trans people would benefit from this but anyone who is embarrassed by their first name for whatever reason. Sensitivity training and a clear indication that your clinic has undergone this would be a great example to other medical clinics.
I hope that you will use this unfortunate incident to make sure that it does not happen again and to help encourage progress in the medical profession. I am tough and was able to deal with the situation by demanding respect. Not all people are in a position to do so and many would have simply gone along with their maltreatment and had a horrible, humiliating and fearful experience. Please help us all avoid this.
Addendum: This is a pretty isolated incident for me but some trans friends report similar issues. I’ve been pretty lucky. Most medical professionals I’ve dealt with have been at the very least respectful, even when they were confused. I wound up going to another clinic across the street, mentioned what had just happened to the receptionist to make sure it wouldn’t happen there and she told me that they never use gendered titles, precisely to avoid this kind of thing. The technician didn’t bat an eyelash and was super friendly even though, since it was a chest x-ray, I had to remove my binder.