A letter I will be sending to a local clinic

6 01 2010

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.

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17 responses

6 01 2010
transphd

FYI: The name of the clinic is still in the second paragraph.

6 01 2010
Jacky V.

Thanks for the heads up! Silly me, I was on my way out the door to get my son from school when it occurred to me that I had spent so much time trying to decide what stupid initial to use for my last name in this post that I forgot to remove the clinic names!

6 01 2010
genderkid

Oh, Jacky, what an awful situation! I hope this letter works. I think it’s neat that you took your frustration and turned it into something positive that might bring about change.

7 01 2010
Shirley Anne

How awful for you Jacky. I would have been livid. You showed remarkable composure in light of this unprofessional’s approach. I would certainly not let it end there, I would be relaying a message (perhaps the contents of this posting) to his superiors and I would kick up a stink about it until he was reprimanded. His attitude smacked of homophobia and a person in his position should not be bringing personal feelings to his workplace. About a week or so before I was flying to Thailand for my operation I had to attend the local hospital for some cyst removals (three of them, face, leg and back) none of which were malignant. One of the nurses there in the operating room constantly referred to me as ‘him’ or ‘he’. I stopped the doctor from proceeding and told this nurse to her face that she was being disrespectful and I insisted she called me using the correct pronoun. She didn’t know where to put her face. The doctor then finished what he was doing. I will not stand by and let someone walk over me like that, they have no right to do so. It is your prerogative of course but I certainly would let this guys’ superiors know what has happened. At the very least you should get a letter of apology and you deserve at the very least that much.
I do hope that your letter helps in bringing about a better way of dealing with issues surrounding trans. people. Love

Shirley Anne xxx

7 01 2010
Jacky V.

Yes, I’m hoping change will happen. I’ve heard of a case in a nearby town where something similar happened. A letter was sent and the staff was put through sensitivity training. A friend of mine told me about this yesterday. So I have some hope. Will keep you all posted.

8 02 2010
Al

I recently had an experience somewhat like that at the emergency room. I had forgotten my health card and was in such pain that they filled out paper work on my behalf stating I was male. When I later phoned in to cite my health card number for coverage they said there was a problem. They tossed me back and forth for a month talking to this person then that person, faxing this, explaining that..all because my health card said “F” and the emergency staff wrote “M”. They were not rude mind you..but the whole damn process was embarassing; I had to explain my situation to every clerk I talked to..in detail.
The worst part is I sorta see their point. Where the medical field is concerned the vagina is female and I guess given life or death I would want then to know the truth…does that make me a bad transman? Wait..I’m intersexed..it’s OK then.

10 02 2010
Jacky V.

I’m so sorry that happened to you. That sucks.

I don’t have a problem with the fact that many individuals are confused though. As stated in my letter, my problem was with the lack of respect and discretion. Also, over time, I think the the medical field needs to incorporate sensitisation training – not just on trans issues, but on sexual orientation, neurodiversity and other issues. I get the impression that there has been some awareness raising on linguistic and cultural diversity, at least in urban areas, but I can’t be sure. As a white person, I obviously don’t experience first-hand any discrimination or prejudice based on my skin colour when dealing with the medical profession. I’d be curious to know how things are on that front.

10 02 2010
Jacky V.

Anyway, sorry, I went off on my own tangent there. But thanks for leaving a comment! Also, thanks for sharing your reality. I bet that the intersex dimension adds a whole other facet to your interactions with the medical profession. This is still a little known reality, isn’t it?

23 02 2010
Otr

Fuck, I’m sorry. Good for you for sticking up for yourself. In situations like this, I’m often too triggered or scared to say anything.

24 02 2010
Jacky V.

Thanks OTR! Yeah, it sucks and I understand the tendancy to second guess . . . no one wants to come across as some crazed maniac who overreacts, right?

3 03 2010
Loony Brain

Hey, Jacky! This letter inspired me to write a similar kind to the trans support chat room that treated me poorly. Thanks for inspiring me with your grace under fire and poise! *thumbs up*

–Rogan

3 03 2010
Loony Brain

Hey, Jacky! This letter inspired me to write a similar kind to the trans support chat room that treated me poorly. Thanks for inspiring me with your grace under fire and poise! *thumbs up* 😀

–Rogan

20 03 2010
Jacky V.

Hey Rogan!

It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that I was able to inspire you : ) Did you hear back from the people who run the chat room?

27 03 2010
casbr

I am so glad that you decided to share this story. My husband in an FtM trans guy and has had numerous experiences like this. We live in a particularly homo/transphobic area of Florida and though our gynecologist “deals with our special case”, it is not always friendly. In the southern US it is customary to use first names to address people in a waiting room, but his trans status is obvious to everyone in the waiting room when someone calls my husband’s very male name in a gynecological office. About 90% of the time we can get the staff to call my name and he just walks back with me, making most people assume we are there for fertility. They also allow us to share an exam room too, which allows me to support him during a particularly difficult exam. It is bitter sweet, as we have asked to pay out right for a hysterectomy ($15000) and we were told to go to Mexico or a “less bible-fearing community”. Letters like this make a difference for everyone. Thank you for writing it.

http://ftmspouse.wordpress.com/

31 03 2010
Jacky V.

Thanks so much for reading and writing! I’m sorry to hear it’s difficult for you but glad to hear that your husband has such a supportive wife! That really makes a difference! I will go check out your blog.

1 01 2011
The Requisite 2010 Review « Tboy Jacky

[…] that. Fortunately, I have a kick-ass committee and they helped me out on all the finer points. An unfortunate incidence of transphobia, one of the few overt cases I have encountered, happened last January as well. January was also my […]

4 01 2011
My hysterectomy « Tboy Jacky

[…] as role models for other medical facilities in terms of dealing with trans people. Certainly, the Ellendale Radiology Clinic on Côte-des-Neiges could learn a thing or two (they never responded to my letter!)  I highly recommend Dr. Tulandi to […]

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