I like a little ventriloquism with my ultrasound

Susanne and I went to the fertility clinic today to see how close we are to another insemination attempt, after a trip last week to make sure her body had a green light for IUI. This was our second trip to that office after the now-infamous “two uteruses” comment from the counselor. I was pretty much over that episode, understanding that she’d been doing her best to explore all of our options for getting knocked up, even if it was a ridiculous conversation to have with her.

This being Seattle, a populated city that despite a decent bus service, has a lot of passenger cars crowding its roadways, I couldn’t find a convenient parking spot outside the clinic, which is just off of Lake Union. I do wonder idly why people who can afford Mercedes-Benz cars and yachts insist on taking all of the free parking available. Perhaps they need whatever help they can get to finance all of their payments. Whatever the case, I found a pay space, but the convoluted interface for getting a parking ticket was more puzzling than a Rubik’s Cube, so it took me a good 7 minutes to pay and join Susanne, who’d gone on ahead to the doctor’s office.

By the time I made it to the reception counter, they’d taken Susanne inside already.

“Hi,” I said, smiling, to the woman at the front, “I’m here with Susanne B—-.”

“Oh sure, I’ll take you to her.” With that, I followed the receptionist back to some kind of nurse’s station.

“This woman,” said the receptionist, waving her arm in a gesture that meant me, “uh.” She stopped, blushed. I cocked my head to one side, the better to communicate my confusion and sudden interest.

“This woman knows ventriloquism,” she said, now pointing to the nurse at the desk. I felt her horror at mis-pronouning me, and felt my own skin turning red at my collar.

“Nice try,” I said to the receptionist. I wasn’t intending to be mean, or to chastise, but come on already. What about my 2-day-old scruff, baritone voice, and long sideburns screams “woman” to anyone? Why does the receptionist know my status? Is that in the bounds of HIPPA?

There are so many times when I’m in the world and my trans status is invisible to people. Queer people want to know what I’m doing at their social hour. Gay friends have told me that I now have heterosexual privilege. Or I’m told I carry male privilege and I’m “just as bad” as any other man. And I want to push back on these assumptions. I do get male and straight privilege in certain contexts, yes, but those are on an unsteady foundation—they can unravel if I’m not stealth, for example—and they presume that privilege is a simple constant. It’s not, just as gender is not. No trans person I know, even the ones who “pass” consistently, went from one polarity to the other overnight. That only happens on Ugly Betty, friends. Most of us passed through some achingly difficult middle terrain, subjected to verbal abuse, expectorant, and physical assault, and I’ll point out that I myself have faced all three of those.

So nobody has ever explained to me, in a convincing fashion, when I picked up these privileges and when it was justified that I should not have the same access to the LGBT community I’ve had in years past. And all of this is to say that when I get called “woman” on the way to meet my wife for her ultrasound appointment, it takes me out of the proper head space to be her support, and then I get mad at myself, of all people, for thinking about things that don’t have to deal with her lady parts. It just burns me that I won’t get seen as a part of a community I love but I can still get mis-gendered in other contexts. Life just isn’t in anyone’s control, I suppose.

Our appointment went well, and Susanne stood up, happy at how we’d jumped through another hoop in the baby-making circus—I mean, process. We’re excited and optimistic. I gave her a hug after the test, and said, “We’re ready!”

“Yes, we are,” she said, and she grinned at me. “But will you stop sitting on my jeans now so I can get dressed?”

Thank goodness someone in this relationship has their wits about them.

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11 Comments on “I like a little ventriloquism with my ultrasound”

  1. Jen
    September 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    As always, I love reading the entries about your baby-making journey. My fingers are crossed for you two. What a frustrating, yet fascinating and wondrous, experience! Thanks for giving others a window into it.

  2. evmaroon
    September 20, 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Thanks, Jen, for your continued support! We really do appreciate it. I know it will be worth it in the end.

  3. Jesse
    September 21, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    obviously this sucks. but also: why did she comment on you being a ventriloquist in the first place? what were you throwing your voice at, Susanne’s ovaries?

    • evmaroon
      September 21, 2010 at 7:38 am #

      “Hey, why am I, the left ovary always doing all the work? Right ovary, you’re too lazy!”

  4. September 22, 2010 at 12:53 am #

    I wish you and your partner a speedy, as in conception and not length of gestation, obviously, and non-complicated pregnancy.

    Being a straight male, I have no idea of the problems you must face as a trans, but here in Brighton, the gay capital of the UK, we don’t give a bugger how individuals wish to define themselves, which is not to say homophobia and other prejudices are eliminated, but generally people are left free to live their lives. So I wish you luck there too.

  5. September 22, 2010 at 1:06 am #

    Just to clarify the ‘wish to define themselves,’ I recognise being gay, trans, or lesbian is not necessarily a life-choice but a life as is. x

  6. evmaroon
    September 22, 2010 at 9:55 am #

    @DOT: And I think that the staff at this clinic have only the best intentions toward us and really don’t mean any offense, especially the woman who was publicizing her coworker’s ventriloquism abilities. The counselor needs a bit of training, I suspect, but even she seemed to be doing her best. So I can be forgiving, I just am a bit exhausted by it. And I feel every bit justified in poking fun of them on the Web.
    Bristol, eh? Sounds like it’s time for a holiday!

  7. September 22, 2010 at 10:32 am #

    Erm… Brighton, not Bristol, fine city that it is:)

    • evmaroon
      September 22, 2010 at 10:41 am #

      Oh, ha, my bad. Apologies to the residents of Brighton! And Bristol, for that matter. Must have been the Welshman in me getting it wrong… 😉

  8. mordantkitten
    September 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    Those look like the same parking machines we have in Portland. Why it wasn’t designed with a dollar-bill accepter, I’ll never understand.

    I also don’t understand why people who deal with sexual health issues – any sexual health issues – aren’t given even a token course in the (admittedly evolving) etiquette of working with the transgendered.

    Here in Portland, if it says M on your driver’s license, you are a guy — and paperwork from a counselor can initiate this change even if you are pre- or non-op. But, yes, it is within HIPAA for the receptionist to know your status, though they’re bound by the same privacy laws as others who are privy to it.

    • evmaroon
      September 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm #

      For all legal intents and purposes, I’m male, from my birth certificate to my passport. And I think a simple training in “Trans 101” would have helped the counselor see that asking me to house a fetus was an out-of-bounds question. As for the receptionist, I really don’t know what happened there! We’ve seen her since and she bent over backwards to be friendly and cheery. So I think her gaffe has caused her a lot more psychic pain than it has me.

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