I admit it: I was a touch fearful about talking to the doctor on Monday. I’ve got a short list of items about which most physicians get lectury, after all. But for the reasons I expressed in my last post, I needed to have a local doctor, so I was willing to lay it out there. Susanne declared it was a “test” of his cultural competency. I liked that as an approach enough.
For some reason, the appointments at this family practice (it’s the same practice as the one for Susanne’s baby doctor) are significantly late to start. I know we all complain about start times at our doctors’ offices, but I can’t for the life of me understand why they set up 11:30AM appointments when all of the nursing staff, en masse, goes to lunch for 90 minutes, especially as they’re 45 minutes behind schedule by the time noon rolls around.
There I was, waiting quietly with a SuDoKu puzzle on my iPad (I always have a problem spotting 6s). I sensed a cobweb beginning to form in the crook of my left elbow, so I brushed it away and looked again at the clock on the wall. I knew better than to note the time, but it had become something of a morbid curiosity, like watching a train derailment, or an episode of Cops. Finally, the intake nurse called my name, so I stood up and followed her to the exam room.
When do I say it, I wondered. I could mash it at the end of an introduction, like I did earlier in the spring, when a wasp flew onto my shoulder and I needed help from a neighbor getting it off. Something like, “Hi, I’m Everett, and I’m a fat transsexual.”
There were probably better approaches, I figured. I kept my mouth shut except for giving non-funny, honest answers to her questions. Medication, family history, how I was feeling at that precise moment. Finally she stood up, and left the room, then ducked right back in.
“I forgot, this is your annual exam.” She opened a thin drawer and started pulling supplies to put on the counter. I looked at what was in her hands.
“Just put the lube back,” I said.
At this point the nurse gave me a quizzical look. Did I really want a prostate exam without lubrication? What kind of a pervert was I? Had I had my prostate removed? If so, why hadn’t I mentioned it?
I imagine every permutation of why I didn’t want a prostate exam coursed through her mind—all of the possible reasons and diagnoses and physiological states that she’d learned about in all of her years of training flashed by, much the same way every major life experience does as a person passes away, her brain grasping for some kind of meaning. The entire process only took 1.4 seconds.
“You don’t want a prostate exam,” she asked. I guess I passed the possible pervert test.
“I’m transsexual,” I said simply.
“Oh. Thanks for telling me!” She was visibly relieved. She put the packets of lube back and left again.
Maybe I should do another SoDoKu, I thought, holding my iPad.
Five minutes later the physician walked in, giving me a winning firm grip of a handshake, like he had handshake drills in his youth or something, the way others practice penmanship. He frowned at my blood pressure reading—I tend to spike in doctor’s offices because I feel a bit like Daniel in the lion’s den—but was satisfied with the state of my lungs and my pulse rate.
I had to drop the bomb. The T-bomb. I’d told myself I didn’t care if he disapproved, but The Big Reveal is always a little daunting, even when it’s the 1,000th time one has done it.
Good thing for him, he didn’t even flinch. He asked if I’d had any sex reassignment surgery. I kind of thought the man chest was good evidence of that but I suppose the onus was on him to ask. I told him I’d had a chest reconstruction.
This wasn’t doctor-speak enough for him. “Bilateral mastectomy with male reconstruction,” I said. He nodded. I guess long-time patients learn the Latin names of their conditions and treatments.
“Do you have ovaries,” he asked, as if this were a spy game password kind of thing. 1960s-era astronauts had a fake club, called the Turtle Club. If someone asked them if they were a turtle, they wouldn’t just say yes, for that would be a sign that someone wasn’t actually in the club. The correct answer was, “You bet your sweet ass I am!” How astronaut-y of them. For my part, I was failing to find an answer other than a simple affirmative. I hoped I wouldn’t be kicked out of the transgender club.
“Yes.” He began typing away, probably something like, “has ovaries.”
“But I’m manly with them anyway,” I said, trying to make a funny and coming off like a defensive, unconfident jackass.
“Do you have a vagina?”
What was this, 20 Questions to Ask Your Local Transsexuals?
“It must be around here somewhere,” I said, fingering my pockets. As opposed to my vagina. “I have my original reproductive organs.” I hoped this would silence him before he got to asking about other body parts.
“So you haven’t had surgery down there,” he asked. Clickity clack went the keys. Was he creating a transcript?
“I try to have as few surgeries as possible.” Honestly, I don’t like the aftereffects of anaesthetics and I’m sure not a fan of pain killers.
We talked a little about the current options for trans men seeking “bottom” surgery, and I directed him to some lovely informational Web sites for further research. Recounting the experience to Susanne, we wondered if, right then, he was somewhere else in Walla Walla, reading all about transsexual people and their care.
He passed the test.