If you pay close attention to the way I mangled that quote, it’ll all make sense by the end of this post.
Today, I just made the first huge jump in my personal journey. I went in for an intake at the hospital to get in with a psychologist for gender counseling, which means that probably by tomorrow (if the nice lady keeps her word) I’ll have a gender therapist!
Today was fucking awesome.
I could barely keep my lunch when I walked in to the reception area. In fact, my first move was to turn around and walk out. I know this area isn’t too friendly to “alternative lifestyles.” But I stopped at the door, turned back around, and marched myself back in there. Or rather, tiptoed myself back in there. It was kinda late in the afternoon when I showed up, and the room was empty and abandoned as Antarctica. Nobody behind the desk. I could hear the wall clock ticking, and for the first time, I was really uncertain of myself. I felt cold and alone and unwelcomed, and I began to wonder if this was even the time or place to start. I looked around; random fact sheets hanging on the walls like they have at every clinic, none of them pertinent to me, boring magazines with names like Lifestyle and HomeMaker or whatever, no bell at the desk to let them know I was there.
I felt weirdly displaced. I would been more comfortable at a mime convention.
Then the receptionist popped out of fucking nowhere from the back, slamming the door as she came in, nearly making me jump out of my skin. I found my feet and regrounded as she addressed me. I was determined not to fall back on my “making pleasantries” nice voice; this, I asserted to myself, was not the time or place to convince people I was “normal,” or a girl. It was time to be myself. I brought my strained speaking voice back down into my chest from where it was hiding out of fear up in the top of my throat and looked her in the eyes, trying to keep my gaze or voice from quavering.
“I was told this was where I could come to have an intake done,” I said, probably with more oomph than I needed.
She looked me up and down and said, “Yes?”
There was an awkward moment as neither one of us could figure out what information the other person wanted to hear. I was afraid she was going to ask for my name and date of birth and all that, and I really didn’t feel like saying my legal first name. I think she probably wanted me to say my name without having to ask, for some reason.
Finally, the stalemate broke as she handed me a clipboard with about nine thousand sheets of paperwork and told me to bring it up when I was finished. At that point, the real tension and awkwardness faded and I pretty much felt confident the rest of the time.
Now, somehow I hadn’t thought of having to do paperwork, and when I saw all the places I was going to have to fill in my name, I shuddered. Plus I’d forgotten to bring my medicare card. Luckily, she said she’d be able to run my social security number and bring that info up for me.
I noticed something funny as I was filling out the paperwork- every time I was forced to write my legal first name, my handwriting got cramped and rushed. When she came into the waiting room to get my social security info, I asked her if there was anywhere on the sheet where we could write our preferred nicknames or anything like that, because I hated being called by my first name.
“No,” she said. “What would you like to be called, though?”
I looked her firmly in the eyes and said, “Jack.”
A lightbulb came on in her eyes, as if to say in bold red print on her forehead, “Ohhh, one of those.” I’d chosen NOT to bind today or do anything that would really artificially enhance masculinity, such as face shading or anything like that- I was just wearing guy’s clothes. I wanted my therapist or whoever would see me today to see what I was stuck in, what I was dealing with, and how far I had to go, so I knew I was going to get “ma’am”ed by anyone unless I corrected them.
It felt like a minor triumph, though, as she smiled and went back into the other room to run my information.
The other noteworthy part of paperwork was the section where it asked for sex. There were four options: Male, Female, Transgender, and Other. The only box I didn’t consider checking was Female. I thought about checking Male but decided that might be considered purgery, almost checked Transgender and decided that hadn’t been medically “diagnosed” yet, and wound up checking Other. They’d figure it out pretty quick one way or the other.
After I turned in my paperwork, I shuffled through the magazines and found only one that looked even remotely interesting: WebMD. There was an article on penile implants used to help guys with ED get an erection, and I considered its compatibility with phalloplasty- I prefer the idea of metoidioplasty, but I’ve heard some gruesome rumors about the way phalloplastied guys get an erection, and this seemed like a reasonable alternative. I was actually hoping that the lady who did my intake would see me reading it when she came in to get me, out of some weird desire for her to make the connection that penis issues were relevant to me, but I don’t think she noticed.
Well, at the risk of making this WAAAY too long by pointing out every single damn detail of the visit, we’re just going to hit on the highlights by saying she was totally awesome. She was the first person in the professional sector who didn’t treat me like a disaster or a freak, she really listened, really seemed interested and she called me by Jack throughout the entire visit. Even when she left the room to talk to someone else in the clinic who had seen me before, I overheard her use the proper pronouns. I’ve never felt so respected in my life.
I mentioned, among a lot of other things, my trouble with writing my legal first name in paperwork, and when it came time to sign some MORE paperwork at the end of the session, she did something that really shocked me. She filled in the “print name” line for me in this format- “K****** ‘Jack’ H*****,” and then told me to fill in the signature blank with whatever name I wanted to. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me that I could sign whatever name I wanted- nobody can ever read signatures, anyway! I couldn’t keep the grin off my face as I signed my REAL name for the first time on a legal document. She beamed and said, “I can see how much you’re enjoying that.” It made me feel a little goofy, but I was on top of the world and nothing could bring me down.
It’s the little things that make life worth it.
She called me a pioneer, particularly in our county, and said I was in a unique position to change people’s lives. For the first time, I didn’t feel like a social pariah and a castoff, something to hide because people can’t deal with it yet. I felt like I was worth something.
She said that she was going to do her best to get me in with a psychologist ASAP so they could start that part of the process. I know that there are things that they’re going to want to work on, probably for a long time, before they even think about okaying me for HRT. I’ve got an old record of Dissociative Identity Disorder in my file following me around that they’re probably going to root out and analyze from every angle until they’re 100% sure it’s not going to be an issue in the future, and I hear the process is longer for people who have a mental record. That’s why I’m not afraid to start the mental health aspect of transition before I move out of town. I know I can’t do transition here, and it’s going to be about a year before I can move (but that’s another rant). In short, it just seems like time to start the ball rolling.
As I left the office, she saw me out the door. I turned and waved goodbye when I got to my van, and she waved back, “Bye, Jack! I hope to see you again!”
Hearing my name called out with absolute faith by someone I’d just met was almost enough to make me cry.
This is a huge step for me in this process. It almost seems like it’ll get easier now that I’ve just finally pushed myself the door, but I know that’s not true. Maybe it’ll be easier for a little while, but it’s all going to get harder before I get to the other end of the tunnel.
And in the grand scheme of things, it’s such a small thing to say- “I ALMOST have a gender therapist.” Yet, this has been one of the biggest days of my life. I’ll never forget the 3rd of August as the first day I asserted myself as male to the System.
I told you it’d make sense.