Six years ago today I started taking T. In my moments of reflection on this date, certain things stand out to me. The anxiety leading up to the day, the sleepless night before, driving to the doctor in my best friend’s beat up car… the face of the nurse when she refused my care… crying in the empty waiting room. I was 22. Four months before that I had called the doctor, introducing myself through a thorough history of trans pathologization and why I deserved transitional health care without a gender identity disorder diagnosis or mandated therapy. After sitting through the typical barrage of trans questions asking how I “knew,” when did I know, and why, if I really wans trans, I wasn’t what they expected, I got my script for T. I setup my appointment to get my first shot on the morning of Sept 4th. When the T came in the mail, I left the box unopened, sitting on my dresser, waiting… It was like a creature there to save me, or to destroy me, or both. It was the egg of my body’s phoenix.
I watched the nurse’s face as she spoke awkwardly, “Actually, the doctor said we aren’t going to do this today…”
I don’t know what came over me. Maybe it was the breaking stress from the build up, maybe it was crushing disappointment, maybe it was my exhaustion after a night awake crying and writing… I broke down and cried right in front of her. As soon as I could speak I said, “I want to talk to my doctor.”
“She isn’t here….”
“Where is she? This appointment has been set for a month. Why didn’t anyone tell me this was going to happen? Get my doctor on the phone.” I said, “I want to talk to my doctor.”
I paced the grey nurse’s break room, clutching the plastic hospital phone. My exhausted despair had given way to my primary defense mechanism: anger. I was ready to fight. “You’re my doctor.” I said, “You’re supposed to help me. I told you I wasn’t going to do therapy. I don’t need therapy because I’m trans. I know who I am and I’m not going to pay some uneducated “professional” $200 an hour to tell me why I’m not normal.”
The doctor’s voice was diffident and anxious. I still remember the sound of her voice as she tried to placate me, saying how GID therapy was for the good of trans people and that she was trying to help me. “I don’t want help if it means giving up what I know is right for me.” I said, “I can’t walk around fighting a system that I’m feeding into. I can’t do it and it isn’t fair for you to ask me to do it. This isn’t fair.” I’ll never forget the insulted shock I felt as I heard the doctor say, “Well, maybe you can just not tell anyone…” I gathered myself and said, “What kind of health care is this? You want me to be forced into therapy I don’t need, and now you’re telling my to lie about it – to lie to all my friends, my family, and the people I work to help… I don’t think you understand what you are doing here.”
“I’m trying to keep you safe…”
“Safe? You do know I have this T in my hand right now and I could just go out into the parking lot and shoot up, with no guarantee I’m doing it safely or properly. I’m here, in a doctor’s office, looking for support and education on how to care for myself properly and you are turning me away. I want you to know that if I end up at risk, it is because of you and your inability to rise above the outdated notions you were taught that trans people are mentally unfit. I can respect your professional boundaries, but I can’t respect any institution that would rather put a person at risk than bend to the idea that it might be wrong.”
Obviously, since I am writing this post six years later, I got my shot that day. With the support of friends, and a little help from some bodybuilding websites, I took my first shot. Like most people in the trans* community, I learned as I went and took what I could get. I was privileged to have had access to T in the first place; to have been able to save up money from my shit job to afford it; to have access to a computer where I could get reliable medical information; to have a community of friends who were there for me when I felt like I had no one else. With all that happened, I was pretty lucky. I consider myself lucky to have had it better than a lot of our people, especially those who are affected by racism, poverty, globalization… the list goes on.
I was looking through my pictures to find the quintessential pre/post photos that I (and almost every trans* person) loves to put in their blogs. Instead, I found one of my absolute favorite pictures of me ever. It is from when I was 17, on a high school photography club trip to Red River Gorge hiking the Natural Bridge trail. My disability made it so I couldn’t take the trail as fast as everyone else, it made me feel weak. I didn’t have a lot of friends and I was afraid of socializing with the other kids cause they tended to tease me, so I hung in the back of the group near my teacher, Mr. Ferguson. I remember walking the steep trail, looking up at the trees, and just feeling the energy of the forest. I remember feeling very alone, but it is hard to feel too along when you are in the woods. I sat in a shady spot near the top of the bridge; I changed my roll of film and got out the same lunch I eat every time I travel: PB&J sandwich and an apple. I watched the other kids goofing off and talking a few yards from me; I felt invisible, but in a mix of positive and negative ways. The leaves were changing. I enjoyed the silence and the view. Mr. Ferguson’s voice broke my thoughts, “Hey, Alice,” he gestured with his wide, closed palm arm wave, “Come over here. I’ll take your picture.”
Two weeks ago, I walked that trail again. I looked up at the trees and felt the energy of the forest. I still took it slow, climbing the rocks and roots behind the others, but I had some fast moving company: a 17 year old I’ve had the pleasure working with for a couple years now. He goes to the same high school I did, and is in a lot of the same clubs, but unlike my high school self, he is out as trans*. I didn’t even know what trans* was when I was that age. I see a lot of myself when I see him, but he’s much more impressive. He was much more animated on the trail that I was 12 years ago; he was excited to be with trans* community, racing up the path with other transboys, climbing on everything in sight (much to my anxiety’s displeasure). I hung back and enjoyed the walk and the views. I get so over-saturated with work now days… or really, I’ve been so over-saturated with work ever since I came out. When I came out, I took to trans* activism and never looked back. Sometimes that meant I didn’t stop to look around either. If I can take a lesson from the me of 6 years ago, it is to use the same care and attention to my process as I did back then. I used to write a lot more; do more photography; I used to dance more. Looking back, though I was afraid and anxious about making the right or wrong move for myself or my life, I did a lot to keep in touch with who I was and what I was feeling. I’m not one for making resolutions based on some event or special date, but I do like to make clear decisions surrounding change. It is important to keep myself in touch with what progress I need to make. When I was 17, I was afraid of most of the world. When I was 22, I was angry with most of it. I don’t know how much progress I’ve made since 22, lol, but I hope it is at least some. At 29, I am hopeful that I am continuing to improve myself, and to know myself. And I am grateful that I have the ability to live as I do, and work as I do, so that the folks that come after me might not be so anxious, or so angry. So, here’s to the continual fight for trans* liberation and the gift of slowing down to see the journey there.