Today I went on a journey to visit my doctor. Aside from a half an hour walk, a week ago, I’d not been out of the house for about a month. This time, I was on mission.
A few months ago, at the end of 2020, I attempted to get my doctor to refer me to a Gender Identity Clinic. At the time, she didn’t know how to go about doing it, so after the call, I even researched it online for her, then sent her a link to the referral form. Several weeks went by, I heard nothing, so I got back in touch, at which point she told me she’d accidentally deleted my email, said she’d look into it, and she’d get back to me. Weeks went by again, and I called her back. By that time, she’d made some enquires, but wasn’t sure which Gender Identity Clinic, to refer me to. I was pretty sure it would be Tavistock & Portman, in London, but she’d been told they might need to refer me to somewhere in Northamptonshire. So I waited, again.
Christmas came and went, so did 2020. Still I heard nothing. Then a couple of weeks ago, I was feeling exceptionally low, and needed to call her anyway. Finally, she essentially did exactly what I had done, months ago, which was to search the Internet, find the site I had, and she started filling out the form as we spoke on the phone.
Great! At last I was getting somewhere, I really needed something to work towards. I knew it was still probably going to take 4 years to get to the clinic, once I was on the waiting list, but it was movement. I received confirmation of the initial referral. It wasn’t over though. The Doctor called me last week, and told me she needed to fill out quite a complex form, which included mental health history, and some physical checks. This meant that I’d have to go to surgery, which caused me some anxiety about going out to a surgery in a pandemic, but it needed to be done, so we booked an appointment for today, my day off.
It was snowing, very cold, I wore a couple of layers, some thick tights, a warm cardigan with a hood. I wore one of the blue medical masks, then 4 layers of silk scarf on top of that, and set off in my nice cherry red vegan platform Doctor Marten boots, into the snow. I didn’t really need a coat, I was walking a couple of miles, and I walk fast. I was a bit anxious getting there, mostly no-one else seemed that bothered now about the pandemic, I was one of the only people around, wearing a mask. I got to the surgery door, rang the bell and waited outside. I don’t think the receptionist heard me, and she was on the phone, so I continued to wait. Fortunately a woman came out of the surgery, looked like she’d just finished a shift, and asked me if I was waiting and had I rang the bell. She asked my name, but, whether this was in my mind or not, she seemed to repeat it in an unusually deep voice, which set my gender dysphoria off. I went inside, waited for a while and my doctor came downstairs to collect me.
The doctor had already filled in some of the form, but as she read it out, realised she’d misgendered me, and kept correcting my pronouns as we went a long. I added some stuff about being socially transitioned. All the time, the sound of my own voice was triggering my dysphoria as well. Although I know, people generally can’t, or won’t say anything, there’s always this thing in my head, that tells me underneath, they don’t accept my gender. One of the questions on the form, asked if I’d officially changed my name, which I explained I hadn’t, but really only because I still haven’t chosen a new surname. The Doctor seemed surprised I was planning to change all of my name. I’d thought about this, but my full legal name actually misgenders me 4 times. Both my first and middle names, then my surname “Chapman”. Plus it’s my Dad’s name, and I intend to erase all connections both with him, and my old self.
We completed a blood pressure test, checked my weight, and height. No idea what relevance that had, but it was requested. Apparently I’ve put several inches on my waist over the past year, which is hardly surprising given the complete lack of exercise I’ve had. We completed the mental health questions, although it always seems to fall short, given everything I’ve been through.
I left the surgery, and headed home. I was pretty anxious, and craved chocolate, so even stopped at a shop on the way, to buy myself 2 large bars, which if it wasn’t for the mask, I’d probably have eaten by the time I got home. I didn’t want to spend much time in the shop, which had a make a makeshift screen at the till, made from a clear plastic film. I attempted to pay by contactless card, but the shopkeeper mumbled that it was a minimum £3 only. I could have added more chocolate to get over the threshold, but instead decided not to, and handing him a £20 note.
I carried on home, got up the hill, and decided to kill two birds with one stone, by going to the pharmacy to pick up my antidepressant prescription. I’d never been on them before, things had been so difficult recently, with little hope of getting what I really need, including a social life, so I caved in and agreed to start on 50mg per day of Sertraline. There were about 3 other people in the pharmacy, I kept my distance, but then just as I was about to walk up to the till, some man decided he was more important than everyone else, and went around the wrong way, to pick up something from a shelf, and proceeded to ask the pharmacist about it. This annoyed me. The man went away, and the pharmacist came and spoke to me. “Hello sir, how can I help?”. “I’m not a sir, I replied”. He corrected himself, called my “madam”, but then still accidentally called me sir a couple more time. I asked for my prescription, I don’t think I hid my annoyance. He was okay really, but this is the kind of thing I have to go through, particularly as my prescription still had my full name on it (although the surgery now had me down as “Siobhán”). I don’t really understand why we need titles. Who cares if I’m a “Mr”, or a “Ms” really? Why do people feel the need to refer to others as “Sir” or “madam”? It’s not the nineteen fifties anymore.
So, after maybe walking a 4 mile round trip in the snow, I got home. At least I’d got some stuff all done in one go. Now begins the start of both my Gender Identity Clinic journey, and the start of me being on antidepressants for the first time ever.
I wish I could say this year was looking promising, but something tells me, it could be as tough, if not tougher, than last.