I suppose there was some sort of irony in that my own personal D-Day arrived on the 6th of June, the 62nd anniversary of that historic military surge. As regular readers will know, I have been planning my own campaign for months if not years, and today was to be the day of destiny, the day when I finally admitted officially that I identify as a transsexual woman. Forget chats with friends, forget what I write on this blog, forget independent private counselling, all of it. None of that counts for anything in the wider world. So did I go through with it? Of course I did, but I didn’t know that I would until I actually did.
As I wrote in my last post, I had surprisingly and unexpectedly been able to get an appointment to see my GP this morning. The intervening six days have been an experience of continually waxing and waning nerves, building up to a crescendo of panic by around 9.25am as I walked into the health centre. The thing is, my gender identity wasn’t the only thing I was going to see the doctor about. I had one “fallback” medical issue to discuss with the doctor in case I completely lost my nerve. I have an small, irregularly shaped growth, less than a square centimetre in size, right in the middle of my torso about half way between nipples and navel. It’s small, but it’s a bit of a concern, and for a while Mrs K has been telling me I need to get it checked out. I also have something that feels similar in texture on my scalp, but due to its location at the top of my head covered in hair I have never seen it. So I knew that if I lost my nerve, it would just appear to be a visit to the doctor to get these growths checked out.
And then, on Friday, I gained a third thing to discuss with the doctor. Without wishing to go into the full detail, I have recently been diagnosed with glaucoma in my left eye, which is being managed with eyedrops. I had a checkup with the consultant opthalmologist last Friday as a result of which my drops are being changed. At the end of that appointment she gave me a letter to give to my GP. Well at least I was going to see him on Monday anyway.
Over the course of the weekend I have been playing over and over in my head what I was going to say to the doctor, how I was going to broach the subject of being transgender, do I come flat out and say it, do I have a preamble, just what would I say? I’ll be honest and say that from time to time I wondered if this whole thing wasn’t just being ridiculous, I could have the chats about the eye and the growths and leave it at that, put this whole silly notion of transition to bed once and for all. And even on Monday morning I didn’t know. I suspect that the rising tide of panic was at least as much due to me being unsure if I was going to go through with this as it was to any concern over what the doctor’s reaction might be.
I walked into the surgery at 9.25am and went over to their touchscreen check-in device, displaying the message “Touch Screen To Begin”. I did that, and then two boxes appeared. “Male” or “Female”. Oh come on, I thought, you’re just taking the piss here. So I tapped “Male”, the irony of this being far from lost on me. It then asked for my date of birth and said “Mr Bob Roberts, for Dr Finnegan 9.30am?”. I clicked on “OK” and took a seat in the waiting area, allowing me to take the weight off my feet so my blood pressure could go through the roof at my leisure.
There is an LCD ticker screen in the waiting room which generally displays information about services available from the health centre, but also is used to tell patients to go to their doctor or nurse. My eyes were fixed on that from the moment I sat down while I continued to get more fidgety and panicky. 9.30 came and went, shortly followed by 9.35 and 9.40. Adrenaline continued to flow like there was no tomorrow. Then a loud beep and the ticker displayed “Mr Bill Roberts to Dr Kelly’s room”. Er, what? Is that me? But it wasn’t my GP. Please don’t let them have given me a different doctor. I walked up to the receptionist
“Er, the display has just called Bill Roberts. I’m Bob Roberts. Is that meant to be me?”
“No, there is a Bill Roberts here too. You will be called shortly.”
Well thank goodness for that. I sat down again. The thing is, the act of getting up and making that enquiry actually calmed me down considerably. As the clock dragged on past 9.45 I realised that I was all panicked out and not only were the the levels of fidgeting subsiding, I actually ended up calm enough that my mind was wandering into random daydreams. So it was nearly 10am when the beep sounded accompanied by the display “Mr Bob Roberts to Dr Finnegan’s room”. And suddenly the panic returned with a vengeance.
As I walked along the corridor toward the consulting rooms, I had a strange feeling like I was walking to the gallows. Very scary. Shaking like a leaf, I approached the doctor’s door, which was slightly ajar. I was on the point of knocking when I heard voices coming from within. It appeared that his last patient hadn’t left yet. I somehow managed to force myself to sit down again on the chair outside the consulting room, although I was shaking like a leaf and couldn’t sit still. Mercifully, it was only around 30 seconds until the prior patient emerged and departed with a nod in my direction. I stood up to see that the doctor was already at the door;
– How are you?
– Well physically I feel great…
– OK well sit down there and we’ll have a chat
And so it began.
I told him that there were three things that I needed to see him about, two of which were relatively mundane and one of which I was extremely nervous about, and I was going to get the two mundane matters out of the way. This was really me preventing myself from backing out after getting to item number 2. So I told him about my eye, which was fine. Then I told him about these growths, lifting my t-shirt to show him the one on my front torso and indicating the spot on my head where the other one resides. He kind of brushed that away, indicating that I should cut the stalling and just get to what was really bothering me. So I did.
“Doctor, I have… …issues with my gender”
“What do you mean by that?”
And it all came out. All the history, feeling drawn to my female side from a very early age, dressing in my mum’s clothes as a teenager. Coming out then going back in again with Mrs K back in the late 90s. And then, as I put it, the intensity of feeling has grown so much over the last 3 or 4 years that it has become unbearable. I am basically living two lives and I can’t cope with it any more.
(As I was saying all this he got up from his chair and closed the door all the way over)
“What do you mean by two lives?”
So I explained about having joined a support group where I became friends with people in a similar but not identical position, and that I “go out” regularly
“You say ‘going out’. What does that mean? Going out socially? Out with friends from the support group? Other friends?”
I explained that it kind of meant all these things. That I went out in public presenting female for the first time in early 2014, and that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. Suddenly the idea of being able to live as a woman became much more realistic. How I go out with friends from the support group regularly, once or twice every week, but also how I have come out to a few longer standing friends, some of whom haven’t seen me any way other than female for over a year. How I have joined some social groups as my female self (I didn’t mention having a female name during the appointment) and now I have a circle of friends who only know the female version of me. I also mentioned the longer trips that I have done, over to stay with Ruth last year, and in particular the trip to Eastbourne for the TransLiving weekend back in October 2014. That was dwelt on because I was explaining about how more or less all points on the transgender spectrum were on display at that event, and I very quickly realised where I fell on it. The doctor seemed fully appreciative of this wide range of people, and seemed to grasp how that would have helped me.
The conversation turned to family, friends and work. The doctor knows the whole family, but in particular Mrs K who has had her own issues in recent years. He asked how much she knew. I told him the truth. Everything. She knows where I go, what I do. She knows what I plan to do. And she knows exactly why I was there with him right now. He asked if she was supportive. I answered as best I could that yes, in her own way and as much as she can be, she is supportive. She is certainly a great enabler of my current dual lives. He asked if Mrs K and I had discussed how to bring my transition up with the kids. Only in the very vaguest way. I told him that Mrs K and I don’t often discuss my gender dysphoria, and when we do it’s rarely pleasant. I don’t bring it up because I don’t want to upset her, and she doesn’t bring it up because she doesn’t want to upset me.
“So”, he asked, “what is it that you want me to do? Do you want me to refer to you the gender clinic?”
Yes, I replied, that’s what I’m hoping for. And I explained my plan. How it was late 2015 when the slow realisation that I needed to transition had built up to the point where I knew I had to act upon this feeling. How I had decided to get Christmas over with before telling Mrs K. How we agreed one last year of Bob, one last family holiday, one last Christmas, then from January beginning to tell people with a view to me beginning to “live full time in the female role” (I used that term because I believe that is the language used by the NHS) some time in the first half of next year. Parallel to that, I explained that I also had the medical side of things to consider and that I judged that now was the right time to be asking for a referral (I did get in a little comment about how ideally it would have been a month earlier but I couldn’t get an appointment) in order for my social transition and medical transition to dovetail together nicely, and that my plan is to begin “living in the female role” from Easter 2017. I had chosen that date to hopefully give me time to get approved for hormone treatment, since before this point any time spent living as a woman wouldn’t count toward my Real Life Experience. He questioned this (“What do you mean it doesn’t count?”), and I went into some detail about how RLE and subsequent consideration for surgery worked.
“Tell me this, just out of curiosity – do you and Mrs K plan to stay together?”
If at all possible. It may be difficult, more for her than for me, and a positive reaction from the kids will definitely help. But I admitted it will be difficult and we’ll just take each day as it comes. What I did point out, and it was news to him, was that in order for me to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate, Mrs K and I would have to divorce thanks to Northern Ireland being the only part of the British Isles which does not recognise same sex marriage. So if we lived in England, Scotland, Wales or the Republic of Ireland, we could remain married. In Northern Ireland, I have to choose between remaining married, or obtaining a GRC and converting our marriage to a civil partnership. Unless, of course, we come out of the dark ages and bring in equal marriage before I reach that point. Which isn’t impossible.
In summary the doctor said that I had already done and researched so much on my own that there was little else for him to do other than to wish me well and to make the referral to the clinic. He said that my knowledge of the system and what was involved was greater than his, and that he was impressed with the level of detail that I had put into planning my transition, as well as the fact that I had proactively sought out both a support group and also independent counselling. He also added that his experience of dealing with people like me was limited to “other patients who have gone through the same process”. This implies to me that I am at least his third trans patient, which is actually a comfort. He added that “they have been through the whole thing and now just come to see me every three or four months for a check-up, and they seem very happy with the outcome”, which was very good to hear. He suggested allowing a week for his referral to the clinic to get processed, then giving them a call on Monday next week to ask how long the wait is likely to be.
One final thing from the good Dr Finnegan. “I know there’s probably not too much more I can do from here, but if you ever think I can help, or if you just want to talk something through with me, my door is open.”
And then he wrote me a presciption for my new eye drops and examined the growths on my torso and head (both entirely benign, nothing at all to worry about).
I was only as I was leaving that I noticed that when he had got up to close the door over, he had also locked it. Recognising that I was telling him some very serious stuff, he was determined nobody was going to walk in and overhear what I was saying. All in all, I had a ten-minute appointment which lasted for half an hour, and when it was all over do you know what? I actually enjoyed it. I enjoyed speaking to someone who is in a position to help. And after all the nerves, all the speculation, I was fine. More than fine.
I’m on my way.