Trans people so often need to complain of and resist inappropriate or humiliating treatment at the hands of health practitioners. Today I'd like to do the opposite appreciate and note fabulous behaviour at one of our teaching hospitals, St. Michael's.
I was careless enough to have a heart attack recently, and spent time in emergency, surgery and the cardiac care unit. I realize that my (somewhat post-binary) gender can be a bit of a challenge, being as I am a short, incredibly handsome, quietly queeny FtM trans man, a splendidly hairy and bearded bear with, let's say, unusual equipment, both top and bottom.
There were of course a few bloops: The gal in reception who giggled excitedly that I was the first actual trans person she had met. (Don't exoticize me, please.) The nurse who walked in on my full frontal in the middle of the night and squeaked, "Oh my, oh my' like Mole in The Wind In The Willows. Incorrect pronoun usage every now and then, courteously corrected by me or my family, corrections (mostly) cheerfully accepted. (This attention to using the appropriate pronoun is, of course, key to dignified treatment for trans people. And at times challenging to the cisgendered, though undoubtedly good for them).
Then there was the resident who asked that common but ill-informed question, "When did you have your surgeries?' A resident, particularly one as smart, compassionate and thorough as this one, should surely be better informed than that. While some of us desperately need surgeries, they are irrelevant for many.
But there was also a very real and friendly willingness to get it right, and many, many moments of quiet, matter-of-fact acceptance of an unexpected, perhaps startling body. Not to mention, of course that these guys saved my life and took attentive and skilful care of me.
Almost all the medical professionals, from doctors and nurses to technicians, food servers and cleaners and the folks wheeling the gurney into surgery (they really do say "Code blue, code blue" just like on the telly), just took my oddness in stride. One nurse said proudly, "This is St. Mike's after all,' where Toronto's glorious diversity is broadly represented among patients and even to a degree among staff. Did I mention that emerg is jam-packed with breathtakingly handsome, calm and kind young doctors who kept our gaydar on almost constant alert?
There were, of course, hilarious moments, like when the nurse came with a bedpan and I had to say, "Um, thank you, nurse, but I don't have the right equipment for that kind."
Or when someone close to me was running anxiously through the hospital trying to find me and a helpful receptionist asked, "Is your friend a man or a woman?" Wailed my friend, "I don't knooooow...."
Hershel Russell is a psychotherapist, educator and consultant.