22 October 2018
I experienced my first mammogram three weeks ago. My wife and close female friends had been warning me about the negative aspect of this test, the only positives being that it was quick and was a necessary part of screening for breast cancer. I know that this latter point is debated among some people but I’m not going into that here.
I was a little concerned about this test only because it was my first time. I have had other procedures that in retrospect are far more painful, such as laser eye surgery for diabetic retinopathy. And while not something I look forward to, I am so familiar with them that I can calm myself before having them. But for this simple procedure I was a first-timer. I can hear the faint calls of “Virgin!” from the Rocky Horror crowd. I read up on the procedure so that I was somewhat informed not only of what would happen but also any possible preparatory instructions.
Since my facial feminization surgery last March I’ve wondered whether new people I encounter see me as a woman or a man. I know that when I look into the mirror I still see Tom, but what about others?
In the past 6 months, since the facial surgery, I have had a few medical appointments for this and that, and legally I am a woman and my medical charts indicate that fact. Usually with lab visits I am asked a series of questions and for this appointment it was the same but the difference is that during this appointment I was able to find out how I am perceived by people that I meet for the first time.
One of the first questions I am asked now is if I am pregnant. It’s usually twisted in it’s asking though.
“You wouldn’t by change be pregnant?”
I had thought that it was being asked in this way because they know I’m transgender and there is no way I could be pregnant, but it was from the second question that I now understood several things.
“Have you recently had a hysterectomy?”
They didn’t know! My medical chart says I am a woman, not a transgender woman. I suddenly realized that they ask if I am pregnant in that manner of supposing that I’m probably not pregnant because of my age, not because I’m outwardly identifiable as transgender. I will be 49 in two weeks, and generally woman do not have children at 49.
I responded this second question with a with a delayed, “I’mmmmm transgender.”
“Oh! Okay then!” The nurses demeanor changed to a wonderful conversation about if I’m getting top surgery and when. Am I on hormones, which lead to my unfortunate experience with estrogen and my mini-stroke. She was very helpful and explained everything to me like a new member of the club.
It was such a comforting and nurturing feminine experience, the kind that I had lacked so many times throughout my life when I was grouped with the boys, but would rather have been included in all things “girl.” I’ve missed out on all of those firsts that girls learn and master at each stage of life; having one’s ears pierced, learning about nail polish, how to appropriately sit while wearing a skirt, training bras, and of course the others that don’t and won’t apply to me because no matter what I do the biology is still different.
And while twisting myself into a slouching knot to have my chest pinched and x-rayed wasn’t the wonderful experience of getting one’s first prom dress, it was still pretty wonderful to find out that I am perceived as the woman I identify as, and then be welcomed and accepted as a woman instead of judged and mocked.
We all want to belong and be accepted, and we all want to be loved.