In December of last year, I was presented with an opportunity to be part of a medical study that is looking to see how long the IUD I use can be extended out. As my life with Katie was still in a giant land of question marks, I enrolled, thinking it would be a long time before we knew how to answer the Kid Question and that I could at least make some extra side money for literally doing nothing but having an IUD and infrequently being examined by a doctor. The first appointment I had was in January, and I remember sitting in the lobby filling out all the paperwork, trying to figure out if I should put Kyle or Katie down as my emergency contact. At this point in our transition, it was still so early on that pronouns and names were not as instinctual as they are now. I still worry that if I put Katie down while her name is not legally changed, somehow, we will be denied care or access. What if there is an accident, and she can’t get to me because her ID says Kyle? I don’t know if this is a valid fear and I have done very little to research the legality of it. Still, this is one of many things I think about now that I didn’t have to before.
This past Saturday, I had a follow-up appointment for the study. I woke up early, drove down to Tacoma and was in and out of the clinic in 45 minutes. I’m proud to be part of this study, a study to help women make more empowered reproductive choices and ending with the option for an IUD that will last 8 years instead of 5 or 7. I wish I had that when I was 20 and confident that I didn’t want kids yet. Anyway, while in the appointment with the doctor, she asked me if I’d used the pregnancy tests they had provided. I haven’t, and I mentioned that I wasn’t worried about it now with Katie transitioning, that her sperm count was decreasing.
I want to preface the rest of this post by reminding you, dear readers, that these are my observations about my experience and there are probably 28 ways I could talk about it more eloquently and from a more educated view. This topic I’m about to discuss is a heated one, one people feel very passionately about, and I think it’s important to mention that I am capable of standing up for myself and exploring my own feelings. I am not angry about what transpired after I told this doctor about Katie being transgender. I’m hoping to reflect upon what happened and inspire a conversation about what kind of reaction I will have when this happens again. What do these feelings mean?
I hadn’t told my doctor that Katie was transitioning before Saturday. It didn’t feel necessary. That said, when I mentioned it, there was an audible, awkward silence. I didn’t feel judgement or hostility. Nothing threatening. Just the palpable taste of not knowing what to say or how to process my words. I do believe this reaction from the doctor is in part due to the casualness of my delivery. She asked me if Katie needed any services, noting that their clinic just started offering them. I let her know we didn’t, that we had it covered, but thanked her for letting me know. She asked me if we were in fact still having sex. Now, this question isn’t weird – I’m in a study about the longevity of my IUD – but I’m not sure if the question was related to needing to know for the study and, if it was, why it was relevant?
I still don’t know what to make of this exchange. I do know I felt uncomfortable with her reaction. Or is it an absence of a reaction? I’m not sure what to call it. I’m not sure if my discomfort is because this is the first time a medical professional hasn’t handled the idea of Katie with the nonchalance every other medical professional has so far. I can distract from an awkward social situation with ease, but I couldn’t with this one. I sat there on the table with a paper sheet covering my lower half, uncomfortable with why she wasn’t saying anything. I don’t even want to say the name of the clinic or the study because I really respect them, what they represent, and I really like my doctor. Still, it occurs to me that this is my life now. At any moment, I’m going to be expected to explain my wife to people who cannot understand her or are not ready to entertain that she and we are normal. There is going to be awkwardness. I’m not even sure if she made it awkward or if I did.
Part of what I often focus on in therapy is how strange it is to go from being a privileged white woman to a minority. I’m saying that knowing full well that I’m still privileged by my spouse and I being white, that if we were of any commonly-associated brown ethnicity, our stories would be very different. Would we have the insurance we have? Would we have the jobs we have? Would I have gotten the education that led to the job I have? The questions are numerous. That said, now I must ask if the reaction from my doctor was because I’m married to someone who was transgender or because of my delivery on the subject? Or because of something else? I’m not sure if the more unsettling part is that I’ll never know or that I now must ask.