"You are a strange creature": How do transgender people see doctors

20 November 2018

Right from the beginning of my transition, I tried to perceive all dangerous and unpleasant situations with self-irony. The moment when two policemen came to take me to the local military recruitment office comes to my mind. I had started taking hormonal therapy and got a full-time job before I decided to change my ID and all the related documents. So I dressed and looked like a girl. But in the military commissariat database at that moment, I was an army draftee. I have never tried to elope from the recruitment commission on purpose. Conscription to the army has never really bothered me since I realised that they wouldn't take me. However, I have never received a draft notice as well.

And one day at seven o'clock in the morning I heard a doorbell persistently ringing. I went to the door wearing my pink pyjamas and peeked through the peep hole. Two men in civilian clothes stood there. I was half asleep, so I didn't think much and just opened the door. They introduced themselves as the district policemen and showed their badges:

"Good morning madam, does Mr. XXX live here?"

I, without a second thought, replied:

"It's me."

Surprised, they looked at each other:

"Get ready, we're going to the recruitment office!"


"What the hell have you brought here, for God's sake? We don't need such a soldier!"

It must be said that these were nice policemen, they waited till I got dressed. We went to the office by one of the policemen's car. On our way, we were telling jokes and making fun of the fact that they were driving me to the recruitment commission, and they treated me with a Snickers. And I purposely dressed well for such an occasion. They finally got me there and showed me to a warrant officer. The officer swore: "What the hell have you brought here, for God's sake? We don't need such a soldier!"

"Wanna do military service?" the officer asked me, a question that he, apparently, asks each draftee.

"Well, I don't mind" I replied with irony.

I was sent to the medical board. They were conveniently conducting medical assessment on the first floor. 18-year-old guys stood around. The doctors invited people to the office in groups of ten. And so we finally came in. "Strip down to underwear".

I decided: "Ok, that's not a problem." I enjoy attention from guys. I started taking off outdoor clothes along with the others. Note that I already had breasts and a bottom like a woman, and the underwear was chosen specifically for such an occasion of paying a visit to the recruitment office. On the same note, the guys should have probably seen that I hadn't been born a girl. Everyone got undressed and stared at me questioningly. Of course, it felt awkward and a bit scary, but I realised the situation was ludicrous; they had told me to take off my clothes, and so I did. Nobody would have laid a finger on me there anyway. Realising that helped me cope with the stressful situation. A woman doctor, one from the board, that was passing by, yelled at me: "Gosh, and why are YOU stripping? Go to the psychiatrist, no waiting in line! Go-go!" The psychiatrist understood the situation, we had a nice conversation. Soon I got the statement that I was not physically qualified for the military service.

Just like the vast majority of transgender people in our country, I started taking hormones on my own. That's why at a certain point I decided to see an endocrinologist to 'legalise' my hormonal therapy and to get an official document stating that I was taking medication. I didn't have any prescriptions or permissions from psychiatrists then, so the endocrinologist said that he wasn't entitled to help me with hormones. I explained that I was already taking the treatment. And told that either I left at that moment and he didn't get paid for the appointment and I continued therapy, or he could suggest something and reduce possible damage due to hormones. He agreed to supervise my therapy.

When the general practitioner at my local medical centre started asking questions about my body changes and the clothes I wore, I had to come out. I expected to face lack of understanding and heaps of stupid questions. But the doctor expressed sympathy and asked how she should address me now. I told her my name, and she wrote it on the medical chart cover in red marker pen. The chart at that moment was issued on my male name. Since then, many doctors at the centre, who saw me for the first time, asked how they should address me. And if they used a wrong name, I pointed at the red subscript and asked them to call me the other name. Everyone accepted it. Moreover, when I got my new ID and other documents and came to the medical centre to issue a new medical chart. Even the doctors whom I didn't know congratulated me. Everybody was so glad for me; they said: "Well, finally. The new name suits you so much."

"Even the doctors whom I didn't know congratulated me. Everybody was so glad; they said: 'Well, finally. The new name suits you so much."

In general, I had good luck when it came to doctors. The appointments with doctors almost always went well. However, that is not the case for many transgender people. Planned checkups, gynaecologists and urologists are a real nightmare for transgenders. And people like me usually just do not see these doctors. It is an unbearable experience to show the genitals before the surgery, taking into account the absolute rejection of one's body. I think the problem of doctors manipulating genitals is an acute question for many transgenders. Say, if a life-threatening disease related to the genitals is found, there will be many people amongst us who would rather die than allow other people to see that zone of the body. Regardless of those other people being specialists.

A friend has recently told me a story: "I came to donate blood, they sent me from work, there was a woman to be saved. As always, they took a blood sample from the finger, and I was intending to see a practitioner, but I was asked to go to another office. And there were many doctors and nurses. They all lashed out at me, started picking on me: 'Who are you? What the hell is this? An unknown creature. Your mother is a poor woman.' And all the stuff like this. They took off my clothes, saying that they wanted to 'make sure'. And started to offend and humiliate me. I said: 'There's a human being dying, and you are spending time on this nonsense. I came here to donate my blood, not to report to you.' And they replied that they were willing to make sure of who I was."

"There's a human being dying, and you are spending time on this nonsense. I came here to donate my blood, not to report to you."

What does one do in a situation like this? Well, first of all, simply remember: it is not your fault that you were born a transgender, you didn't choose this path, so, consequently, you are not responsible for it. And if doctors have questions or are annoyed about your situation, it is their problem only. Roughly speaking, you came to have a toe treated, and if the doctor is interested in other parts of your body, that's not your concern. Remind the doctor that you came in regards to the toe only, and it is highly likely that you came to a doctor whose specialisation is toes, not genitals, let alone psychology/psychiatry. So the doctor may treat the toe and that's it. If they ask you questions that you don't want to answer, say: "I do not want to answer that question". Especially if an arbitrary "toe specialist" asks: "How are you going to live now?". Do not forget, it is the doctor sitting that is there to inform you, not vice versa. You don't have to satisfy the doctor's curiosity.

Recently I visited a proctologist. My documents are the documents of a woman, I look like a woman, the doctor saw me for the first time and he didn't know anything about my male genitals. Prior to the visit, I had decided that I wasn't going to explain anything, warn him and so on. Decided that I'd just take off my trousers when the doctor asks me, and that's it. And if he had any questions, I'd tell them that I came for my ass and nothing else. Without the internal stance "It's not my fault that I am who I am", one comes to the appointment in the state of aggressive defence. And I was coming to see a doctor as a regular woman. Well, in a nutshell, the doctor gave no sign. Like, literally, no sign at all. I believe it's all about how you present yourself. I came to the appointment as a regular patient and gave the appropriate attitude.

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