As published on The Montreal Gazette's website:
Personally, I like a good trip to the psychiatrist. It makes me feel sophisticated — like an upper-class New Yorker in a Woody Allen movie. It gives me a chance to whine about my existential angst to someone well educated enough to understand it. But I won’t bore you with the details. It would just read like a pretentious post-modern white paper, and I’m sure no one wants to read that.
For me, gender is only a peripheral issue. Probably for the best: Transgenderism has always had an uneasy relationship with psychiatry. As far as I’m aware, trans people are the only folks whose sense of personal identity hinges on getting a doctor’s approval.
I don’t get the need for a diagnosis of gender identity disorder to get on hormones. Can you imagine the furor if women needed a psychiatrist to diagnose them with nymphomania to get on the pill? Why should my lifestyle need to be branded a disease to get the same medications?
I understand why so many trans people embrace ugly mixes of Latin and Greek like gender dysphoria though. In lieu of strong legal protections for trans rights, many have opted to protect themselves from discrimination on disability grounds. Considering the bigotry we face, I don’t blame them. But I don’t think how masculine or feminine a person feels is a disease.
Transgenderism might not be common, but that doesn’t make it any more an illness than being smart or artistic. Maybe I just have a talent for getting in touch with my feminine side. Considering 50 percent of people live as women, I’m fairly comfortable looking at is as a perfectly ordinary lifestyle.
To some this sounds too much like a choice, but look at it this way: you can’t discriminate against a woman because of whether she’s chosen to get married or have kids. These kinds of private, intimate decisions are nobody else’s business. Likewise, what consenting adults do in their bedroom is nobody’s business either, no matter how titillating it might be. Why should what’s between my legs be treated any different?
The sort of gatekeeping doctors do with trans people just keeps them from doing their job. When trans people know they need to meet a bunch of diagnostic criteria to get hormones or surgery, they just end up telling doctors what they want to hear. It’s a shame because psychiatrists have a vital role to play in helping their patients cope with such potentially stressful life events as coming out and transitioning. Instead, trans people feel they need to conceal things like depression and anxiety lest they be seen as too unstable for the procedures they want.
My psychiatrist has mentioned hearing scripted stories on several occasions, stuff like, “I’ve known I was born with the wrong body since I was three years old!”
That’s quite an abstraction for a three-year-old to wrap their brain around. When I was that age, I mostly remember drawing pictures of my imaginary friend Shaw-Shaw the monkey with chocolate-scented magic markers. Gatekeeping just robs the doctor-patient relationship of the vital trust it needs to be helpful.
I like to compare the trouble I went through getting an orchidectomy (lopping my nuts off) to women’s issues. In Ontario when a woman chooses to get an abortion, she doesn’t have to spend months convincing a doctor that’s she’s making the right choice. The fact that she might regret this irreversible decision is nobody else’s business. Provincial health insurance even pays for it.
So you can imagine my frustration when I was refused the orchi because my doctors thought I should get sexual reassignment surgery instead. They were recommending a far more radical surgery I didn’t want and which costs 10 times as much. What kind of voice of reason is that? I don’t want to have my penis turned into a vagina! I think it’s fun!
For me, transitioning has nothing to do with medicine. It’s a simple matter of my body, my rights.