The dreaded moment finally arrived yesterday morning… Following an early start and a walk in the freezing cold along Bute Street, my spouse and I arrived at our new GP practice in order to be early in the queue for the walk-in surgery. We were indeed early… which meant only an hour and a half of waiting, during which I paced about, fretted, shivered, and imagined several outcomes, most of which involved me being sent away summarily with maybe a prescription for antidepressants, a self-help reading list, or just an angry injunction to stop wasting valuable time.
The sense I might just be wasting NHS resources was driven home to me by several flat-screen notices that flashed up around the waiting room, emphasising how precious doctors’ time is, and how much it harms those with serious cases to waste their time with trivial issues. Was my gender dysphoria really that important, or something I could manage myself? After all, I had lived with it for twenty years with no worse symptoms than my lousy self-esteem… but now I had resolved to drop the act, and I doubt I could resume it again if I wanted to. These days I may look much the same, give or take a lot of excised facial hair and remnants of eyeliner, but I barely recognise myself as the person (or persona) I was only a month ago. This was surely at least important enough for me to request a psychiatric referral, but would I get it?
Finally, the boards stopped flashing their guilt-inducing adverts and switched to a name, in stark black on yellow: “ANTHONY BURNS TO CONSULTING ROOM 6”. That name itself made me cringe, never mind the pressure, but I took a deep breath and marched through the swinging doors to my fate… Since the GP had been seeing people all morning in quick succession, I was expecting a pretty cursory reception, but at this point my pessimistic expectations all began to crumble. Following a friendly welcome, and a gentle, polite questioning, I came clean about my condition. No judgement, scepticism, or ridicule ensued. My request for a referral was taken seriously at once, though I was asked – again very sympathetically – to divulge the background of my dysphoria, which amounted to the condensed contents of my previous blog posts. Again, I was taken completely seriously.
The referral was made, and I expect to hear from the psychiatrist soon. When I mentioned the LGBT church meeting I was attending, I also found out that the GP was himself active in the LGBT Christian rights / reform movement, and he was optimistic for change even within some of the most conservative elements of the church. This led to a brief conversation about faith, my perennial muse Leelah Alcorn, and how little sense it would make for someone who knew they were gay or transgendered to pretend to be “normal” in church. One could assume an omniscient God would see through their façade, even if it managed to fool a narrow-minded congregation. Even if there is some sin in not being normal, whatever that means, surely there would be a worse sin in mere deception and self-deception?
The longer this meeting went on, the luckier I felt. Though the GP left me under no illusion that transition, if that was deemed to be in my best interests, was a lengthy process, I felt so validated that I could only regret Leelah Alcorn was denied such professional and considerate care, instead being sent down the route of pseudo-scientific quackery by parents who were evidently determined to fix the outcome. Ironically, by thus ignoring her medical interests, they played a far more dangerous game with nature than the one they believed she was playing, and with manifestly disastrous results. By offering her only the option of living death, they neglected to see that she would look upon actual death as preferable.
I wonder had they only taken her to see one unbiased professional, and listened patiently themselves instead of lecturing others, whether that catastrophe might have been avoided. But I hold out hope that Leelah is now in a better place, and one day her parents may even see her again and have the chance to make their peace, if they can finally accept their daughter for who she really was.
As for the “reparative therapists”, however, I tend to hope there is a circle of Hell reserved just for them and all such sanctimonious scammers who think nothing of making a fast buck out of breaking vulnerable children’s spirits…
Oh, and the best part of the meeting? The GP asked me if I have another name, and would I like my NHS register altered to reflect that? That led to an enthusiastic and unequivocal yes… No more yellow flat-screens will be flashing “ANTHONYs” in my face ever again, God willing.
I only hope when Eleanor’s letters start arriving, the other building tenants don’t repost them as “return to sender” … Maybe I should tell them I have a long-lost sister (as opposed to my actual sister, who goes by another name and lives in India, so she isn’t a very plausible recipient).