Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Caring is Health Care?

One of the great things about motherhood is caring and nurturing, loving and taking care of your kids.  It's one of those things that makes being a Mom so fulfilling.  It's even more dear to me as a Trans Mom because I never believed that I would have these experiences.  Looking at adulthood from a young boy's point of view I would never have believed that I could grow up to be a Mom though I desperately wanted to.

One of the biggies about caring for your children is helping them with disability, another is when they get sick.  My youngest daughter suffers from DCD/Dyspraxia.  It means that she seems inordinately clumsy and uncoordinated.  It also means she gets hurt a lot.  When she's not getting hurt she exhausts herself concentrating on keeping herself safe.  Today she was distracted.  She was worried about her Grandpa who is ill with kidney problems.  We were escorting him to the local hospital when inexplicably she opened the car door before we had quite stopped and fell badly and heavily.  I was driving the car.  It happened almost in front of the hospital main entrance.  It was a heart stopping moment and I was horrified.  Paramedics arrived and she was removed to the emergency room with me torn in two between helping my sick father into the hospital or following my daughter.

In the end, I did what most women end up doing and did both, frantically rushing from one to another to make sure they were okay and somehow feeling at the same time that I had let both of them down.  My daughter was lucky.  She escaped with no breaks or fractures but lots of bruising and scarring.  She emerged an hour and a half later, bandaged and limping and forcing a smile.  By this time I was in another room with a renal consultant being told about possible dialysis for my father.

The hospital staff were so sensitive, kind and understanding.  All three of us needed that. We came home exhausted.

But it's not always been that way.  I recall one desperate night a couple of years after starting my transition when my daughter sustained yet another of her many injuries and I faced a Trans Mom's worst nightmare.  It was late.  I had already gotten ready for bed but my daughter needed taking into hospital because she had injured herself yet again.  I did what any Mom would do.  I threw on the clothes I had been wearing earlier, now creased after a day at work, grabbed my purse and drove to the hospital.  Having already removed any makeup earlier I rushed briefly into to the restroom on the way in to the Emergency Unit.  I'd forgotten my hairbrush and only had a little powder compact in my purse to make myself look presentable.

From the start the nurse interviewing us both was mistrustful and displayed little understanding.  I was asked curtly to leave the room whilst my daughter was interviewed alone.  I stood outside in my creased dress with my hair in a mess desperately wanting to know if she was alright, no such luck.  While she was being treated for her injuries I was interviewed separately, interrogated would have been a better word.  'Was I who I said I was?'  'Why was I claiming to be her Mom?'  'Where was her Mom anyway?'  I found myself wondering if this Health Care employee 'cared' at all.  I was told quite clearly that I was not who I claimed to be (my daughter's Mom) and the whole matter would be directed to the local Social Services Office for investigation.  It was.

A visit from a Social Worker shortly after left me no option but to make a disclosure about my status.  A soul destroying experience for a woman who had by then already obtained her UK Interim Gender Recognition Certificate.  Having a piece of paper with the word 'female' on it helped sort things out, as did letters from my medical practitioner.  There was little or no understanding offered tough about my request for privacy or any sensitivity in this interview either.

It took a formal independent complaint (upheld) and a disclosure request from me to finally unravel all that had happened.  The hospital had recorded me as 'A man dressed as a woman, claiming to be the child's mother.'  This information was faxed to the Social Worker.  I am not a Social Worker, so quite why this triggered a Child Protection referral I will never know.  I felt as though I had been punished for being a caring Mom and seeking medical aid for my daughter when she needed it. It took my confidence many months to recover.

By now, all this has changed for me.  I pass, I also carry a fortune in cosmetics in my purse to repair my makeup but I could probably manage without it now, I carry a copy of my birth certificate that now states 'Girl' very clearly.  Should I really have to do this?  Should I really have to justify that I am a woman?  What remains, even now, is that awful transsexual woman's fear that someday someone else might want to challenge me.  How many natal men or women would like to have their gender identity challenged and how would they respond?  By undressing in public?

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