Finances and the LGBTQ community

It’s been long-known and proven over and over that, in general, people who identify as LGBTQ are worse off, financially.  Discrimination at work and within housing, along with being kicked out, disowned, or cut off from family ties, are big factors as to why this might be.  Mental health also plays a huge role.  There have been times when I was so deep into depression that I was not able to function at my job (or, in the past, at school).  Fortunately for me, I was able to take multiple medical leaves, when I needed them, with full pay and full job security.  That’s not always the story, though…

I was contacted a couple of months ago by Linda Manatt, who works for OverdraftApps.com, a company “created to increase awareness of the annual $35 billion overdraft problem in the U.S., which primarily affects the most vulnerable populations of our society. By creating content and developing tools to inform the public, [they] hope to make a positive change and shape tomorrow’s consumer finance policies for the better.”

In July of 2018, they commissioned a research organization to conduct a survey about financial attitudes and realities.  1,009 people from 46 states, aged 18- 71 participated, and 11% of them identified as LGBTQ.  A couple of other factors were isolated, including renters vs. owners and income levels, but not age, race, education level, or any other demographic.

Some of the big take-aways, as it applies to the LGBTQ community were:

  1. While only 14% of people surveyed make less than $25,000 per year, 25% of LGBTQ people fall in this bracket.
  2. 51% of the general respondents reported feeling “that the system is trying to take advantage of them when it comes to financial products.”  When isolating for LGBTQ people, that percentage jumped to 61%.
  3. LGBTQ people are 50% more likely to overdraft between three and nine times in the past year compared to the general population (18% compared to 12% of the general population.)

It is surprising how many people overall have over-drafted at least once within the past year (46%), how few people were even aware that they can opt out of over-drafting all together (39%), and how frequently over-drafting happens without their knowledge (42%).  No wonder people feel taken advantage of, purposefully!  As I was reading through the data, the overarching human emotion running throughout is the avoidance of embarrassment.  And sure enough, there’s a quote within the article to suggest this:

Paul Golden, from Nefe [National Endowment for Financial Education], provides an … interpretation on the reasons people don’t opt out more often of overdraft protection. In his opinion, “bankers [don’t] say that overdraft protection is mandatory” but they do sell it as an insurance to one’s reputation.  In his experience, this is how they are sold to consumers: “You go out to dinner with your friends or work colleagues and the bill comes up. You don’t have enough to cover it – can you imagine the embarrassment you would suffer if your card was declined?” People react: “Oh yeah, I should have overdraft protection.”

It’s like, pay $35 later for the convenience now of not having to put groceries back, in front of other people, when there is not enough in the checking account.  I’d even take this a step further and go so far as to say that people who are more likely to be singled out, to be devalued, humiliated, harassed, abused, and assaulted, are exponentially more compelled to do certain things to get out of embarrassing situations, including (but not limited to, by a long shot!) financial embarrassment.

I’d be curious what types of trends would emerge if the data had been isolated even further, to account for transgender and gender-nonconforming identities, within the LGBTQ community.  I can tell you right now that the picture would become much more bleak, very quickly.  I’d love to hear your own stories if you’d like to share, in the comments section!

If you’d like to see the full study, it is here:
Overdrafting in the United States:  Distrust and Confusion in the American Financial System

And thanks to Linda Manatt for prompting me to get out of my comfort zone and attempt to cover such a big issue, in my own, semi-personalized, way…


Two years on testosterone

This past Saturday was my two year mark on T-injections, 40ml / week (this was just recently lowered, from 60 – my initial dose was 50).  I still very much look forward to every injection (not the act itself, but the being-on-T part), and I still regularly think about the ways hormones have improved my life; I don’t tend to take it for granted.

My original plan was for this to be a short-term thing.  But I kind of love it.  I think my dose will vary over time, but I don’t anticipate stopping really, probably ever.  (Of course that’s subject to change!)  Not having a menstrual cycle is huge.  Being seen as male 100% of the time is… well, there’s some ambivalence there, but it’s definitely an improvement.   Now instead of getting confused for female, I am regularly getting confused for being very young.  Which can be awkward but mostly is fine.

I’m able to engage socially in ways I really never could have dreamed of.  I look people in the eyes way more.  My anxiety is almost zero, where previously, I was operating regularly with an underlying sense of fear and dread.  Some of these mental health changes can be attributed to finding a medication that actually works well for me, but a lot of it is the disappearance of gender dysphoria.

I’m still legally female, which is on purpose, and I still almost always go into women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms.  I’ve never been stopped or questioned.

I don’t love all of it.  I still daily pluck hairs out of my face because I don’t like them and I don’t want to shave.  I’m pretty concerned about my receding hairline.  And if I were really being honest, I liked the way my face looked before being on injections, more-so than now.  It just so happens that the way it is now reads as “male,” and that works out way better for me.  Oh well…

So here are the face comparisons:

two years

One year

Before injections


The PTWC (Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference), 2018

I’m waaaay behind on this post (the conference was Aug. 2-4), but I had a lot of notes and always meant to type them up.  I was clearing off our dining room table and unearthed them, so here we go!

It’s been a couple of years since my spouse and I attended, and this time around, we made it a part of a bigger vacation, which I definitely am going to want to do again in the future – this time, we stopped in the tiny town of Narrowsburgh, NY, for 2 nights and went on a lazy river tube ride down a 5 mile stretch of the Delaware river.  Then we continued on to Philly, where we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Fortuitously, they happened to be dog-sitting / house-sitting at a really swanky and spacious condo that was only a 20 minute walk from the conference center.  Way more convenient than all those times we walked in the heat and humidity from South Philly, in the past.

The first workshop I attended was called Trans Community in Crisis:  Mental Health and Peer Support.  It was led by IV Staklo, who is the Hotline Program Director at Trans Lifeline.  This was totally worthwhile because before attending this workshop, I never seriously considered volunteering for a hotline.  And in the process of learning about it, I could completely wrap my head around that possibility – I actually do have what it takes.  (All it takes for Trans Lifeline is:  you yourself have to identify as trans, you need access to a phone and internet, you need to have follow-through and accountability and be active in the online group.)  I’ve been going through the online training to become a volunteer operator.  It’s about 32 hours of self-guided slides and webinars; it’s going way slower than I anticipated, but I’ll get there eventually.  The workshop itself was a lot of distressing statistics – things like 60% of trans-clients have had to educate their therapists.  53% of trans-people have avoided going to the hospital when it was necessary because of past trauma and harassment.  88% of trans-people have had suicidal ideations throughout their lives…  (All of these statistics are coming from the 2017 National LGBTQ Task Force Survey – I’m only isolating a few of the more alarming ones…)

Next, I went to Token:  The Role of Trans POC Within the LGBTQ Community.  The presenter was Giovonni Santiago, a transman living in northeastern Ohio.  His style was more of a motivational speaker, full of energy and personal stories to accent his points.  I especially liked the Q and A, where people asked him about burnout and how best to say, “No,” when to know that you need to say, “No,” etc.

Friday, I started out by going to Top Surgery Show and Tell.  It was my third time at this particular workshop – it’s always crowded and full of anticipatory energy.  I didn’t participate (but stay tuned for my summary of another conference, in which I did participate!)  These types of workshops are sooo important because the info that’s out there online is fairly sparse, and this is one of the few chances to take a close look in person, at real people’s bodies.

Then I went to Let’s Talk About Our Junk, led by Dalziel Leone, a transman from Kenya.  He started out by talking about his own path and then opened it up so that it was more of a group discussion.  An older person who just recently started his transition talked about choosing celibacy out of necessity, and how incredibly, he was starting to reassess all of that.  Someone else talked about transitioning within a long-term relationship, and really got into the nuts and bolts of how that played out in his case.  A younger person shared about how their parents are immigrants from Liberia, and they can’t even accept their kid being gay, let alone trans.  They said their parents’ reactions have been that Africans aren’t gay, and maybe you need to get in touch with your African roots, go back to Africa to find yourself, etc.  I found the immediate assumption of intimacy in this audience to be pretty extraordinary – oftentimes people need a long time to gear up to tough and frank conversations like this.

After that, I then went to FTM Bottom Surgery Show and Tell.  I’ve considered going many times in the past, but I always felt too intimidated.  This time I just went for it.  It was just like Top Surgery Show and Tell, but with far less people actually standing up there.  I think there were 5 guys, whereas with Top Surgery, it’s more like 40 or so.  This led to just more time to hear more from them afterwards, as audience members kind of clustered around, asking questions and getting a closer look.  At this time, it did not lead me to feel more motivated to pursue bottom surgery, but the experience was still invaluable.

I ended the day by going to Trans On Set, a panel discussion among trans media makers.  We watched 15 minutes of footage first, film reels and portfolios of sorts, from the panel members.  Then we heard about how they’ve navigated disclosing their status or not, dealing with transphobia in the workplace, stuff like that.  For me, this felt like a more passive workshop, a good way to end.

Then we didn’t go on Saturday at all!  We enjoyed time with our friends more and just had a much less anxiety-inducing time of it, overall!  Another thing that was new – my spouse attended a bunch of workshops in the “professional track” cluster and learned a lot of pertinent stuff for their future career!


Thinking about trauma

Every year around mid-November, I tend to think back and reflect on a defining period of time in my adolescence.  And for as long as I’ve had this blog, I’ve written something about it, annually.  When I was 17, I voluntarily admitted myself to a psychiatric unit.  I envisioned I’d be there for a day or two; in the end I was there for 3 weeks, with everything quickly no longer becoming my choice.  It was both good and bad that I went voluntarily – On one hand, I didn’t resent anyone else for making that decision, and I may have made some things easier for calling that shot so early-on in my downward spiral.  Specifically, I could have been walking around in a mild/moderate psychosis for a long time without giving off any glaring red flags, which could have been much more damaging in the long run, led to me slipping back into that state easier and more frequently as the years went by.  On the other hand, I couldn’t forgive myself for the longest time, and I blamed that traumatic experience on being just the start of all problems and struggles that came after it.  If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, everything would have been different, I thought.  If I hadn’t gone to the hospital, I wouldn’t have lost my mind, I thought.  Now though, 19 years later, I don’t think those things anymore.  Instead, I think that I was an incredibly self-aware teenager, and I acted out of self-preservation.

When i was in the hospital, it was expected that I keep up with my schoolwork, or at the very least, try.  In Humanities class, we were just starting to read The Handmaid’s Tale.  Instead of my school-issued book arriving for me to read, a copy was sent from the Central Public Library, which made me immediately suspicious.  I was paranoid that we were being force-fed, brainwashed, and doped, and every little detail just added fire to that flame-in-my-brain.  I started reading it anyway, but I didn’t get far.  On pages 3 and 4, phrases such as,

“A window, two white curtains.  …When the windown is partly open – it only opens partly…”  “I know why there is no glass, in front of the watercolor picture of blue irises, and why the window only opens partly and why the glass in it is shatterproof.”

really freaked me out!!  All I could think about were the parallels.  The decor in my own hospital room, the panic and the dystopian surrealism of it all.  This part especially has always stayed with me:

“It isn’t running away they’re afraid of.  We wouldn’t get far.  It’s those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge.”

I’m pretty sure I did eventually finish the book.  But I dropped the class.  I dropped a bunch of classes when I got back to school, out of necessity.  In order to graduate and have as little stress as possible while doing so.  In order to try to put some of my mental health issues behind me and to look forward to college…

My spouse and I just finished watching The Handmaid’s Tale, up through season 2.  So depressing and distressing.  Just a really jarring portrait of where we could end up, some of it hitting way too close to home – not so much on a personal level, but in a collective consciousness kind of way.  Hauntingly horrifying.

I got the book out of the library again – my local branch this time, not the Central Public Library…  Gonna attempt to re-read it.

Here’s what I wrote in the past, on the topic of being hospitalized:
2013:  Continuing to work through a specific trauma
2014:  That specific trauma is still there
2015:  That specific trauma is no longer a big deal
2016:  Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name-change
2017:  As that specific trauma dissipates further…


Friends and family need to stop framing our transition as a death (open letter style)

Dear friends and family of trans-people,

It can be super challenging, on multiple levels, when a loved one comes out to you, especially if it never occurred to you that they might be transgender.  You might not know where to turn, or what resources to access to help you navigate the changes they (and you) will be going through.  There ARE resources though, plenty of them, and support groups (if not locally in your area, then definitely on the internet).  It is not up to the transgender person to be your sounding board, your therapist, your coach, or your educator.  In addition, as you work through it in your own way, please put a damper on the “transition as death” narrative.  It is trite, outdated, and toxic.

If you feel like you are mourning a death, that’s fine – all feelings are valid (etc.)  But why would this be something you need to work out publicly?  We are very much alive.  Almost always, transition is actually close to the opposite of death – it’s a time to finally feel out who we actually are.  We may have felt like a “half-person” or a “shell of a person” or, to put it in those same grim terms, like a “walking dead person.”  I know I did prior to transition, quite a bit.  Coming out was a celebration of life.  I feel like I have so much more to live for now.

When you claim that the person you knew has died, you are implying that the person we are becoming is not worth getting to know, or that we have slighted you, tricked you, we are to blame for your feelings of loss.  And, actually, we aren’t even “becoming” a different person.  We are the same person, just finally in technicolor, finally kaleidoscopic, however you want to look at it.  If you took the time to see how much we settle into ourselves, how often our worst mental-health issues start to soften around the edges, how we can be more present in the moment, more peaceful, more calm, then you might understand that it is so far from a death that the analogy is utterly ridiculous and laughable.

Please reflect on the ramifications of claiming we have died.
Sincerely, Kameron

And now for some hard evidence!  Two sources that have been recently on my radar have had me in hyper cringe mode as they talked about the “death” of their transgender loved one.

First, an episode of the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People:  I generally love this podcast, and in fact, I’ve written about it before, because there have been 2 prevous episodes highlighting transgender narratives.  If you wanna check that blog post out, it is:  Beautiful / Anonymous:  Trans-related episodes.

Episode #116, sensationalistically entitled She Killed My Father is a much harder pill to swallow.  The gist is that the caller is an only child, the adult child of a transwoman who came out later in life (in her fifties), much to the surprise of those around her.

Caller:  “Sometimes it feels like this person killed my father.  And in a way, that’s right.  You know, I, well, think about it this way:  When you lose… my father, as a male, does not exist anymore.  This person is gone.  And normally when that happens, you have this grieving period, you have this ritual, this ceremony, you can go to this funeral or this memorial service and people bring you food and people give you cards and people just give you your space and they really support you and they let you process that.  But for me, um… especially with my dad… I don’t have a dad anymore, and this person came in and said, ‘Your dad’s gone.  Now it’s me….'”

Chris:  “Wow.  This is, this is, by far, out of all the calls we’ve ever done, one that is so much to wrap one’s brain around.”

Blaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!  To be fair, I am just isolating this one thing, and of course it’s way more complex as we hear more of her story:  Her father is also bipolar, and has issues with boundaries, always wanting to be more of a “buddy” than a parent, stuff like that.  But really, nothing excuses this framework the caller has set up so starkly.  Can’t get past it!

The second instance I’ve recently come across is in a book called, At The Broken Places:  A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces.  This book is co-authored by both mother and son, and it is in many ways a difficult but worthwhile read.  It’s rich in its depth and complexity.  Both authors are not afraid to show their wounds and flaws, and, to be sure, some of that is cringe-worthy.

She (the mother, Mary Collins) delicately sidesteps the specific “my daughter has died” scenario, but she has an entire chapter entitled “Mapping Modern Grief,” and there’s plenty of comparisons to the death of her father at a young age, as well as, “I am grieving the loss of my daughter,” “I understood my daughter would never return,” and this mindboggling way of looking at it:  “My emotional journey with Donald seems to more closely mirror more nebulous losses, such as moving away from someone I will never see again.”

Not as in-your-face with the death imagery, but just as chafing, on an emotional level.


Contacting my first therapist – backstory

In November of my senior year of high school, I had an appointment to see a counselor – my mom had set it up for me.  I’m not sure who she contacted or what route she took to find this person – I should ask her.  I never ended up going to them though because, a week before the appointment, I went to a psychiatric hospital.   I talked to people there.  And when I got out, I started seeing a therapist who was affiliated with that hospital.  I went to her for the rest of that school year, plus my freshman year of college.  I remember talking to her on the phone from my dorm room, and seeing her whenever I came home on breaks.

She quickly and easily became my favorite adult.  I always looked forward to seeing her.  I didn’t talk much.  I had no template for how to converse, basically.  She chipped away at that naturally, gradually, over time.  Sometimes we would role-play.  I often came home from our sessions and wrote out, word-by-word, our conversations.  It’s really neat to read back through those!

She was the first person to ask me about gender, and specifically, if I was comfortable with my female body.  I had just seen Boys Don’t Cry (my mom was reluctant to let me see it, but I was persistent, and she took me), and I told my therapist all about it.  She asked me about different aspects of my body, and I admitted that I don’t like this or that about it, I don’t shave my legs, etc.  But I essentially told her I couldn’t see myself as a man.

I started to go to a youth group through the local gay alliance that spring, and it was super helpful to be able to talk about those experiences from the group, with her.  Plus I had a crush on someone at school – in my memories, it feels like 90% of our sessions were taken up talking about that, specifically.  She always made me feel like there was potential and hope there.  In the end, she was right.  Kinda.  In some ways.  But that’s a different story!

Last week, I uncovered a cassette tape that has her name on it, in my handwriting.  I knew exactly what it was – I always knew this tape existed.  I had just misplaced it for a long time.  I’d been passively searching for it for years, actually.

I put it in my tape deck, which is right behind me where I’m sitting now, and pushed “play.”  I thought I would have some visceral or nostalgic reaction to her voice, but for whatever reason, I didn’t.  It was just her, reading from a script, going through a guided relaxation full of visualizations.  It was kinda cheesy.  Nothing that actually felt like a connection.

As I was planning my radio show this week, I incorporated about 2 minutes of this tape, layered with an instrumental track.

When I went to therapy on Wednesday, I brought all this up – finding the tape, planning on including it on my show, thinking about her again.  My current therapist knew her – they were collegues.  I told her I was thinking about trying to contact her, but I was at a loss because she got married (changed her name) when she moved to North Carolina.

I’ve half-heartedly tried to “google” her once or twice, a long time ago.  For whatever reason, it felt super weird and I didn’t pursue it any further.  But actually talking it out, at therapy (and I’m talking about the here-and-now, current therapist) made it not seem strange at all.  People do these things.  They reach out, try to find important others from their pasts, all the time.

I’m gonna do it!  I’m pretty sure I tracked down her phone number online.  Now I just gotta figure out what I’d say in a message.  My voice sounds male now – I’m gonna have to explain that.  I have a different name.  Yet another coming out.  What am I gonna say?!

Stay tuned for the conclusion, where I actually talk to her, if it all works out…


Recent books I’ve read with mental health content

Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode.  In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!

My spouse picked up a book called Mental:  Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend.  They pointed it out to me, like, eh?  You’ll want to read this!  This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch.  It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it.  The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years.  Like, it’s something that is a thing now.  (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.)  She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25.  I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s.  She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.

Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature.  Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory.  The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind.  The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing.  She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around.  I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs.  As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks…  I was brought to the hospital like, BAM!  So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.

The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame).  He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing.  He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process.  A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible.  It’s fiction.  It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir).  The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy.  I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business.  So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.

Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show.  He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo.  From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple.  He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife.  He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up.  At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it.  Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything.  He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.

In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.


As that specific trauma dissipates further…

Every year around this time, I revisit the first time I was hospitalized, which was Veteran’s Day weekend in 1999.  It used to feel like the worst thing that ever happened to me.  And, in terms of fallout, I still think that it was – it just no longer feels that way.

Two years after this hospitalization, I wrote an essay for a class, including every little thing I could remember about the experience.  A few months ago, I gave that document to my therapist to read over.  I didn’t necessarily want to delve into it or have her probe me about it.  I just wanted for her to have read it.  And she really only said one thing:  “There were always questions about whether you had been in a psychotic state or not.  This definitely shows that you were.”  And, strangely, I was satisfied with that.  As if I could lay to rest whether I needed to be there or not.  For the most part…

I’m currently giving my most recent hospitalization (from 6 months ago) the same treatment, as best as I can remember.  I’m up to 2,500 words so far, and only about 15% done.  I don’t have any plans for it other than just something that I want to do for myself.  We’ll see.  I feel like there’s not much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of psychosis.  (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!)  That does not mean I have lofty goals for where I could take this writing; it’s just a motivating factor, something that pushes me to try to capture it as best as I can.

I just did a cursory search, and a couple of books that stand out as worth checking out are:
Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis and Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Here are the other posts I have made, yearly:

Continuing to work through a specific trauma – Four years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist.

That specific trauma is still there – Three years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it.  I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time.

That specific trauma is no longer a big deal – Two years ago, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal.  The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it.

Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change – Then last year, I wrote about how other things were going on, and I really didn’t have the space or time to reflect.  Which was perfectly fine.  Between the election results, working on getting my name legally changed, and other emotional markers, it just didn’t come up.

This year, I am thinking about it, but it is more in terms of “one of the times I was hospitalized,” rather than, “a traumatic event – the worst thing that ever happened to me,” etc.

 

I’ve been thinking of all the little occurrences that go into the bigger story.  Like, for example, in that state, my mind was so malleable and adaptable that it seemed like, theoretically, anything could be true and just as easily, not true all at once.  Which is one of the reasons I avoided watching any TV.  (There were two TVs on the unit – one played music and had legalese constantly scrolling, in both Spanish and English – like a “know your rights” kind of thing.  The other TV had a remote and listing of channels, and we could watch whatever we wanted, 24/7.)  At one point I did sit down, and there was a documentary on about pineapples.  (Er, rather I’m sure the documentary was on something more broad, but I saw the pineapple part.  I started yelling about the unlikelihood about these pineapples growing.  Don’t pineapples grow on trees like sensible fruits?  What were these miniature pineapples growing up from fronds in the dirt?!  A patient who knew-all immediately matched the intensity I was spewing, and argued for the realness of these pineapples.

A few months later, my spouse’s aunt was visiting from Hawaii, and sure enough, she grows pineapples on her property and sure enough, she had pics to prove it.  I can now accept it fully.


A local doctor was fired for providing HRT

This actually happened a few months ago – she was fired from a nearby college on May 24th.  It’s only now hitting larger news outlets because there are now three state-level civil rights complaints, trying to get her re-instated.  I read about it in the newspaper while at work, yesterday.

She was treating transgender students who came to her with a previous diagnosis.  She was definitely qualified to do so, having gone through many hours of training in trans-health care, attending a conference sponsored by WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), etc.  She was doing this at the college’s expense, which just makes it seem like it was condoned by the college, right?!!

WPATH’s stance is, “With appropriate training, …hormone therapy can be managed by a variety of providers, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and primary care physicians.”  Apparently, this was outside the scope of what the Student Health Center did, but this was never communicated to her.  The termination came from out of the blue.

Hormones are prescribed for other reasons at the health center, with no problem.  Birth control, ovarian disease, and low testosterone are all treated regularly.

Interestingly, the information on the Student Health Center’s website changed two months after her firing:  While it had said, “comprehensive primary care,” and “continuity of care,” it now says, “basic primary care” and has no mention of continuous care.  At least they’re being accurate about the downgrade???

This just angers me to no end because this doctor took it upon herself to step it up and become well versed in an area that, for whatever reason, makes so many medical professionals so squeamish and stand-offish.  And if this was something she did of her own volition, and it was well within the standards of care, then back it up!  What was the university afraid of?  There are standards in this field, despite the fact that the medical professions are grotesquely behind the curve with this, in general.  A bunch of transgender students were left in the lurch.

The college’s associate vice president of student wellness was quoted as saying, “We are fortunate to be situated in [city], where there is a strong medical community rich with resources.”  As if to say that students can just go elsewhere.  I’ve tried “elsewhere” around here, as an adult, and it was a super-frustrating process.  If I think back to who I was at age 18 or 19, disrupted care at the on-campus center in this regard would have definitely sent me into a tailspin and/or mental health crisis.  I would have felt like I didn’t have the means or psychic energy to find out another path.  I would have felt deeply cut, in a personal way, by my institution’s sudden change in policy.

It just seemed like this college was at the forefront – it could have laid the groundwork for other area places of higher education to follow.  And then it just took a huge leap back into the wrong direction.  One step forward, two steps back sometimes I guess, right?

I had a bunch of problems with getting continuous care.  I was first getting hormones from a sketchy-ass doctor.  I finally felt so disgusted with his practice that I sought out another path.  I went to one specifically because she was listed as being LGBT friendly and knowledgeable.  That ended up being wrong basically – she told me she didn’t know how she had gotten on that resource list.  I had to have a pretty heated conversation with her – her stance first was that I could come to her for primary care, but I should continue to get my hormone prescriptions through that other doctor.  I told her I wasn’t going to do that.  She told me this was beyond her scope and if she had a male patient with low-testosterone, she would not even monitor him for that reason.

We finally landed on a compromise.  She would continue to prescribe what I was already at, and she would monitor that.  If I wanted to make any changes though, I would have to do that through other means.

When I did want to make other changes, I first got on a long waiting list for an LGBT-specific clinic.  I kept hearing negative stories about the quality of care there, so I decided to also try another approach:  an endocrinologist.  I had to get on a long waiting list for that, as well.  I’ve been going there since January, and so far, I’m happy because I don’t have to deal with the PCP anymore.  Getting an endo was not like adding yet another medical professional and another series of appointments.  It was more like, instead.  Unless I get like, a rash or something, then I’d go back to my PCP.

All of this was hard enough, and I am an adult who has worked really hard at advocating for myself.  Thinking back to who I was as a student I would have withered under this kind of stress.  Students need to be able to access trans-specific care on their campuses.  Period.

A note about the lack of specifics in this post:  I left out the doctor’s name and the name of the college, city, etc. because that’s been the way I’ve always operated with this blog, in order to keep some anonymity.  I’m not sure anymore whether it’s all necessary, but I’m not about to try to figure that out here-and-now.  If you’d like specifics and the names of the sources I got a lot of this information from, just leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you!

 


I’m doing something I dreaded, and it’s not so bad

At the school I work at, there are two main sections to be cleaned – upstairs and downstairs.  For the vast majority of my time there, I’ve always cleaned the downstairs.  The water fountain was better.  It was cooler in hot weather.  There were more people to interact with.  The rooms were cleaner (for the most part).  I was closer to things that I needed to access:  receiving room with supplies, dumpsters, the custodial office.

About 2 years ago, I cleaned the upstairs for roughly 6 months.  It was not my choice – things were rough in a lot of different ways, and this was just one more thing.  One more really big thing though, in my head.  I was in and out of work a few times, due to a serious depression.  When I was up there, it felt as if I could barely do the tasks, and the fact that they were recurring forever and ever was intolerable.  I was rushing myself, always feeling like I didn’t have enough time to do everything.  I was at a loss as to what to do about all the recycling, which for me is a “must do.”  I just felt like I did not belong up there.  I was trying to pop in and out of areas before kids were out of school, and then backtracking, which felt totally inefficient but seemed to be the only way to keep busy.  Just being felt painful.  And the fact that the being was on the second floor made the pain feel compounded so tightly within itself that I was struggling beyond belief.

By about mid-October of 2015, I was told I was switching back to the first floor.  Apparently my co-worker wasn’t doing a great job, there were complaints, it was more important to be clean on the first floor than the second floor.  ??  Anyway, at that time, I was sooooooo relieved.  It was a visceral feeling.  All the negativity was left up on the second floor, and although I was still struggling, I fit right back into the first floor.  A few months later, I got on a medication that really started working for me, and the next two years went really well for the most part.

Sometimes a little too well:  As I’ve mentioned before, I went through a manic episode in May, and I was out for two months, recovering from that.  In a good way though – so far so good on the avoidance of a rebound depression.  However, I lost my status at work.  When I got back, it was clear that the new guy was now the new second-in-command.

In the past, this would have felt devastating, and I would have clung onto whatever control I did have, to the detriment of myself, only, really.  I know because I’d already put myself through all that, big time.  This time around, I decided to take it all in stride, as best I could.  Instead of arguing about how I couldn’t do the second floor or anything like that, I spent time “staking it out,” I guess you could say?  Just, spending time up there visualizing this or that and getting accustomed to the idea, before kids came back.

Now that school is back in session, I am IN IT.  And it’s not actually bad.  So far it has felt preferable, in fact.  I’ve made some changes to my routine that really feel like they’re making a difference.  Instead of bringing my cart plus mop bucket plus garbage barrel to each and every classroom, I am “sweeping through,” first with the garbage and rags to wipe everything down, then with the vacuum for all the area rugs, and then with the dust mop.  I am taking WAY more steps going through multiple times instead of going room-by-room, but it’s feeling good.  Feeling faster, even.

And the weather has not been too hot.  And there’s a new drinking fountain up there as of a couple months ago – the kind where you can easily fill up a water bottle from, and it says how many plastic bottles you are saving by doing so.  I love it!  And I like the fact that the teachers clear out early up there, for the most part.  And the rooms have been clean thus-far.

Best of all, I have my own “room” to store stuff, up there.  That’s new.  So while things are kinda turbulent with co-worker dynamics, I am so glad to have all my stuff and activities separate from theirs, more-so than ever before.

All the negative associations I’ve held about the second floor have pretty much melted away.  A lot of that has to do with mental health and coming out at work.  I don’t feel like I’m trying so hard to get in and out of places.  I actually feel like I belong.  When I talk with people, I like my voice.  When I walk and do all this physical work, more muscle mass is making it feel much more effortless.

The only thing I’m dreading now is “gym use.”  Coming soon will be screaming children using the gym for their cheer-leading practice, from 6-8:30pm.  And once that’s over, it’ll be basketball all winter-long.  We’ll see how well I can adjust…