04 April 2012

Zeke Swim Teaches His Doctors

I have to say that I've been rather fortunate in my experiences with health-care providers.  I have a doctor and gynecologist treat other transgender patients in addition to me, and other providers I see regularly, such as my opthamologist and dentist, are well aware of my history and have treated me well.  Also, my recent work with a physical therapist was a positive experience.

In addition to all of that, my surgery was done by the surgeon I believe to have been the best available, both in terms of her surgical skills and the ways she could understand how I felt.

Not all trans people are so fortunate.  For one thing, not all trans people who want the surgery can get it, mainly because of the cost and, for some, medical issues.  What is probably even worse, though, is that some trans people can't find doctors or other providers who are even familiar with the sorts of needs they have, let alone able to put themselves in the shoes of their transgender patients.  In fact, some even face open hostility and ridicule from providers, as I did from two nurses at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary during the early days of my life as Justine.

As difficult as it has been for many male-to-female transsexuals to find competent and respectful care, I think the situation may be worse for females-to-males.  I was reminded of this sad reality when I read this account of University of Iowa student Zeke Swim's experiences, and his reflections on it.

Although some would argue that the transition is easier (though still not easy) for FTMs, I think that getting the proper medical care is more difficult because even fewer providers have knowledge about, and experience with, them than they do about and with MTFs.  Plus, the technological state of surgeries and other procedures is not nearly as advanced for FTMs as it is for MTFs.  

I am glad that Swim is advocating for better care.  It seems that he is experiencing what I've experienced:  Most providers actually want to help.  I am fortunate in that I found professionals who had experience with transgender issues, or were at least willing to learn about them--whether from me or their own research.  

What I really like about Swim's approach is that he is more interested in seeing individual doctors do what they can to make a transgender patient more comfortable than in talking about sweeping changes in the policies of hospitals or other health-related institutions.  I have always believed that change starts with individuals; from there, changes can be made to institutions or, if necessary, new institutions can be created.

What I hope is that Swim--who's less than half my age--will live in a time when a transgender patient doesn't have to be lucky or unusually diligent or wealthy to get the care he or she needs.  I know that in many ways, my transition was easier (though not easy) than it was for most who did it before me; it's certainly easier than it would have been if I'd done it when I was Swim's age.  I believe that Swim and others (myself included) are working to see an age where he doesn't have to explain his condition to doctors and nurses.  As the saying goes, may he live in interesting times.  Interesting and good.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi-this post is about me, Zeke, not Zach, which is actually a pretty big deal considering that my brothers name is Zach. Please change the name of the post. Thank you.