It’s been almost a week since I attended a panel discussion with my partner and many of my trans and genderqueer friends on gender and healthcare and, to be frank, I’m still shaken by its outcome.
It was put on by a government-funded group concerned with (mostly) women’s health, and the panel was composed of someone concerned with women’s health, one with men’s health, and one who used to be pretty much the sole gatekeeper for access to trans healthcare in Nova Scotia who has since left the province. It started to go wrong almost immediately, with a survey for each attendee on the tables, for which the first question was “What is your gender?: Male Female”.
The impression that I came away with was that the people who care about trans health are few, poorly informed, and blinded by cis-privilege, though they are doing the best they are able. And if I or my partner needs healthcare of any variety we are assuredly going to have a hard time. Basically, their best is not yet good enough. Not even close. To see so viscerally that this is how it is throughout the medical and research community, not just among GPs or psychologists, has been deeply disheartening to just about everyone I know that attended.
Several of us were standing outside conversing after the event had ended when we were interrupted by a man who had identified himself during the event as a researcher among trans people. After trying to explain to us, a group of trans people, how we have sex (apparently it isuni-directional, penetrative) and being rebuffed, he told us that he knew all of this because he “studies those people”. And when it became obvious that we weren’t going to be thanking him for earning his grant money off our community’s backs, he excused himself. Throughout the panel, I was my usual talkative, eloquent self, but as the week has worn on, it has weighed heavier and heavier on my mind.
Contrast this with a trans sex workshop, then a reading (held in the same space as the panel was), led by S. Bear Bergman this weekend. Both events were great, but attended by many of the same people still wading through the aftermath of the panel discussion–a very quiet, still, shy and frankly unsmiling group. I can’t help but imagine how different the workshop would have gone, discussing the interactions between our bodies, our minds and our sexual lives, and how doctors, endocrinologists and surgeons affect these interactions.
None of the cis-IDed “experts” who either attended or participated in the panel were at Bear’s reading and that peripherally had an impact, seeing that, despite their discussions of “going beyond the physiological body” they weren’t accessing the parts of the community where they would have been welcomed, and could have gained an understanding of us as people, and of the problems that we face. But all the same, it was healing to move through the weekend’s events and discuss strategies for dealing with life as a queer in so many ways, culminating today with queer yoga–no discussion, just movement and breathing.