On Friday I experienced the most hilariously bad doctor’s appointment ever.
I used to have fortnightly testosterone shots, but recently changed to having one slow-release injection every three months. This requires a doctor to inject it, because you need to put it in exactly the right muscle to ensure a slow release. I had an appointment with the very lovely Dr J to get my shot on Friday morning, but changed it so I could sleep in. Dr J was not in Friday afternoon. Instead, I saw a Dr M. Dr M evidently hadn’t administered this partiulcar brand of T before. To begin with, she took about 10 minutes to draw the T into the barrel of the syringe. (Admittedly, it is really viscous, and there’s a lot of it.) It looked like there was heaps of air being sucked up too, lots of tiny air bubbles. We chatted as she did this, and I made a minor social faux pas by assuming that she was the Dr M who A. used to see. Okay, there are two Dr M’s at the C____ Clinic. This Dr M looked quite annoyed as she explained that everyone mixes them up constantly. She moved in to inject the shot. I undid my jeans and leant over the table, she stuck the needle in. It didn’t even prickle. So far, so good.
Then I heard a popping, fizzing sound. The needle jerked inside me, and Dr M swore. She’d pressed the plunger down too hard, and the T had exploded out of the barrel, some of it landing in her eye. She didn’t tell me this last; instead she sort of dabbed once at my ass-cheek with a swab and then ran to the phone to consult some other doctor. So I’m looking around for a tissue to wipe away the oily T dripping down my ass, and she’s on the phone. This is what she said:
“Hello, R___? I’ve got a patient here who’s getting an androgen shot, and I just tried to inject it but it went everywhere. What should I do? Yeah… it’s all gone. We’ll have to give them [sic] another shot. Um [embarrassed pause] some of it went into my eye. [At this I was like, “Oh no!” And started making apologetic gestures. Her eye was inflamed and weeping.] I’ll need to irrigate my eye…. What? She’s [sic] on Reandron. No…. She doesn’t like Sustanon. She’s on Reandron 1000 milligrams. Okay. Yeah. I just need to go irrigate my eye.”
Once off the phone, Dr M turned to me and said she’d print me a new prescription for Reandron, and that I should come back next week and get it injected. She also said that the surgery would refund the $30.00 for the wasted T. I tried to be apologetic and reassuring — after all, Reandron is a new product, and it is viscous and hard to inject. (That’s why I go to the doctor to inject it, rather than doing it myself.) As I was leaving I said, “By the way, my pronoun is ‘he’.” She said, “What?” I repeated myself. And she said, “Oh. Did I call you ’she’? Was it when I was on the phone?” “Yep.” “Oh. Oh. Sorry. Look, I just need to go irrigate my eye.” She ran off, and I ran down the stairs to wrangle with the reception staff for an appointment with Dr J next week. My shot will be really late, but at least Dr M didn’t offer to see me again. I hope her eye is okay.
It had been muggy all day, and I had been in a slightly weary, tense mood for no reason since the morning, but when I got to the car it was just starting to rain. There was thunder. The drops were huge, like the monsoon. I put on the Saints, really loud, and spent the next 45 minutes in peak-hour traffic cackling with hysterical anger and banging the steering wheel to “Stranded”. The pronoun thing upset me so much that I had a fashion crisis, and had to change, which made me late to meet J. But it totally reset my mood to upbeat-mad rather than quiet-sad. And upbeat mad is easily transposed to upbeat-happy. Then there was incredibly delicious food at Ghin Khao: som tum, coriander root, garlic and pepper fried chicken with khao niaw (sticky rice), and of course good company, which totally made it all better.
Meanwhile, we really need to do something about the level of trans awareness at that clinic. Getting pronouns wrong is pretty much the most tactless thing you could do in that situation, T in the eye or not. Worse, for my actual health, she had no idea what she was doing. This clinic is the premier queer-run doctor’s surgery in Melbourne. Their GP’s evidently aren’t asked to educate themselves about trans health issues at all. Another doctor at the same clinic recently gave a friend of mine a lecture about how testosterone is addictive, and that most transmen ‘just want to keep on increasing their T dosage because they want a bigger and better kick.’ He had been told by another doctor that he should increase his dose, but when the other doctor wasn’t available, he had to see this one. She refused to give him prescription repeats, meaning he has to attend fortnightly appointments to get shots until she decides that he’s not a ‘testosterone junkie’. Amazing logic at work there: if you have to inject a pharmaceutical (or is it just if you’re trans and you have to inject a pharmaceutical?), you are classed under the heading of ‘possible junkie’, and your health requirements are pathologised with the same idiotic, bourgeois paternalism as with criminalised drug users. I wonder how she deals with people who actually use heroin. Not well, I bet.
It feels great to think about starting a trans/gender-focused health service independently, with information and resources and space but no actual medical services. But the medical services for transpeople in this town are often really shoddy. Everyone deals with the problem by one-on-one education at appointments. Ie, the trans patient educates the doctor, tells them what books and articles to read, until the doctor is sufficiently knowledgable to get a reputation for dealing well with trans issues. At this point, the doctor gets flooded with trans patients. Then, of course, the knowledge resides with the individual: and doctors leave, they have children, they find work elsewhere. My two favourite doctors are overseas and on indefinite leave; Dr J is moving to Sydney in December. My choice of doctor now is not only about who treats me well, but which doctors are suitable candidates to train up for the benefit of myself and others. It’s not what I’d call a workable system.