Down the slope, through the double set of doors and after a brief confirming smile and a “Hi.” I was back in the waiting room. It was blood test result day; well, sort of. I don’t even remember what was on the television in the waiting room. Whatever it was it was a bit of a blur as I mulled over why I was here. I was already tired from lack of sleep and with this appointment on my mind I was thinking again. It was an appointment with, we’ll call him, Dr Neil, the psychiatrist who I’d not seen in quite a while and now my sessions with José, the psychologist were at an end, this appointment would be the next step forward.
Thoughts crossed my mind as I sat there. What would these blood test results mean but more so, how should I feel, how should I react to them, what should I do next. There was no conclusion to come to, they were just base line tests, they don’t really mean anything. Gender dysphoria is a condition, if fact I would go as far to say it is a state, that is separate to how many hormones are racing around the body, but that still didn’t really change the fact that if they show something unusual then how will I feel about that. If they are mega high in testosterone how will I feel? Will it make me question or doubt all the work I’d done so far and decide who I am? What if they’re totally disinteresting?
The difference today was that I was now a stronger person emotionally. The questioning had no longer bullied me like it once did; my work with José had really paid off. The questions were just questions and I was happy to let them lay unanswered and untested. Besides, in a few minutes, providing the tests had been done and had been completed then I would soon find out anyway. So there was no need to beat myself up.
I heard voices coming from around the corner where the doors to the three rooms sat. I recognised Dr Neil’s voice coming from one of the rooms straight away. This was good. It meant his session had finished and early at that. The last patient left with a ‘goodbye’ and he appeared from the corner with his usual curly hair and unusually suited. “Come on in.”
We were in room Barley today. For those who don’t know, that’s the middle room which someone had been playing with again. The chairs were near the window but with a small filing cabinet stuffed in the corner using the room as some kind of temporary make-shift storage area. Dr Neil didn’t dive straight in, “How are you?” he asked. We talked casually about how I’d been a little bit ill recently and how one GP didn’t know what it was and the next GP finger-pointed the cause right away and doubled the dose of a pill I’m already taking. “How much are they giving you?” he asked as he had in the past.
“Twenty milligrams.” I said.
“Oh that’s nothing.” he said casually throwing away any concern I might have, “We prescribe up to…”, he thought for a moment, “two hundred and… two twenty, two… two hundred and seventy five I think.”
“Peanuts.”, I added.
He handed me two blood test sleeves, one green and one red, both already filled in.
“Right, we need to get some blood from you.”
“I’ve had some done.” I said.
“Oh right, when was that?” in his massively hectic career caring for many patients he’d forgotten he’d previously given them to me through Carey, the receptionist, last time I came in for my appointment with José, the psychologist.
“Must be at least two weeks ago.” I checked my diary, it was actually three weeks before. “Three weeks, I expect they’ll be in now.”
He sat at the desk with the computer terminal near the door and tapped away at my records. “Ah yes, they’re in. Were you given two of those blood requests?”
“No, just the green one.”
He suggested I should get the red form done just to be complete. It was just a blood count and at least it wouldn’t require the four vials taken the last time I was there. He looked through the results. “They’ll all fine. You have a marker on one of them being high but it’s just over. I wouldn’t worry about it.”
He read out the name of that test and looked at me across the room in such a way as if asking me if I had any idea what it meant, he shrugged in his usual light-hearted way that keeps sessions from being too serious. It was a baseline test for a further referral rather than any sort of general health check-up and some of those tests are relatively quite rare, especially in biological men. I chanced my luck while he was looking at the screen in detail.
“Could I have a copy of those. Just out of interest.” I knew if I left without them I would kick myself as my intrigue wouldn’t be satisfied. I certainly wouldn’t be able to have a full interpretation and understanding of them but at least I would have some curiosity settled. He couldn’t print it from the terminal on the desk. He left the room to print it from his office.
I was left in the room for a good five minutes or so with just my thoughts and the three quarter drawn-back vertical blinds on the window. I could see clearly into the small drive that lead to the entrance where I would see little other than the odd member of staff, some out-patients or on some occasions a police van where someone with a delicate issue needed to be helped to in-patients. It wasn’t just the cold light of day beaming through the window today. The blinds being drawn back meant I had part of a picture to the outside which fell neatly with my situation. I was on the edge of being referred to the next step, the Gender Identity Clinic. I had noticed, given this short interval to reflect, that I didn’t really question myself, it was just a process of discovery now.
Dr Neil returned with several sheets of printouts with various layouts of the same information that made it obvious the difficulties in getting something out of the system onto paper. “I had to cut and paste it into Word to get it to print.”, he said, “It’s always the same trying to get stuff printed in this place.”
I knew the question would come. On the way to the hospital I really couldn’t think of much else that we could really talk about other than my blood test results and there was only the one interesting marker. It came, “What do you want out of the referral to the GIC?”
It would have been easy to say ‘to start a real life test’, ‘to get hormones’ or ‘start transition towards an operation’, but that wasn’t true. What I want is to attempt the next step and see how I feel when it comes. “It might be that I decide not to have an operation and be content living with my body the way it is.” I explained.
“José wrote a nice letter about your work with him. With the two we have referred in the past they were already living in the role full time so I’m unsure what decision will be made given that you’re not living full time so it will depend if we decide that we can fund it.”
He’d been completely honest about what my expectations should be. José had been supportive. His view was that why shouldn’t I be able to find out what is right for me, even if I’m not in the role twenty-four seven. Why shouldn’t I have access to hormones if that is my choice. These things are, of course, never that straight forward and he has supported me beyond my imagination. Dr Neil has taken his recommendation for referral with respect and now my case is with the decision maker at my local hospital.
How I will feel beyond this I do not know. Both directions from which ever decision will contain very saturated emotions. A ‘No’ will place me at a place of where now, and a yes will leave me with travel, more sessions, probably in London and more decisions to make. But I want to view these as they are rather than a narrow view of a trapped location but a world of options and different pathways, each of which I can try if I so please.
Until next time.