Sunday, May 31, 2009

Can You Hear Me?

“Has Will been brought to his room yet” I asked the volunteer at Long Island hospital? “Yes, she’s in room 403. You can go see her now.”

“Will is a man,” I gently explained to the elderly volunteer. “Do we have the right patient?” She heard me and repeated “She’s in 403,” and then told me where the elevators were.

If this is the frustration I am having in just a few sentences, than what was Will going through in a lifetime as a transgender man?

At a hospital, I always thought that staff were trained to listen. What I was finding is that, as in all of life, people bring their prejudice, personal beliefs and skills, or lack thereof, to their job. In this brief, but very frustrating scenario, “Pink Lady” as the volunteers are so affectionately called, had no intention of hearing me. William was in room 403, now I should leave and our relationship is over.

Staff were generally very sensitive to Will. The doctor was going to put him on the postpartum floor following his surgery but we requested he not be put on a floor where patients, no matter what their name, facial hair growth or deep voice sounded like, were female. Will was not a woman and there was no reason to put him on a floor with women. He is not a surgical procedure he is a person with feelings and needs. It was my job, in part, to be sure those needs were met.

Will got a private room on a surgical floor.

The nurses and nurse’s aides would pull me aside and ask “it’s “he” right”? I thanked them for asking and reminded them to share the information with the next shift.

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