I held a tissue over my face with both hands, pressing my fingers gently into both eye sockets to catch water before it flowed down my cheeks. I breathed in as waves of emotion erupted faster tears and a scrunched up face to hold them in.
I had begun crying mid-visit. Again.
Two years before, I had sat in the same chair and cried the same tears, but today I felt different. Stronger, in a way. Less afraid. The tears felt good.
I heard the doctor stop typing and swivel their desk chair to face me.
Content advisory: this post discusses experiences and examples of medical spaces being uncomfortable/unsafe for people who identify as transgender, genderqueer, nonbinary, or another related identity.
I made this a blog post after publishing it on my personal facebook page and several people commented that they had no idea these experiences existed. I realized it should reach a wider audience. I’ve posted it below without editing except to emphasize certain words and I’ve also added some links for further education.
I’m pretty sure you are aware of the pinkified, radically femme and feminized culture of breast health issues, breast cancer, and the typically-broadcast stereotype that only cisgender women experience them.
I’m pretty sure you all are also aware that all genders and body types can have breast medical issues despite the above-mentioned stereotype.
But I think many people aren’t aware of what it can feel like to be in a medical space intentionally geared towards women’s breast care if you are a nonbinary, genderqueer, or transgender (and other identities) person. Or a cisgender man.
I am a 30 year old who inherited a lifelong inflammatory disease called ankylosing spondylitis (AS). AS can cause the spine to fuse together from bone spurs and can affect organs and other joints. AS causes significant pain, to put it lightly.
I am also a former college athlete and marathoner. I know what it means to push through pain as an athlete. But I cannot push through the pain caused by my disease. Pushing through it causes the disease to progress and the pain to increase.
My main treatment is a drug made from living cells (the same class of drugs that treats many cancers); it helps slow the progression of my disease. Because this treatment is [finally!] working, it also reduces some of the worst symptoms. But AS is a severe disease with no cure, so even with this specialty drug I still have plenty of pain.
Today, Congresswoman Doris Matsui hosted a press conference in Sacramento in response to the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill. I was invited to share my healthcare story as a Chronic Disease Patient Advocate alongside several elected officials in attendance, including the Congresswoman, California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, California State Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and Councilmember Angelique Ashby.