Creative Nonfiction: Standards of Care

Standards of Care
By Gina Douglas

My first cluster of memories is from right around the time I turned three. My birthday in October, bubble-stuff. Three weeks later, Halloween costumed as a dog. Three weeks after that, President Kennedy was killed, everybody cried. Three days later, the President’s funeral. The day my parents and grandparents found it necessary to tell me that I was a boy.

We were watching the funeral. John-John in his short-pants suit gave his famous salute. My Baba turned to me, and said, “He’s just like you, a little mensch.” I disagreed. I had been watching Caroline. I identified with Caroline. I wanted to be like Caroline. I didn’t like John-John. I didn’t like my uncle Clifford, I wanted to be like my Aunt Marlene. No, they said, that was wrong, and their evidence seemed irrefutable. Bonnie, my friend who lived next door, also confirmed this. She got in big trouble.

When I started school, I wanted to be a girl. My best friend was a girl. Not somebody who went to my school, a secret friend who lived somewhere else, but stayed alot of time with her grandmother down the street from me. I was nine when I learned that there was such a thing as transsexuals, men who changed into women. The first female-to-male transsexuals were years down the road.

I was a voracious reader, grinding through big piles of library books on summer vacations. There were five channels on TV and it was mostly boring. Sometimes when tired of reading what I had to read, I’d look through my mom’s magazines, amongst them True Confessions. That’s how I found out about transsexualism.

One day, I am reading a story about a woman trying to flirt her way out of a traffic ticket without showing her driver’s license, like she had seen her sister do. But the cop has to see the license, and she has to show her male ID. Then she gets arrested and they lock her in an interrogation room, because they don’t want to put her with the men or the women. While she is waiting, she recalls her history as a transsexual. She’s at this point where she is doing the required Real-Life Test, proving she can live, survive and support herself as a woman, before they will let her get surgery and legally become the woman she always knew she was inside.

My mom saw me reading this magazine, and took it away. It was the only time she ever stopped me from reading anything. I looked everywhere for that magazine, never found it. The library didn’t have much about transsexualism, basically the same one column of information, repeated in several reference books. Woman trapped in a man’s body, hormones and surgery change the body….

When I graduated out of high school, I could count what I knew about transsexuals on one hand. Encyclopedia Americana, Christine Jorgensen, Renee Richards, and Shannon who posed in an issue of Hustler.

I started out college to be the lawyer I was supposed to be. Then I grew up and started thinking about what I wanted to be. More than anything else, when I was twenty, I wanted to be a girl. But now, I had access through the university library to all the world’s information. I could learn anything I wanted to, and I could learn everything there was to know about transsexualism.

It didn’t take long for me to find the bible of transsexualism. Not literally a Bible, but a book that was the definitive book about transsexualism. It was published by something called the Harry Benjamin International Gender Disphoria Association. This association purported to be all of the medical professionals who specialized in treating transsexuals. The book was the Standards of Care.

I knew exactly what a Standards of Care was. My family business was plaintiff attorneys. The firm paid me to research stuff for them, and to recruit potential clients, including medical malpractice. Malpractice is when a doctor doesn’t follow the established Standards of Care. A doctor can do the wrong thing, but if it’s the same thing everybody else does, it’s not malpractice. A doctor can do the right thing, but nobody else does it, and it’s malpractice. This book was the textbook and lawbook for transsexualism.

It was only a few pages into the book that I found that they would not let me be a transsexual. Black and white, you didn’t even have to be a doctor or lawyer, or even smart, to understand it:

A person is disqualified from being considered to be a transsexual, or receiving treatment as a transsexual, if:

Then there were reasons, A, B, C, D, etc, disqualifiers for being considered transsexual. I only had to go as far as reason C. Reason A: A person cannot receive treatment as a transsexual if they are insane or mentally ill. Seems reasonable to me. Reason B: if they are a drug-addict or alcoholic. OK, I can see the logic of that. Reason C: (remember, they are only talking about male-to-female transsexuals, because that’s all there was then) if they have had sex to completion with a woman in the last two years.

I checked my watch. It was gonna be a while.

It was also going to be a long while, 20 years, before this collection of self-appointed experts on transsexualism finally figured out that transGENDERism, didn’t have nothing to do with sex. How could it? I wanted to be a girl before I knew sex existed.

People talk about coming out, but imagine that you had a take a test to prove you were who you thought you were, who you knew you were. Imagine that you had to get letters from two different psychologists, and have the headshrinkers decide if you were to be gay or straight, and give you permission for it. What tax do you pay to be who you are? What legal papers do you have to file and what court costs do you have to pay, what medical tests do you have to take and pay for, just to be yourself?

Author’s Bio: Gina Douglas was a creative-writing major at Wayne State U in the early 1980’s, when she was still trying to be male. She had several publications, and won an amateur bowling writer’s contest; before she stopped fighting her true gender. Gina is transitioning in Colorado Springs, one of the most conservative communities in the nation. Gina has written a novel (unpublished) about transitioning, and a collection of word-for-word true stories, Trapped in Transition, of which this story is part. Other stories from Trapped have appeared in Burning Word and Chaffey Review.


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