Tag Archives: mental illness

On a certain petition…

24 Oct

PLEASE NOTE: I would kindly ask that you read my entire post and my reply in comments at the end before attacking me. I very much see the other side to this issue and don’t automatically claim im right. I do want you to try to see where im coming from before you accuse me of things I am not saying though. Respectful debate is welcome, attacks because you did not fully read are not. I am also a bit sad I have to add this note.

I keep getting sent a petition online about declassifying gender identity as a mental illness. You may have seen it; it’s the one with Jenna saying trans people aren’t sick. I really do understand the intent of the petition but I wanted to bring another perspective.

Firstly, I would say that most trans people would agree that gender identity issues do bring with them a great degree of mental distress. We live in a society that does not accept us, frequently we lose family and friends, have high rates of poverty, and are often the targets of bigotry and violence. This has led to very high rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental illness in the trans community. One need only look at the extremely tragically high suicide rates to see that trans people are suffering as a whole. I think that makes it fair to classify gender dysphoria as a serious contributory factor to mental illness much in the same way that diabetes contributes to a host of associated illnesses. Having gender identity does not automatically cause mental illness but it certainly increases the likelihood that you may experience one.  That alone makes me reject the point of this petition but I have a much bigger issue that really bothers me:

What is wrong with being mentally ill?

Much of the thrust of this petition seems to imply that being associated with mental illness is something to be avoided at all costs. That is an extremely ableist position to my mind. I have dealt with mental illness for years and it does not invalidate me as a person. It is not something that makes me someone you should avoid. Being mentally ill is just a condition I live with much like I live with being diabetic. Seeing my community put out a petition that says there is something wrong with me really bothers me. I have dealt with years of stigma from being trans and I would like to remove that stigma; but it is wrong to stigmatize another community to make us somehow acceptable.

Currently there is a new push to have gender dysphoria treated like cancer, a condition that needs treatment but isn’t a mental illness, but allows us to have coverage. Ask yourself why you are making this distinction and what it says about attitudes towards the mentally ill. Perhaps instead of this petition we could put some working into de-stigmatizing both mental illness and trans identities.  Everyone’s acceptance and success is conditional till everyone is treated with respect and dignity.

Why I do what I do #1: Becoming a nurse

2 Jul

I would like to dedicate this post to Kate Donovan for inspiring it with a twitter conversation. You are an amazing person 🙂

I have been working very hard the last while to get into nursing school. I am sure I will update that on this blog when it comes through

A few people have asked me about why I want to be a nurse and I have given a variety of answers. There is a few standard buzz lines I have for the people who ask in passing. I want to help people. I find the medical profession very interesting. I have come to have a love of sciences and I thought this would be a chance to use them to earn a living. Nursing is a nearly guaranteed job if i’m willing to relocate.  Nursing is a profession where being trans is less of a barrier. All of these answers are to a varying degree true but its more than that to me.

Let me explain a couple experiences I have had. Shortly after I started transitioning I was out for my daily walk and I hurt my ankle very badly. By the next morning it was quite swollen and I needed to go into the emergency room to have it checked out. I was really self conscious walking in there, I was just starting to leave the house in woman’s clothing and the anxiety still made me feel like I wanted to puke. I was also not very convincing at this point. I had no concept of makeup and I hadn’t had laser yet so I had very clear “shadow”, I was also dressing in somewhat gender neutral but feminine leaning clothing because I was fearful of being laughed at, and I also was still very heavy (325 lbs) and had no breast forms. I had started hormones but they had no effects yet. After sitting in the waiting room for hours and feeling like I was being stared at by everyone I got called in for intake. The nurse asked me what the problem was, examined my ankle then proceeded to take my medical history. After asking about medications and me listing the hormones she asked me why I was taking those and I said that I was transgendered. Her reply?

“Well, you look nothing at all like a woman”

Experience number 2. I had surgery on my other ankle a couple years ago and it was fused and pins put in. Unfortunately the pin came loose and came out the side of my ankle so I had to go back in for some cleanup surgery.  My name change came in after the surgery appointment but before the surgery itself. I thought I had taken care of that at the pre surgery appointment but apparently not.  Everything went well getting signed in at the hospital, and getting brought into the surgery room, I was called ma’am and miss and even a very flattering young lady (i’m not either).  It came the moment where they needed me to sign the final consent for surgery and it had my male name on it. At that point the nurse looked at me with disgust, she started calling me sir, and him and Mr. It was humiliating. Fortunately my doctor came in to clear up the situation and called me Anna and used female pronouns.

These are very important examples of why I want to be a nurse. Having a health care professional treat you with respect and dignity no matter who you are or what your past is can be vital in making someone feel safe enough to access medical care. Trans people let illnesses fester, become ill, and can be dissuaded early in their transitions because of bullshit like this. It can KILL people. I want to be there to be a smiling face. Nurses are usually at the front line of care for a patient. I want to give love and acceptance and make people feel safe, trans or otherwise. Everyone deserves dignity.

Let me give you one more story that is close to my heart. It happened much earlier and will explain why nursing has been a goal for many many years. I was 19 years old and had gotten very ill with a mental illness. I had lost my school year and found myself admitted to a psychiatric ward for care. I felt hopeless, I felt ashamed, and I saw absolutely no future for myself. There was one nurse there named Becky. She talked to me and took time with me and her kindness and gentleness finally got me to admit to the gender issues I was facing. She didn’t laugh, didn’t frown, she didn’t judge in anyway. She asked me what would make me feel better. I said I wanted to shave my legs. It was one of the only things I felt safe doing that wouldn’t show at home with my parents. Sharps on a ward tend to be frowned upon especially since i was on suicide watch so she went and got permission, stayed past her shift outside my shower so I could shave my legs. She even provided tips which have proven very useful over the years. I never forgot her. I felt human and not like I was sick. She made such a difference in my life and she put herself out to do it.

That is what I want to do. I want to be a nurse. I want to make things better because I care. If I can make a difference for one person it will be worth it.

Thank you Becky, wherever you may be.