Is it compliment or insult when someone says they couldn’t tell you were trans? - The Weekly Rant with Mila Madison

There I was. It was my first appointment with a new doctor. To be honest my experience with doctors has not been too great up to this point, but I am determined to find one who gets it. After a half hour of filling out paperwork, I finally go back to the part I skipped, the section that asks about what medications I am currently taking. I reluctantly list estrogen, as I know this will be the reason I will have to out myself at some point during the appointment. Just one of the many uncomfortable things we have to do a trans people. After all, if this person is going to be my doctor he should know my history right?

So I list the hormones and wait until I am called to go in for my appointment. Finally I get to see the doctor. Things are going well. He really seems thorough and that he wants to help me with my symptoms. I don’t feel judged at all, no strange looks or anything. This guy is all business and seems to genuinely want to help me. Meanwhile in my head, all I can think about is “When do I tell this guy I am transgender?” Finally he looks at my chart and pops the question, “Why are you taking estrogen?” My mind scrambles for any other answer, “I have a hormone deficiency,” or “I am going through menopause.” Then I say to myself, “The whole world knows you are trans, so what is your problem?”

“Should I win an academy award for being myself?”

In the end I just blurt it out, “ I am transgender.” After a moment of silence the doctor says, “I had no idea you were transgender.” In a way this should seem like a compliment. I am sure in the doctor’s own way he was giving me one. My brain however starts to process the comment. How would he know I was transgender? He didn’t examine my genitals. Am I supposed to look a certain way? Is there a trans look or a trans vibe I am supposed to give off? Should I be happy about this or should I be offended? Is he saying one of the ultimate transgender stereotypes, that I fooled him? Did I put on a convincing act? Should I win an academy award for being myself? So every time (which is most of the time) I don’t hear this comment, does everyone have an idea that I am trans? What does that look like? Did I not fit the stereotype that has been drilled in his head by society, culture, and Hollywood? Maybe he never met a trans person. Who really knows?

Is it compliment or insult when someone says they couldn’t tell you were trans? - The Weekly Rant with Mila Madison

The doctor then asks me which way I transitioned. This confuses me because I do not really know at this point if he sees me as female or male, despite what my license and medical chart stated. “I am female but I was assigned male at birth,” I said. Still a little dazed, the doctor next asked me about my genitals. He is my new doctor, so I guess I have to give him a pass on that one. Next he asks if he can put the fact that I am transgender on my chart, because he will forget. “Sure,” I said.

This is usually the time in the appointment where everything begins to change. The doctor who was attentive and taking his time now seems to be in a rush. Of course from this point forward, every medical issue I will ever have is because of the fact that I am transgender. Now my problems must the hormones and we need to look at that even though this has never been an issue before. It must be the transgender thing right? The disappointment sets in for me. This is the fourth doctor I have seen in two months. They all seem willing to help, but then things change after they find out I am transgender. To cap things off, at the end of the appointment I see he wrote “transgender male” on my chart… Awesome.

“It is sad that as transgender and gender non-conforming people we have to educate our doctors.”

Whether he had an idea I was transgender or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that after he does know, things begin to change. Do I move on to doctor number five? I am not sure. Maybe I need to stick this out and try to educate this guy. It is sad that as transgender and gender non-conforming people we have to educate our doctors. In most cases we know more about our condition than they do. But maybe I need to stay with this one? I didn’t sense he was coming from an evil place. Maybe he did mean it as a compliment and he was just really ignorant about trans people? Maybe he was nervous because he never met a trans person before? Maybe people like him are ignorant because people like me aren’t making the effort to let them know who we are?

In the end I don’t really care how people see me, but I am concerned about why people see things the way they do. I am concerned about how people treat us. I will do my best to change that, one person at a time if I have to. Though I have a feeling I may have another month ahead of me without proper medical treatment, my options are limited, and all I can really do is keep trying.

  • Shannon Andrews

    If you’ll take my advice, as a transgender woman who works in medicine, it’s this: if you have the option not to tell your doctor that you’re trans, don’t tell them. Tell them you’ve got an unspecified endocrine disorder and your body doesn’t produce enough estrogen on its own; that’s enough to get your prescription continued and your levels checked, which is the important thing. Anything else is only going to compromise and worsen your care.

    • Christine Guinn

      And when you need a procedure that is usually for the opposite gender, such as a PSA test for a trans woman, or a Pap test for a trans man? Sorry, but honesty with your doctor is VITAL to proper care!

  • Daya Shadowfax

    Unfortunately, when an MD goes into private practice, that’s when their “learning” stops, in most cases. So I wouldn’t take offense, but finding the right MD is like shopping for clothes, you should try them on and see what/who fits, in my opinion.

    I’ve gotten that assessment many times, “I didn’t know until you spoke…” or “I had no idea” and even once I got: “You’re transgender? Which direction?” I had to laugh 😉

    Hope you find the right Dr. and get the care you need! 🙂

  • Roxy Knight

    The simple solution is to look for a doctor that has experience with transgender patients. Your local trans groups with be able to let you know which doctors have experience and are good to help with transgender medical treatment.
    It’s not your job to retrain a doctor in transgender medicine, it’s the doctor job to know there stuff. Dont mess around with standard doctors , transgender medical care is a specialist field, stuck with people that know what they are doing, find a good doctor with experience and a good reputation. It’s not that hard.