Thursday, February 22, 2007

been a long time

It's been just about a year since I started this blog, and my, how things have changed. My six months past surgery date crept by last week without me noticing, and I've only got another few shots at Callen Lorde before I reach the one year mark there, too, and can start pricking myself with the sharp shiny syringe of change. It's been good to have a place to get my thoughts out...when I first started writing in this, I thought I was going to explode if I didn't find an outlet for all the worries that were swirling around in my head. I think I wrote in this every day, for a while.

I've gone through up and down swings of feeling like I've got solid ground under my feet- I'm reminded that transition isn't just a time for counting new chest hairs, but also for changing and growing in all sorts of ways. I've certainly changed a lot in the last year and one of those ways (thank goodness) is a distinct decrease in angst around my gender. Not to say that I don't still have questions and thoughts and inquiry and processing to do, but I think it's...well, it's settling down into more of a "normal" range. Everyone I know examines and reflects on their own lives, and I think I'm at a point now where I'm, perhaps oddly enough, feeling more normal than ever before. Being trans is hard, and I feel like I've jumped a lot of hurdles- figured out how I wanted to pursue my own transition, then went about pursuing it, and I've gotten most of that accomplished. Now I'm starting to devote brainspace to other things, like what I'm going to be when I grow up. With regards to my gender, it feels like what I'm doing now (and may be doing forever) is "fine tuning" as Amy puts it. And that feels real good.

Of course, it's probably also why I haven't been posting here as often (besides, y'know, lack of regular internet access at home and somehow being busy all the time despite my relatively lowkey job and lack of other engagements like school, etc). Things just aren't quite as urgent when they're knocking around in my head anymore. Not to say I don't have enormous things on my mind still (like, say, should I have a hysterectomy or should I quit T so that I can have a baby in 5-10-whenever many years?), but just that I'm calmer about them now. Which I like. Maybe it's a tide turning in my adolescence, or some such. Whatever it means, I'm welcoming it- year one, over and done with. Woo.


So last Tuesday the 13th I went to 215 W. 125th st, 4th floor, to the Worker's Compensation Board of NY State, to have a hearing about my disability benefits claim. My union, 1199, had denied my disability claim for the time that I was off of work due to my chest surgery last August...they were supposed to pay me disability wages (2/3 of my actual pay, I think) for the 8 days that I missed after my week of sick time was used up. They refused my claim, stating that they wouldn't cover an "elective surgery" and even after I got my doctor from Callen Lorde to write a letter stating that this was a "medically necessary surgery for" me, they still denied it. So I contested it, and one thing led to another, and this morning I sat in a waiting room for over an hour before a Worker's Comp judge led me and the 1199 representative into his tiny little office to figure out what was what.

I'd come all prepared, with copies of the letters from my doctor, and printouts of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and the DSM-IV definition of Gender Identity Disorder, and the New York City Human Rights Law about gender identity being protected under its non-discrimination clause, etc.

I was prepared to stand by what my doctor had written in his letter about me- that I am undergoing treatment, psychological and otherwise, for my gender identity disorder, and that this bilateral mastectomy had been an important part of this treatment, which is necessary in order for me to successfully function in society.

I'd been a bit nervous, because I'm not entirely certain where I come down on the medicalization of trans folks, and while I was fully prepared to say to the judge "This surgery is medically necessary for me" I'm also aware of the implications of adding to the sort of master narrative of transsexuality (if there is such a thing) about how all trans folks are transition-track transsexuals who need surgery to "fix" them. I do think that this surgery was necessary for me to be the happy(-go-lucky) fella I am today, though, so I didn't let my theoretical qualms get in the way of my preparations.

Such preparations turned out to be for naught, however! The longest part of the whole ordeal was waiting on the benches for my name to be called. When I got back into the tiny small 'courtroom' with myself, the judge, the Union representative and a stenographer, the judge already had my file in front of him. He asked the Union rep a few pointed questions- first "Why are you contesting this claim?" and then, when she replied that they'd declared it elective, "But he has two letters from his doctor stating that it was a medically necessary procedure- so why are you contesting it?"

She said something repetitive along the lines of "Well, our reviewers declared it elective."

This didn't hold much sway with the judge, who gave me a long look over his glasses, then said "Seeing as how his doctor wrote that this procedure was necessary for him to function successfully in society, I'm going to say that's medically necessary. He's awarded the full amount."

Success! Triumph! Ten minutes of potential embarassment turned into a gratifyingly affirmative ruling! Who says the whole world's transphobic?

1 comment:

abbers said...

wooo hoooo!!! hoorah!