Trigger warnings this article includes ableism and transphobia.
One of the first questions my psychiatrist asked me was whether I was trans or not. Not my pronouns or how I would like to be addressed, but whether I was trans and whether I planned on getting “the surgery”. I will admit I was rather taken aback; I had gone in that day to get a review of my ADHD medication. Instead I was having to defend my identity and the decisions I was making about my body, information that was not at all relevant to my appointment.
After the appointment I began to get frustrated with myself, why did I let him talk to me that way and derail the conversation so badly? I had been waiting months to get that appointment and I desperately needed to talk to him about some concerns I had regarding my mental health, and instead I let him grill me for twenty minutes on why I didn’t personally want bottom surgery despite wanting to go on testosterone. A few days after the appointment, and after lots of self-reflection I realised that the frustration I was feeling towards myself was entirely misplaced. That may sound a bit silly, of course I should be angry with my psychiatrist and not myself, however you have to remember this was not the first time I had to face transphobia in the medical community.
I have been seeing mental health professionals since I was 12, and a battery of rheumatologists and GPs since I was 13. I also happened to come out as genderfluid at 14 and spent a fair amount of that summer at the Tavistock Centre. As soon as my records stated I’d been to see clinicians about my gender identity, the way I was treated by my other doctors changed drastically. Doctors who previously had treated my pain seriously began to ask me whether these “gender troubles” may be causing me stress. When I said no they said “perhaps its subconscious” and proceeded to wave away the pain that had been plaguing me for years on teenage troubles. My mental health treatment suddenly became entirely about my gender identity and the troubles my psychologists believed I must be facing despite me saying otherwise.
Even the GP I saw when I developed Tourette’s at 19 tried to blame it on me being trans! “Oh it’s just a transient tic disorder, it’ll go away in a few months, it’s probably due to your identity crisis”. Five years later I am still waiting for it to go away.
While I am sure many of these doctors were well meaning, coming from a desire to make sure I was safe under my parent’s roof and not facing bullying at school, it’s meant that many serious health problems have gone undiagnosed for years. My fibro diagnosis, for example, took ten years to get, and I am still waiting for an explanation for many of the psychiatric symptoms I deal with regularly. It also makes it much harder to talk about how being trans does affect my mental health, and in turn my physical health.
Stress is a major cause for my fibro flares, and being a non-binary person in UK is pretty stressful at the moment. However, I don’t feel I can express any of this to my doctors without them thinking my being trans is causing the problem, rather than the real problem of the transphobic society that I live in exacerbating already existing conditions. There’s also the doctors who don’t mean well with these questions, doctors are people after all and carry the same bigotries as everyone else. Being disabled is hard enough in Tory Britain without your specialist deciding you’re not worth listening to, or a specimen to be studied.
My support system
Fortunately, I have a good support system in place that has helped me get through all this and helped me find resources when the health service has let me down. And as I’ve progressed through university this support system has grown. I have met amazing people in the queer and disabled community who have changed my life in ways I didn’t think possible. Whilst I am still frustrated at how I’ve been treated by those whose job it was meant to be to help me, I know I am never going to be alone in fighting for the answers and resources I need to thrive.
Transitioning can take many different forms. You can transition, socially, medically, legally or by changing the language you use (or a combination of these), and please know that support is available at the University and the Students' Union to help you. Further information on the support options available can be found here.
All students with long-term physical or mental health conditions, specific learning difficulties, autistic spectrum conditions and sensory or physical impairments can access support and advice through the University and the Students’ Union. Further information on the support options available can be found here.
If you are experiencing any form of unacceptable behaviour and/or hate incidents, there is help available. We strongly encourage you to seek support through the University's Disclosure Response Team.
Further information is also available on:
Protecting and Supporting your Mental Health
You can find resources on the Autism on the Autism Wales website.
Elliott Stubbs | they/them