I was three paragraphs into my article about my holidays, mainly how being "out" and/or being "stealth" affected my treatment at the hands of other party guests, when the sharp stabby abdominal pain, now 26 hours strong, finally forced me to the floor, vomiting undigested pepto-bismol and calling everyone, anyone who had access to the sort of painkillers I purposely keep away from myself lest my mental anguish ever reach such nowhere-to-run, nowhere-to-hide state of agony.

Within a few hours I found myself hooked up to an IV and subjected to tests and machinations of the medicinal. It was determined I had acute cholecystitis, an inflammation of the gallbladder. I was scheduled for surgery the next morning, just three days into the new year. I tried not to think of it so much as losing an organ (albeit a totally useless one), and instead of learning a valuable lesson in how to maintain your dignity when insisting your trans identity be respected in a medical environment.

You don't.

When I checked in I was asked what medications I was taking. I truthfully recited my hormones and their doses out of some strange sense of caution that has been cross-bred with pride for generations in hopes of appeasing me, the Monarch of Awkwardly Honest Land. I tried abdicating the throne just hours later, to no avail.

"Are you currently on any medications?"
"You don't seem so sure."
"Well, I'm on estrogen and spironolactone, for hormone replacement therapy, but I wasn't sure how relevant it was to my treatment."

Apparently it was mondo relevant, which is the equivalent of two and a half super relevants. My hormone therapy had likely agitated a pre-existing condition to the point where it required surgical intervention. I know this because three doctors, a nurse, and a surgeon told me. The only explanation I can come up with for why this fact needed to be repeated to me by various individuals over a course of two days is to shame me for trying to keep my transition a secret from the medical staff (albeit a poorly kept secret, as it was listed on my intake form), or to reprimand me for playing with nature, as many medical professionals have accused people in my position of doing. Either way you look at it, it's a hard sell. Look at it from my perspective. I'm developing the feminine features that aid in presenting my gender identity and I hastened the inevitable removal of an organ that might have ruptured and killed me. Give me some sunglasses and a clip of an 80's hit. I need to celebrate in freeze frame.

I can be nonchalant about it now because I survived the operation and have eaten my first big ass bowl of ice cream sans kaopectate, but at the time I was scared and in the most pain I'd ever felt in my life and what I really needed from my medical caregivers was reassurance and information and maybe a bedpan so I wouldn't need a dose of morphine to make it to and from the damn toilet. I didn't need to be blamed, however subtly, for what you perceive to be a misjudgment in body chemistry. I have a doctor, a therapist, and two clinics to make sure I don't walk on a landmine in my journey to grow into body and mind I'm comfortable with (and tame a unicorn, if applicable). Just shut up and take this ticking time bomb out of me before I die and your billing department has no one to bill for all this morphine I've consumed.

Is what I wish I said.

Instead I remained silent. Because I was in pain. Because I was terrified I wouldn't live through the operation, or denied it at the last moment because I couldn't pay, because I was trans, because my maniacal and delirious laughter at my first dose of morphine might suggest that I was just faking it all along. I let the doctors and surgeon say this shit to my face without so much as an eye roll of assertiveness. I didn't want to become one of those trans women left to die in the hospital that I had read about as I was first coming out and deciding if being happy with myself was worth my life (which it totally is, yanno, before we get too dark and depressing). And I didn't. They did the operation and I survived and here I am dancing to "I'm Not Your Toy" by La Roux in a friend's chair, which many will agree is the opposite of "dead in a hospital". My plan to be spineless in the face of criticism with the hopes of receiving the treatment that will save my life succeeded.

While I really need to focus on kicking the shit out of myself while I'm down, I will take a moment to say I wasn't in much of a position to advocate for myself, after you factor in the drugs being pumped into my bloodstream, the hunger and thirst from not being able to stomach anything without pain for over a day, and the pain and terror I was in. I can't stand up for myself and be curled in the fetal position on my girlfriend's lap, crying because deep down I'm worried I'll never see her again. But god damn it if I won't self-flagellate myself in hopes I can in the future.

When asked "if I had any questions" about the surgery, I asked how big a gall bladder was. I wasn't going to be any good for myself.

That's probably why I brought backup.

Throughout my hospital stay, my partner, my bff and their boyfriend all stayed with me in shifts so I wouldn't be alone. They impressed upon the nurses what name and pronoun I should go by, and corrected them when I was mis-identified. Eventually, all the nurses came to name and gender me properly, even the ones my visitors had no contact with. And unlike the anesthesiologist, who asked me when I was having "my transgender surgery" minutes before she put me under, no nurse asked me the details of my transition or operation status (though that might be because I was wearing a fucking hospital gown and that question could be answered with just a pinch of the fabric). While likely that this is due in part to nature of nurse profession and philsophy, which is to treat people rather than the illness or something like that I'm not a nurse so I wouldn't really know, I couldn't bring myself to overlook the importance of having people who validate my gender identity close to me during the process.

An uplifting and potentially informative ending to this ordeal? No angsty socratic questioning and letting the commenters sort it out? Yes, it's a new TCMV, for a new BTB, for a new year.

If you end up going to the hospital, bring your friends. Or bring your enemies, even, if they'll stand behind you and insist on you being treated with respect by medical caregivers. You, like me, might find yourself too racked with fear to stand up for yourself when going mono e mono with the doctors, but if you've got a posse you might be able to get them to give you that respect in a public setting.

Or maybe this won't apply to you. Maybe when you get checked into the ER or have your appendix removed, you'll stand where I laid down and contend for your rights. Or maybe the work of this current generation of activists can make it so you won't have to.

Or you do what I did, and cleverly time your exploding internal organ to coincide in the same week as your court date to change your name, and have your friends drag your vicodin'd, sutured and glued ass to lean shakily before the judge who approves your name change so when you go to your follow up appointment later in the month, you can make the hospital put your correct name and gender on file.*

*If you have forms from your physician who attests that you've completely transitioned to your current gender even though I haven't had bottom surgery SHHHHHHHHH don't tell anyone!

So add this to your collection of horror stories slash uplifting real life lessons involving trans persyns for when you find yourself in a similar situation and want to know what to expect.

And for those of you looking forward to my holiday essay and disappointed that it's not being posted, spoiler alert: I was treated better by people who read me as cis lesbian than those who read me as trans, even if those people had known me for years. BIG SURPRISE YEAH THAT REQUIRES A WHOLE TWO PAGE OP/ED.

BTB needs a lot of work for the new year. We need more contributors, more multimedia, more everything. There's a lot of shit going on. The blog, much like myself, needs some time to reach battle operational.

Then it's back to the fray.

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