Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Coming Clean to Clinicians

Hi, there! After all my talk about menstruation a while ago, I have been thinking more about the fact that I have always lied and told doctors that I got my period "on the first of the month." (Does that sound shady? I feel like that sounds shady. Bah.) Well, I don't get my period at all, as a result of my form of intersex, Complete Androgen Insensitivity (CAIS). Recently, this has started to bother me.

It's not a bad thing that I am exclusively read as female and I don't happen to menstruate. I'm not supposed to menstruate - I never was! I'm not ashamed that I don't menstruate, even though it's still kinda weird to think about sometimes since lots of people assume that I do (which as resulted in a variety of uncomfortable to funny situations, as I've detailed previously).

In light of this, I have decided to experiment a little.

I have started to blatantly tell clinicans that I don't get my period when asked.

I've been in the unfortunate position of having pneumonia this past week and some change. (Boooo, it's not terribly fun, but I'm almost better!) I've visited several doctors since then to get checked out, and to get medicine. I decided a few minutes before going into my first doctor's appointment that I just didn't feel like lying about my period anymore to keep up the pretense that I'm "normal." I didn't want to be normal anymore so much as I just wanted to be me.

So I went for it.

I was escorted by a male nurse into a non-descript room in the ER, and was asked all the usual questions, including none other than, "When was your last period?" I paused for a moment, and said, "Um, I don't...get one." "Okay," he said. No raised eyebrows. No whipping his head around from the computer he was enetering all my information into. No slack-jaw and tongue wagging and fainting in front of my eyes. He didn't really care. Nor should he! I was glad he didn't cause a scene or make me feel uncomfortable. Although I did feel a little internal glee as he scrolled through the options in the drop down menu, looking for the you-think-i'd-get-my-period-but-suprise!-I-don't-actually-get-one option to no avail. After a couple of seconds, he just left it blank. MUAHAHA. Intersex FTW!

A while later, I had to get a chest x-ray. (Oh, pneumonia.) I smiled and reassured the technician, no, there was no way in hell I could be pregnant, and donned the ever-fashionable hospital gown once again. I had to fill out another form, this time requiring you to fill in the date of your last menstrual cycle. The space on the form had backslashes already in there, just waiting for you to put in the numbers of that fateful day. I grimaced at the form, and just ended up writing over all the backslashes - "I don't get one," except that it actually looked like "I /don'/t ge/t one." Haha. I was not asked any questions.

Today, now a little over a week since that appointment, I had to go get another chest x-ray as a follow up. I once again indicated on the forms that I don't get a period. (Although I actually wrote, "I don't receive one," which strikes me as funny, since "receive" sounds like I missed out on some sort of gift I might've been getting. Ha.) I figured, well, no one asked me last time. Probably no one really cares. I glided over to the x-ray room, worry-free.

But this technician called me out on it. "Is there any chance that you could be pregnant?" Obligatory grin. "No." "Now, I see here on your form it says that you don't get a period. Can you explain what that means for me?" Cold wave of shock. Ohgodohgodohgod is this awkward, should I tell the truth? "Uh...I was born without a uterus." It was a little painful. Would I have to go into more detail? The tech was really nice. "Oh, okay." "Yeah, there really is NO CHANCE that I'm pregnant, *ha*." She smiled. "Okay, I just had to check." "I know that it's kind of unusual..." Ugh, I wish I had said atypical! Nooooooooo "No, it's not." Smiles again. ...Wait, has she had other patients here getting x-rayed that are read as female, maybe identify as female, that have a similar story? Probably. It's not like we're *actually* rare, even though TALKING about intersex is a rarity. I was really curious, but I didn't feel comfortable asking about anything further (patient confidentiality?), so I let it go and resigned myself to be pressed up against some screens while I held my breath.

All in all, it hasn't been so bad being honest about the fact that I don't menstruate, even though everyone likely assumes that I do. I haven't come out and simply said, "I'm intersex," because, frankly, that's not really informative. There are a lot of intersex variations out there, and individuals with some forms of intersex menstruate, and individuals with other forms of intersex don't. Simply saying, "I'm intersex," won't clarify right off the bat why I don't menstruate, without describing that my form of intersex is CAIS, and blahblahblah, and I'm not entirely certain I want to launch into a whole conversation with a clinician if they're not aware of what intersex is and what I'm talking about. A lot of that still stems from the fact that I'm generally uncomfortable discussing intersex around medical professionals due to my history of medicalization, which has left emotional scars that are still healing. I don't want to re-open any wounds, you know? I'm not sure how I'll proceed with this in the future, but right now, saying that I don't menstruate is a huge first step.

NYC's 2nd Annual Intersex Awareness Day Events: We Have Details!

Hi, everyone! If you're going to be in NYC at the end of October, we'd love to have you at NYC's 2nd Annual Intersex Awareness Day Events series! Come raise awareness, share, and learn with us!

We have fabulous activist Tricia Madison along with me this year, as well as another anonymous activist. Tricia, like myself, is an affiliate of the USA chapter of Organization Intersex International (OII-USA), a global advocacy group helping to raise awareness about what intersex is and to stop non-consenusal and harmful medical "treatment" of intersex indiviudals (like genital mutilation surgery). Read more about her here! Our awesome anonymous activist writes a blog I really like and have previously featured on FFA:IAA, Queer Intersects. I'm so excited to raise awareness with them!

Here are the events!

Event #1: Workshop - What Is Intersex, & How to Be A Good Ally
Friday, Oct 28th, 12-2pm
NYU's Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, Rm 602

This event features an interactive workshop covering intersex basics, what intersex activists are working toward, current issues in intersex activism, and how to be an ally for intersex individuals. I'm hoping for a lot of discussion. Anyone that's interested in learning more about intersex is welcome to come & join the discourse!

Event #2: Performance - Intersex Awareness: Celebrating Our Bodies
Saturday, Oct 29th, 4-6pm
Bluestockings Bookstore, Cafe, and Activist Center, 172 Allen St.

Our activists will explore intersex issues and lived experience through a series of performance monologues that cover a range of topics. Think Vagina Monologues, intersex-style. This is going to be fun! Q&A to follow, of course!

I hope that you are as excited about these events as we are! I'll provide you with updates on the events as needed, as time gets closer.

Hope to see you there!