I trained as a nurse way back in the mist of time, 1978 to be precise. Nurse training today is very different, but back then a big part of what we were taught was that it did not matter whether a person was young or old, black, white, any colour you like, smelly, drunk, irate or suicidal, gay straight or undetermined, we should treat them all as if they were our mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters. Any pre- existing prejudices or assumptions we had were to be replaced with compassion and kindness, no matter what,we were healers, not judges. Training in Luton had me come into contact with most of the aforementioned, and the teaching stood me in good stead. It is a way of being that has stayed with me through the years, in my personal as well as professional life, though it is sometimes really hard when your client/patient is an obnoxious git with too much money and so feels entitled to treat you like dog poo. That doesn’t happen very often I’m glad to say, and when you’re sucking wax out of someone’s ears, they soon shut up and do as they are told :D.
Today I met a client who is outside any experience I’ve had before, a transgender person, who booked in with a lady name, but was in body at least, a gentleman. I didn’t realise at first as at a distance in the waiting room, the long blonde hair and nice make up convinced me I was just about to de-earwax a pretty young lady. She had an androgynous uniform on so clothes didn’t give anything away, but as soon as I took her in to my clinic I knew she wasn’t a she, I have to position the head to get the ear at the right angle and I could feel the slightest of stubble on the chin, even see it. In spite of the hair and make up the masculinity of her features was apparent at close quarters. All this going through my head as I prepare to do the procedure. She had never had it done before so I explained everything I was going to do, and she was lovely, a little shy, but so polite, and thanking me at each stage. Of course I was professional, and she got my best care as do all my people, but I find myself conflicted about the whole thing. Not with the person herself, but with how hard I find it to think of her as a she, and when I asked our office manager to give her one of our cards, I nearly said ‘him’ and only just stopped myself. I’m even struggling to write ‘she’ and ‘her’ in this post because my mind won’t accept she’s not a chap. Of course in her mind she isn’t a chap and I can’t even begin to understand how that happens, or what that must be like for someone. I know some people think it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’, but I can’t see how or why anyone would deliberately choose a way of life that involves such a cataclysmic change. The difficulty in being accepted, in finding a job, in just living a life that you want and being what you want to be.
I wiki’d the term transgender, and learned it’s nothing to do with sexual orientation, you can be gay or straight as a transgender person. You can also be non-binary, including bi-gender, pan-gender, genderfluid, or agender. There’s a whole herd of human beings who are not men or women as I think of them. Aproximately 1.5 million across Europe. 1.4 million across America. Of course I’ve read a bit in the newspaper here and there, seen a bit on the TV, there’s a film called The Danish Girl (I haven’t seen) about a chap who becomes a woman. But today I have had to really think about it, wonder what it all means, what’s it all about? In the end, it doesn’t matter to me, whoever comes through my clinic door will be treated with respect, and I have always loved the diverse nature of humans, and known that when the skin is peeled away we are all the same underneath ( operating theatres teach you that one). We all need the same things to stay alive, oxygen, water, food, shelter, sleep, and we all want to love and be loved. I hope the person I saw today has a happy life and gets to be what she wants to be, I don’t understand it, and have no life experience comparable that enables me to empathise, but everyone deserves acceptance as a person, as a human being, and I can at least do that.