Opinion

A trans woman in intensive care: ‘It’ did not have fun

I would like to share a few things about my experience of the intersection of disability and gender diversity.

I am a woman in my 60s who only recently came to fully understand that the gender assigned me at birth was in error. 

Having embarked on the joys and challenges of ‘men-opause’ and second puberty, I found that my running performance was significantly impaired. 

I expected the standard 10% reduction in speed and stamina due to the loss of testosterone’s advantage, but I did not expect the sense of ‘it’s too hard’. 

Six months into transition, I developed chest pain, and long story short, I had heart disease thanks to Dad’s genes – now I knew why running felt hard. 

I had good medical care and underwent bypass surgery. 

Six weeks after surgery, I had chest pain again because of complications, so I received an emergency stent. 

I was pleased to be not dead – and not pleased to have had substantial heart muscle damage and persisting limiting angina.

I had angina brushing my teeth. 

I needed a powerchair most of the time. 

I could walk 20 metres with a walker at a snail’s pace and with angina. 

Oh, and no sex involving exertion or excitement for this girl. 

So here I was, new to the life of disability.

Hospital care was just so exhausting. 

I had to endure some transphobia and a bucketful of ignorance. 

I was in an intensive care unit, needing to explain gender diversity to staff, at least enough for me to survive. 

I was referred to as ‘it’ by a senior doctor as he explained my care to a large group of staff on daily rounds; ignorance rather than malice is how I experienced his emotional tone. 

A friend asked why it mattered if the doctor used ‘it’ as a pronoun so long as they did their job properly. 

My response was that a competent healthcare worker would not add to my stress burden while I was in intensive care.

Being one of the ‘others’ (LGBTIQA+) can make healthcare stressful, and we may try to cope by choosing supportive medical care. 

For many of us with disabilities and complex or life-threatening health issues, we do not have a choice. 

Being othered and disabled has meant a good deal of additional psychological and emotional suffering for me, and from discussions with the community, I am most definitely not alone. 

If you need support or someone to talk to, please see our list of community services and resources.

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