My second doctor was my gynecologist. The last time I saw him was over a year after I stopped transition, when I was trying to get extra birth control pills before going abroad again. I asked him for six months instead of just three, on the grounds that I would be out of the country and away from my doctor – but still paying full premiums on COBRA for what I thought qualified as decent traveler’s insurance (I later found out that it covered “life- and limb-threatening” catastrophes only). It didn’t work – he refused on the grounds that he had no idea how long I would have insurance (this turned out to be fair enough) and that, who could tell, I might sell them to someone else. Apparently the Pill is a high-diversion drug.
During that appointment, which I meant to be just a quick consult on birth-control (and on getting a couple packets of Plan B for emergencies, since who could tell how much access I’d have to a free clinic or ER), he did a cursory pelvic exam. He was very brusque – I undressed as part of procedure before he came in, and I believe he had a speculum in and out within a minute after he had me climb up on the table. I remember being a little bemused – I hadn’t requested a pelvic exam, and probably wasn’t due for one.
He was tall, and I remember him as gangly. I remember his hands as big, square-knuckled, red – this was probably because he was my gynecologist. I also remember him with raw gums and prominent, yellow teeth, balding with – and I remember being surprised once or twice to find him less toothy, less yellowed, than I remembered. He was intent on being friendly with me, probably because he was a gynecologist. I remember him as expansive in his gestures. I see him leaning back in his chair, towering over the exam table. I doubt any of these memories are accurate.
I went to my gynecologist’s office every two weeks for my testosterone injection during the entire two and a half years I was transitioning, and sat awkwardly in the fifth-floor lobby (obstetrics and gynecology) until I was called in by my legal, recognizably female name. The injections were overseen by a nurse – after a year or so, I would slide the needle into my own thigh and depress the plunger on the syringe. It was always difficult, and became even more so as time went on. I don’t know if this was a cue to my doubts – I think it probably was just a reaction to needles. I’m not physically courageous, and had trouble sticking myself. The fluid would leave a tenderness under the skin, like a bruise without the color.
My gynecologist actually saw me only a few times. I went to him after I started retransition for reassurance. He gave me a pelvic exam not long after I stopped taking testosterone and I asked him if I was normal, if everything was all right. He assured me it was. And if he did say that I would “never be exactly the same,” it would have been at this visit.
None of my doctors seemed worried about me – or inclined to see my condition as serious. They may just have been trying to keep me from sliding into despair, or they may have been convinced that I was and would be fine. My gynecologist told me I would bounce back.
Actually, my internist was less sure of that, or at least of the science that would allow for any timeline. After my first appointment with him, when he was so nonplussed at my breakdown, I called him asking when I would start menstruating again. And he said, “Well, if -” and I of course was hugely upset. If? If?
So I called my psychiatrist. She broke my menstrual cycle into its peaks and troughs and plotted, to within a few days, menarche after ceasing testosterone. She was totally matter-of-fact about the whole thing, and certain that I would have no long-term problems. She turned out to be right.
I also went to see my gynecologist for a pelvic exam, so that he could tell me I was in working order. I was afraid I had damaged myself in some subtle, permanent way.