I’ve been posting about it on tumblr since I made the appointment over a month ago, at least, but I am in the limbo land between the first consultation where blood was taken for labs and the follow-up discussing the results. (I didn’t realize someone might be concerned after I talked about the first death anniversary of my grandfather in the past week, but this is not life-threatening like that [cancer]. I suspect I have PCOS.)
I sort of had suspicions back in my teens, but I didn’t really know that there were side effects and symptoms that might actually need to be monitored (making a confirmation of a diagnosis helpful in figuring out if I’m really at risk). I didn’t fully realize just how much gender baggage I was carrying around in relation to this until I started looking into more symptoms, what diagnostics might be used, and had to face a really stark reminder about the body I inhabit (specifically, how it’s interpreted by others).
I am very aware that someone ticked off the little F on my birth certificate. (Lovely reminder that Ray v Himes is still working its way through the courts and doesn’t yet help those born in Ohio.) After dealing with staff who didn’t bother to read what I’d written on their forms (on their provided lines for a preferred name and gender), on the paper I provided with important info not asked for on the forms (pronouns, a brief explanation of words used to describe my gender experience, medical history), or listen to what I told them (“my gender is not female”), I’ve got to admit that even seeing just this General Practitioner (GP) sets off an uncomfortable amount of dysphoria. (The look on her face when I admitted to having never seen a gynecologist…)
Add in trying to get a diagnosis for PCOS, and it’s just more than I was prepared for. Online resources focus so much on the infertility, ‘normalizing’ menstruation, getting rid of the ‘non-feminine’ symptoms, TTC/ttc (trying to conceive), and tend to assume the only people who experience PCOS are cisgender women(*). I don’t want to minimize that these are important symptoms for some women, but as someone who hadn’t yet realized that I was trans and didn’t know what gender dysphoria was, it was incredibly uncomfortable trying to interact with PCOS info back when I first got the suspicion because of this.
I was expecting to have to make my case about not making up potentially having PCOS, but GP actually didn’t ask very many questions. (The nurse asked ahead of time when I last menstruated, so GP’s first words to me herself were, “Have you always had facial hair?”, followed by, “Have you experienced unexpected weight gain?”, and then, “Yeah, we’re ordering labs.”) Everything was going along somewhat tolerably until she mentioned a final confirmation after the labs, since some of the results would rule out conditions with overlapping PCOS symptoms – a vaginal ultrasound to see if there are cysts on the ovaries.
<sarcasm>Note the textual distance that’s preparation for potentially needing to dissociate from my body.</sarcasm> Setting my dysphoria off the charts is counter-productive to GP wanting to recheck my blood pressure (maybe I have ‘white coat syndrome’, maybe it’s actually high), but I honestly don’t think she’d believe me. (I have an offline venting space for frustrations around being a fat patient who was advised to lose weight “because even a 15-20 lb loss will improve your blood pressure”. But that’s a block of salt for another day.)
(*) Most resources assume those with PCOS are perisex cis women. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I encountered talk of PCOS being a hormonal intersex condition (from someone in the intersex community), as opposed to a chromosomal, gonadal, or genital type that people more commonly think of when they hear ‘intersex’. I can grasp the reasoning in abstract way, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I, personally, might be intersex. Still, I’ve got to admit that it’s a relief to think of PCOS as ‘hormonal intersex’ instead of ‘malfunctioning perisex female’, which is kinda how some people frame it.