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Month: January 2016

A Mother-Daughter Talk

A Mother-Daughter Talk

A year ago today, I told my mother the news. I came out to her as transgender. It wasn’t as easy as everyone else. For some reason, I just couldn’t seem to find my way to have this conversation. I had intended to tell her before Christmas…. and then before New Years… and well, it never happened. Not counting family events, I actually had to go to her house three times before I could get the words to come out.

She (and my step-father, via proxy) was the last of the family that I wanted to tell, face to face. I had worked my way through the other members, one-by-one, telling them the new reality of the boy/man/son they knew and loved. Thus far, it had gone pretty well. Everyone had been supportive. They even promised not to tell anyone else, until I had covered my bases. They couldn’t though…. because by the time I got to my mom, I think everyone on my dad’s side of the family knew. I started getting texts and FB messages from people who weren’t supposed to know.

I tried to prioritize the list of people I told, based on how I expected they’d react. I prepared for all of them to go poorly. The whole mantra of planning for the worst and hoping for the best. The majority were done in public places, like the mall or restaurants. All with a clear plan of how to get away if things did go poorly. I would make sure to have viable exit and a well thought out method of egress.

Throughout the process of working through this list, I would go to visit my mom and try to find my nerve. In the end, I’d sit and talk for a couple hours and then I would leave. Too scared to just say it. No longer afraid to be myself, but terrified of the reactions of those who I loved most. I had squarely placed my mom on the end of the spectrum of people that I couldn’t bare to lose.

As it so happened, I was to be off work on a Thursday. With all of the trans stuff and then the holidays compounded on top, I had become a little ball of stress. In December,  I had met a new friend, who happened to be a licensed massage technician. That Wednesday evening, I messaged her to see if she had any openings. She confirmed that she could get me in at 10:45. So, even though I was still presenting as male, I put on some yoga pants and a ladies t-shirt and I headed down to her office. For the next hours, I let her force out 34 years of pent up stress. I left there feeling very zen and centered. I decided that it was time to tell mom. Megan had said she would go with me to be my moral support, but she was at work and I was feeling like a million bucks.  I hopped in the truck and drove from the Highlands down to Bullitt County.

However, much like the other visits, this one pretty much played out like the others. I got nervous and I couldn’t get the conversation started. In fact, I had given up and was getting ready to leave. My mom had gone to her room to lay down and I got a brief moment of courage and I took a deep breath and decided I needed to tell her just one last thing.

I came in and I sat down on the bed and I told her that I needed to tell her something important. Immediately, she was sitting up and worried that I was dying of an incurable disease. Putting out that fire, I started in on the next. As was customary in my various coming out speeches, I led in with “So I’ve been seeing a therapist…. and I’ve been dealing with some issues, and well… I’m transgender” We talked for probably 30 or more minutes. I explained that this was something that I had always felt. I had never been truly comfortable in my own skin, etc, etc, etc…

Her response was that she had known since I was 3 or 4, but she always kind of just figured I would be gay. I said something like “Well if you had said something, maybe we could have saved a lot of time.” I explained to her the next steps. That I was seeing an endocrinologist in the coming weeks and hoping to start hormones as soon as possible. I told her about my upcoming laser hair removal. I answered all her questions, to the best of my ability.

Once we had come to a conclusion of the conversation, she went out to the living room with me and we sat down and had the same conversation with my step-father. Now, my step-father and I have always had a great relationship. They have been married for 30 years, and he’s been with me since I was 5. He’s as much my dad as my own biological father. In some ways, more so. So to say that his approval was important to me would be putting things extremely lightly.

If I had to explain his reaction in only one word, I would say that word would be “confused.” I had opened with the same bit about therapy, which I did to kind of offset the “are you sure” line of questioning. Even still, he asked “Did you get a second opinion?”

I considered how to answer that question and the best I could come up with was, “She was the second opinion.”

He thought about it some more and he said something along the lines of “It would be a lot easier if you were just gay.”  To which I agreed. However, I thought about that too and then I explained that I was a lesbian, so actually I was gay. I explained that I did not have any intentions of leaving Megan and that we were going to try and make this work.

At this point, I think his brain actually locked up and needed a reboot. He was having a really hard time separating gender from sexuality. He could comprehend a gay man, having them in the family. However, a guy who’s transitioning to a girl, who still likes girls? We might as well have been trying to divide by zero.

However, in the end he was accepting and we hugged and he kissed me on the cheek and I went on my way.

Once it was all said and done, my mom was upset with me. Not because I was trans. But because I had waited so long to tell her compared to other people. She was upset that my aunts and uncles knew before her, but to my credit…. they weren’t supposed to know.

With that out of the way, next came the letters and then the facebook dump. Which I refer to as the scorched earth approach. No one can turn around and tell someone else, I already told them. So there!

My Two Surgeons

My Two Surgeons

So let me tell you about what I’m dealing with these days….

I had planned to write this entry for the last few days. I even have a couple of drafts that will likely never see the light of day. I wanted this to be a happy entry, a fun entry. Something exciting. Much wow.

I was hoping to be able to say that I’ve finally got a real date for my surgery. That I can sit back and relax and just check off days on the calendar. However, this is not that entry. Oh no, of course not. One door opens, and then a Trump-like villian builds an electrified Jurassic Park style 10,000 volt fence.

So, as you may recall…. I originally had picked Dr. Bowers. Because reasons. A myriad of reasons. However, with that reputation comes droves of dysphoric transgender women looking for new hoo-haas. So the wait has been an issue. I’ve been on the cancellation list trying to get a leg up on the situation. It had not happened. I started to get nervous and began to look at other options.

In October, I found a surgeon in Chicago by the name of Dr. Schechter. He seemed very competent, amazing resume, etc. I set up a consultation with him in early November. Post consult, they had submitted a request for a pre-determination to my insurance company. That’s where things get weird.

I spoke with Dr. Bowers face-to-face later in November when she was in town for a banquet and I explained my unique situation. She seemed concerned and interested in helping me, so I immediately contacted her staff.  Things looked good and the office manager said we needed to start in on insurance approval immediately. I hurriedly sent over all the paperwork and crossed my fingers for the best.

Not long after, I received notice from Dr. Schechter’s staff that my claim had been denied. The reason was that I haven’t met certain requirements today. However, we were attempting to schedule for after those requirements had been met. They would not schedule me without this approval. Unless, of course, I want to pay out of pocket.

I contacted Dr. Bowers’ staff again and let them know of the situation. They advised me that I should attempt to appeal but that it would be 1-2 months… yes, MONTHS… before they could even get around to filing my insurance paper work. So I moved forward with the appeal.

I submitted the appeal on December 14th, assuming that Blue Cross Blue Shield would take the full 30 days to make a determination. So I sat on my hands and I waited. I didn’t email any of the doctor’s. I enjoyed the holidays and I tried not to think about it.

Last Monday, I got a letter in the mail saying that my appeal had been denied. From what I could tell, the insurance company totally ignored my letter altogether and doubled down on their original verbiage. That’s point where I lost my collective shit. Remember “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?” That scene where Cameron looks down and sees the odometer on the Ferrari? Just like that, except without the hot tub later on.

As I have been known to do, I went to twitter and I started a (nearly) perfect (shit)storm.

From there, things got weird. The next day, I decided that work was not in my best interest, what with my heightened mental status. So, having finally blown off some of the steam, I was going to try and just let it go. Maybe I would have to wait until March. I had some other ideas. But then there was a knock on the door. Who could that be?

Ok, so I earned that. 140 characters doesn’t give me enough rope to truly hang myself. Wait, that’s not right either. Umm.. I was trying to say people denied care are more likely to commit suicide. Not that I was going to kill myself. Simple misunderstanding.

After having an awkward conversation with the very nice police officer, I went back to Twitter and some friends and I bantered back and forth about the denial, the police and the “man.”

But later that day, I got a phone call from Blue Cross. In a crazy turn of events, they reversed the denial. After a brief rush of euphoria, I emailed Dr. Bowers’ office and let them know that I was approved for surgery and politely asking what the next step would be.

Despite a number of emails exchanged, the most informative answer I’ve gotten from Dr. Bowers’ office is that that they’ll work on it this week or next. This is even with a representative at the insurance company willing to personally process the claim.  I have basically begged them for more information, but all I get are vague replies, days later.

So, I decided that maybe I just needed to give up on Bowers. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Schechter’s office wanted a bunch of additional clarification from the insurance company, which the rep at BCBS agreed to do. She faxed them a special letter with the info they needed. I thought that at that point, I could get a date. So I emailed them on Monday and asked them what the status was. I waited until today (wednesday) to call them and see what was up. Now they’re wanting additional info. They still won’t schedule me. Well, she offered to schedule me if I would pay out of pocket.

I let the lady have it. I really just let it all go. I told her that I didn’t feel like they really wanted my business. I felt like they were not putting enough effort forward to obtain their required documents from the insurance company. That I had done all the heavy lifting because once again, no one will advocate for me except me.  She was unmoved by my plight.

I contacted the rep at BCBS again and asked if she could help hand hold Dr. Schechter’s office through whatever they needed. She said she would reach out and get back to me as soon as she had more info.
Meanwhile, by Christmas, I’m sure Bowers will find my file under the pile.

Edit: As my friends so eloquently explained, GRS/GCS is a seller’s market. There’s a ton of demand and only so many surgeons. I think this climate has led to the poor customer service that we’re seeing. We are put on endless wait lists and we’re meant to feel lucky when it’s our turn. It’s sad, because I don’t think that’s what the providers intended for when they started in this field.

In any event. for months, I’ve been walking on eggshells with both doctors. I know they don’t need me like I need them. Writing all this might make it worse. I might never get a surgery at this point.

Update, 10:16 2016.01.14 – email from my insurance regarding Dr. Schechter’s refusal to schedule me, still.