It's taken me a long time to accept myself. Twenty years ago, when I finally began the process, it was almost impossible to get insurance companies to pay for trans related care of any kind. Around 2002, I intuitively and stubbornly began to do whatever I could to confirm what I already knew about who I was. A friend I knew had a big jug of Premarin, and I consulted the only Doctor I had access to; Dr. Internet. After a few weeks, I began feeling calmer and more clear-headed. I don't regret taking the estrogen at all, but I do regret the direction I could have gotten from a knowledgeable physician; who knew what Testosterone blockers were, or how to get a prescription for them?
I've had caring physicians help me with my trans-related care, since, but recently, I was forced to find a new one by circumstances beyond anyone's control. I'm fortunate to have excellent health insurance and it was through them (and my own instinct) that I found Dr. Amy Weimer and the UCLA Gender Health Program. I had a morning appointment at the offices in Santa Monica and frankly, I was nervous. I had an irrational fear that I’d be rejected, or turned down; over the years I’d learned to tamp down my expectations.
One thing that had buoyed me on the way in was remembering how helpful the office had been when I made my appointment. Since my insurance is still in my legal name, they asked what name I preferred, and what pronouns I preferred. When I walked in, I felt welcomed, and soon a smiling nurse called out my name and I followed her into an examining room. She put me at ease as she took my blood pressure and then told me the doctor would knock on the door in a few minutes.
Indeed, Dr. Weimer knocked on the door, and when I opened up, introduced herself. “Darya, I work with a team. Is it OK with you if I bring two other people in here with me?”
No one has ever accused me of not liking extra attention, so I said yes immediately.
Dr. Weimer introduced Dr. Bernacki, a psychologist and an intern (I regret forgetting her name) who was there to learn. Doctor Weimer then lead off with the most disarming opening line from a physician ever; “Tell us your story.”
It’s impossible to gauge how much it means to someone who has struggled with the world, substance abuse, and herself to be asked to tell her own story in a safe space with Medical Doctors present. Dr. Weimer and Bernacki listened intently, and asked good questions, even about details like laser hair removal.
Dr. Weimer asked me what my goals were, and I told her. She clearly explained why one prescription I was taking was probably doing little and potentially detrimental, and after looking at my blood tests later put me on another that made me wonder why others had never mentioned it to me over the last ten years.
One thing I had told her was that I couldn’t see myself getting SRS at my age, even if it was something I would have done without hesitation when younger if I‘d had the resources, because of the danger and long recovery. She told me about a new type of vaginoplasty known as zero-depth, which has a much shorter recovery; I’d never heard of it. She even recommended a Physician for the procedure and another for breast augmentation.
Let me just say this; I felt almost giddy when I left. When I got quiet, later, I felt moved and grateful that I finally had a physician and a program that sees me for who I am, listens to my needs and advocates for me. I honestly can’t wait for a follow-up in a month or so.
Tags: blood pressure, breast augmentation, Dr. Amy Weimer, Dr. Jessica Bernacki, estrogen, gender health, Gender Health, health insurance, hormone treatment, laser hair removal, LBGTQ, Men's Health, patient stories, Primary Care, Psychiatry, psychologist, Psychology, SRS, substance abuse, Surgery, trans-related care, UCLA Gender Health Program, vaginoplasty, Women's Health
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