At this point I’ve been shunted through the Korean medical system so much I feel like a battered boxcar. After the “gender doctor” told me I would have to find someone to monitor my blood levels, I have been to Severance Hospital three times in half as many months. The initial meeting was amusing if nothing else. I met the GP and I told her what I was there for. She asked if I was serious at least three times before smiling and saying, “Okay.” She was nice, but she admitted she didn’t know what she was doing and she sent me to urology at a later date, after agreeing to test my hormone levels.
I returned to meet the endo/urologist. He told me my estrogen was high and testosterone was in the female range, but he seemed uncomfortable and stammered that this was a very rare condition in Korea; “Maybe not in the West,” he admitted. Saving face implored him to politely referred me to another department. Gynecology. I went downstairs to the international clinic and looked at my appointment card the nurse handed me. The word stared back at me, I felt affirmed and apprehensive. It’s an uncomfortable mixture of disparate emotions, like having diarrhea on the best day of your life.
Two weeks later I arrived at the hospital with the knowledge that my girlfriend and ex-girlfriend’s boss were both due for appointments ten minutes before and after my appointment. I met the latter at the international clinic check-in room and she made a joke about her OB/GYN form. She laughed about a question concerning her last menstrual cycle. I went to the counter to check in and the ladies behind the desk let out a giggle when they saw which department I was to visit. Sigh. At least I’ve become intensely resilient at this point, I thought. I smiled back. Thankfully I was spared the form. I turned to exit the international clinic to head for gynecology.
Somehow my colleague had gotten to the clinic first: god damn my love of escalators. I smiled grimly at my girlfriend as I passed her and I could feel my white coat syndrome intensify. I checked in and was given the form. I tried to protest, “I don’t even have a vagina I stammered,” but it’s a conformist culture. The form was very sexist. The first question asked when I was married followed by a box to tick if I was single or engaged. It asked me other questions about my vagina and my husband. I returned it and felt a little lightheaded. I weighed myself which only compounded how miserable I felt and then I went to sit down beside the Lower School’s curriculum coordinator. We were to see the same doctor.
I asked her if she wanted to know a secret. Being inclined to juicy stories she acquiesced. As I began to speak the nurse came to ask for additional information. Some Russian women spied me suspiciously, and my poor colleague was left with only the tease of a good story. I gave some further information–I forgot to write down my height, 188cm– and then I wandered back over to my colleague and was too dazed to tell her. I made her guess. She laughed and said something about an STD, to which I said I didn’t think this was the clinic. She then stated “sex change.” I said, “Close.” She laughed and I said I was serious. She was then supportive and congratulated me. I was called into the doctor’s office. Gulp.
I felt a wave of negative anticipation wash over me. I knew this would be yet further futility with a confounded looking Korean doctor staring blankly at me. The opposite happened. I entered the room and was greeted by a young a vibrant doctor. She knew my case, which was remarkable, as most doctors at this hospital omit reading the patient records. She was knowledgeable and helpful. At last, something happened that felt secure and affirming. I am grateful for the ease to which I’ve been able to transition here, but it is scary not feeling like the medical care I’m receiving is adequate. This is exactly what I needed to feel at ease. Here is hoping my results are normative.
This is me at two months. I can’t be bothered to apply skin makeup as the air pollution is bad this fall and my skin is already flaring up.