I wake at 3am each day this week. This morning it is with the intuition that I’ll never wake up with the same bodily chemistry set again. The thought has shaken me over the past 36 hours but done little to change my resolve.
With what can only be described as the essential oil extract of nervousness pumping like jet fuel through my neuro-freeways and dirty backroads of my brain, I head for my appointment at the “English” gender clinic in Gangnam.
I arrive early and take a deep breathe. After locating the building and the floor the clinic is on I settle on some Starbucks as I had 40 minutes to wait. One superfluous scone fatter I go to find the clinic.
I check with the guards in the lobby of the KLB building and they confirm my clever detective work–this is the correct place. I alight from the elevator to a row of well signed clinics. I walk down the hall and back not discovering the one I want.
I circle back and at the front of the right angled hallway was a clinic without a sign. There is no receptionist and the walls looked like a former occupant had vacated the premise some time ago. The wall sized Klimt print of The Kiss clashes with the blue granite wallpaper, especially the flecks of holographic space foil running the the fake quartz veins.
I confirm in the next clinic that this was indeed the place I wanted. It was.
I sit down in a chair back in the clinic. Fear is pulsing through me at this point. Some straight faced transmen come in, sit down, and stare unblinking towards the perpendicular wall. A male nurse, tall and in blue, comes out, frowns at me and calls one of the boys up in Korean. One, two, three, they all go.
I am inducted in a small office collapsing under the weight of a thousand files hanging like avalanches poorly arranged on two shelves. The only decoration in the office is a diagram of a prosthetic penis.
A cigar lays wrapped on the desk and the the masked nurse asks me to wait for the doctor: he is “busy.”
Dr. Kim greets me, a large man with a cough, and leads me congenially into his office. He half slides the door shut.
He asks for my “paper” and shuffles through the seven page document. He smiles and asks for me to point out the conclusion. I do so and he reads a single sentence–the part that says I am trans–and smiles. “That’s all we need.” He asked how much the report had cost and chuckling at my response saying, “100 dollars for each page.”
He looks at my diagnosis of OCD and tells me we all have “obsessions:” he air quotes–or at least it seems like he should. He says that it was normal for someone who suppresses they’re personality. He then levels with me that he doesn’t really care for this aspect of his job. He’d prefer to “cut people up.” I assume he means people’s genitals and then he makes a comment about thousands of dollars that I don’t understand. I assume it is a cost of surgery joke. As this consultation costs 30 dollars, I can see his point.
I ask him about the trans community in Seoul and he quips that he is doing a scientific service, he cites some statistics and says that this was not a cultural sickness. I assume by this comment that he there isn’t one–after all, this is a very conservative culture. Then he mentions that he sees mostly transmen as most transwomen go to Thailand as they also want top surgery and he can’t provide that. I smile as best I can as at this point as I fell like I have just done a line of cocaine and acid I didn’t drop on the way in is kicking in. The room elongates and seems to breathe. I fell lightheaded.
He gives me five months supply of hormones after describing how I should inject a needle into myself. He asks if I understand and I nod emphatically, I can do that.
I go into the next room to pay. The nurse gives me my first injection and then I am sent to the pharmacy. I am still too shocked to ask about blood tests or where to get laser hair removal.
In the pharmacy I can see that my face is flush in the mirror. The women behind the counter talk for a while and tell me to come back tomorrow as they don’t have enough medicine. I wander back out onto the street to absorb what has just happened.