I was both anxious and excited as I went to Jane C. Stormont Women’s Health Center for my first mammogram last Tuesday. Many of my women friends had shared stories of personal experiences ranging from ho-hum to holy cow.
The anxious part came from the holy cow. The excited part related to my affirmation as a woman. Now, I know as well as anyone that my breasts do not define me as a woman. I was a woman long before I had them.
Still, walking into the Women’s Health center, as a woman . . . well . . . it is hard to describe the emotions. They are many, rolled into one. The pain of the past and the hope of the future, cradling the truth of the moment.
It is almost as if I can begin to let down my guard. I am a woman. It is a truth that can never again be taken from me.
I had to make sure they knew I was a transsexual woman. This was partly because I didn’t want to answer questions regarding my cycle, and partly because I wanted to write this column. By the way, I do have a cycle, just without ALL the normal symptoms. I am glad about that.
My technologist’s name was Kim. She did a wonderful job. My experience was more of the ho-hum variety. I am glad about that too.
Kim was very comfortable, and we talked about the barriers to transsexual women having mammograms. I explained that I probably should have had my first mammogram a year ago, about two years after beginning hormones. However, because the gender marker on my identification said male, I didn’t believe that my insurance would cover the procedure.
Kim agreed that in most cases insurance will not cover people whose gender marker is male, but in some cases it might. If a transsexual woman’s doctor orders a mammogram because of risk factors, insurance might cover it, even with the male gender marker. Risk factors include taking estrogen or progesterone. Talk to your doctor.
Another barrier can be the fear of how a transsexual woman might be treated. I don’t know about other facilities, but at the Jane C. Stormont Women’s Health Center, I was treated with kindness and respect.
So, why did I decide to get a mammogram? Because there are a lot of women in my life, and I want to set an example for them. Because my 78-year-old mom got a mammogram. And when I speak to the women’s studies class at Washburn University, I want to be able to say that I did too.
There is another reason. I spent nearly fifty years existing in a world of horrible torment. During much of that time, I really wanted to just die. For the last few years, my life has been full of the amazing wonderment that comes from discovering myself and being a woman. I want to live. I hope that you do too.
© 04/21/2010, Stephanie Mott
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