November 9th, 2016. Panic. Anger. Fear. How did this happen? Wasn’t HB2 enough? Does anyone else know what I deal with, what we deal with? Apparently it doesn’t matter, apparently I am the problem. This was the gamut of emotions, and questions I dealt with that early morning after the election. I thought for sure that we would not go backwards as a country, that we were progressing, that we would continue to believe in hope, and inclusion. My mental health took a dip to be certain, and now I needed to figure out how to cope, how to respond, and how to heal.
Personally, I came out in the summer of HB2. July 2016 I began letting others know I was a transwoman in a North Carolina where the incumbent governor ran ads saying I was a predator every night. Additionally, pastors attacked me on Sunday morning, and others were boycotting Target because of me. I would agree with you reading this, that is a serious example of wrong place, wrong time. The reason I came out as trans was because I finally had to admit my mental health was rocky. I was dealing with a period of unrelenting insomnia, anxiety, and depression that I hadn’t experienced. I needed to get answers, and I needed to be authentic. I was dealing with anxiety that would manifest around meeting new people, going to work, or even going out to dinner with my spouse. It got to the point I was having to call out of work for being sick, and I would have to continually cancel on friends because I just couldn’t bear being seen, or interacting with others. So I finally made a decision to find a mental health professional and talk about my life, growing up, trauma, grief, and identity. Unfortunately, I only did the minimum of research and went to the first healthcare group on my insurance page. There was a three week wait, so that inaccessibility was a challenge, I wanted help, I needed help, I just would have to hurry up, and, wait. And overall, that is something many people have to deal with in our medical infrastructure. The lines are long, and the attention we receive minuscule. But thankfully, mental health is still covered under my current policy, and so far still covered under most policies thanks to the ACA.
However, the current treatment that is provided here in North Carolina is less than adequate. My gender identity is something I have known since I was three, but being raised in a conservative Christian environment I was constantly told this is was my “sin” at work. This bad advice, and treatment led to years of trying to suppress memories, and my identity, and wear a mask. So having gender dysphoria crippled my expression. No one had ever met the real me, and no one had gotten to see me as I knew myself. This led to years of undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and PTSD from childhood trauma and I was thankful to have insurance to help me process. However, it took me two psychologists, and a year, before I found an LGBT safe practice. Many places here in North Carolina give lip-service to being a safe space, but under Pat McCrory, and now under Donald Trump many practices have workers emboldened to share their distaste. I went to one practice where I was questioned relentlessly about how I was presenting, and being told it wasn’t feminine enough. The psychologist thought it was appropriate to compare me to her when she dressed up as a witch for Halloween. Yeah, not a great way to treat someone with depression. My second counselor was so overbooked he consistently made me wait an hour after I arrived, and then couldn’t remember why I was there or what we were working on, and said to listen to meditation mp3s online. That was health care in NC. No LGBT inclusive training, and no real help. I finally started doing my own research, and calling and speaking with counselors before even scheduling an appointment. Thankfully, now for the last six months I have been working with an amazing LGBT inclusive counselor who has given me tools, and an outlet to heal from my past and live a fuller life.
In closing, coming out when I did was the best thing for me to do mentally, and emotionally. Coming out in the midst of HB2, and a Trump presidency has been a challenge. Each day my anxiety makes me worry what bad news will be targeted at me, but I have learned that I can control my response, I can resist, and become a helping hand and listening ear for others. Many Republicans attack the LGBT community because they lack the education to be welcoming. Hearing threats of losing my healthcare, and being barred from being in public places has made me feel more closed off from the world around me. Being misgendered, and mistreated in a doctor’s office is like being in hell, and it’s horrible this attitude is prevalent from healthcare providers. To be trans and a participant in the US system is a challenge. But I have hope that as we continue to share our stories, and share with each other where to find care, and who is a good fit, other doctors, and offices will change as well.
As I worry about how others will treat me, I know stories like mine can change perspectives. I know collectively our voices are reaching more and more people. I believe that we will create a better world, by continuing to be vigilant in sharing what we have faced, and how we have overcome. So I as you finish reading this I ask you one thing, remember that we all face struggles, and learn to welcome and accept me, as you would want to be accepted. Mental healthcare is a vital necessity for us all, and welcoming care priceless.