Betsy Block

Stories without recipes


(NB: It's too hot to eat, much less to cook, so I have no recipe this time around. We'll see what happens next week...)

I started seeing a new doctor a few years ago. Let's call him Mr. X. He was kind,  thorough and respectful. But soon enough I realized that no matter how sensitive he was, I needed to see a woman doc; fortunately, he had a female partner. I met her, loved her and adopted her as my physician instead. But I did send BD to see Mr. X.

BD has hated doctors since he was eight and had a tonsillectomy; the poor guy nearly passed out when giving blood to get our marriage license 17 years ago, and though he's improved since then, he's still not happy in a doctor's office. After his first visit with Mr. X, though, BD saw the light: Doctors could be all right after all! I was thrilled. Finally, my husband would consent to yearly(ish) physicals. All was right with the world.

Until a couple weeks ago, when BD and I got a letter from Mr. X.

Let me digress for one moment just to say that BD and I think of ourselves as open-minded and openhearted people. Our friends vary in age, sexual orientation, nationality, ethnic and racial background, marital status and a few other things I'm sure I forget. As long as we can all share some tasty eats and a few big laughs, we're good.

Still, I have to admit that we were a little taken aback - OK, we were stunned - to open that letter from Mr. X and read that this summer, Mr. X would become - Mrs. Y. In other words, our doctor is a transsexual.

That night we sat on the couch marveling at the complexity of the human condition. Assuming you've never gotten a similar letter from your primary care physician, let me be the first to tell you: It's disturbing. The doctor-patient relationship is an intimate one, and while Mr. Y assures us that only his outer presentation will change, it's still very hard to believe that things could ever be the same. I'll admit that I'm not looking forward to the first time I see Mrs. Y in the waiting room. But at least she's not my doctor; poor BD is torn, although at this point he plans on giving the new situation a try. ("My main complaint was that he was always running late because he had too many patients," BD says. "I don't think that's going to be a problem anymore." I love him for this.)

There are lots of jokes that could be made here, and in the privacy of our own home, BD and I are making them. We're both big proponents of dark humor during difficult (or in this case, just odd) times. But underneath it all, we're awed that Mrs. Y is willing to risk her career, family, reputation - even, I imagine, her safety. All for the sake of living an authentic life.

Yes, Mrs. Y is a tragic figure, but then again, she's also a hero. I can't even imagine having to send such a letter to hundreds of people; actually, I don't think I could. I think I'd just leave my practice and start over again somewhere else. But Mrs. Y doesn't want to abandon her patients.

Whether or not they abandon her, of course, is another question.

updated: 14 years ago