GP Dr Sam Hall explains how he came to realise that while revealing his trans status was difficult to do, it became necessary and important
At first, I didn’t disclose my trans status to my new colleagues. I was too afraid of the consequences and of being judged. I also dreaded a familiar moment I had come to recognise – the moment where the shutters come down in another person’s eyes as they process what they are being told. Somehow, people tend not to be able to see past my ‘transness’ once they know it’s there. People stop listening to me or hearing me. They can no longer take anything I say seriously, too preoccupied with trying to put me back in the ‘woman’ box, or to catch a glimpse of the person I was before.
Yet, I have not changed. I am still the same person, the same clinician, with the same experience and training, that I always have been. Somehow my transition means, in some people’s eyes, that this cannot be so.
Over the first few months of my GP training, I gradually got to know the rest of my cohort, and was also working alongside junior doctors on the wards and in emergency rooms. They were all curious about my career change. Why had a consultant anaesthetist jumped ship to retrain as a GP? I struggled to answer this question without referring to my transition. The experiences that had shaped my decision were primarily related to my decision to live my life authentically. The struggle to gain acceptance and inclusion affected people like me across the board, and I knew that I could potentially make a difference in primary care just by being me. This goal, of course, did not sit well with keeping my trans status to myself. If I was going to be the ‘poster-boy’ for trans lives, as one of my junior colleagues generously put it, I was not going to be able to keep this information about myself under wraps.
When I changed my name in 2012, the GMC insisted that I have a new number. I don’t know about others, but for me this was a terrible experience. I had not realised until this point just how crucial and central to my identity as a doctor my GMC number was. Of course, a GMC number is contemporaneous and sequential. My new number made things appear suspicious. I had had this long (20-year) history of medical registration, but my number commencing in 7xxxxxx was consistent with someone who had registered only in recent times. I mourned the loss of my number more than I expected to, and on more than one occasion was questioned about it. My trainer in general practice was sufficiently alarmed by this inconsistency to ‘Google’ me to see if he could work out what had happened. He later told me he was sure I must have a dubious history, perhaps being struck off the medical register and later reinstated. This prompted alarm. Sharing the truth had to be better than these concocted explanations.
I took a deep breath and started to come out.
Dr Sam Hall is a GP partner in Brighton
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