Wednesday, June 16, 2021
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Opening the Door to Therapy

I was the eldest son in a family of six kids. But it wasn’t always this way and certainly wasn’t at all obvious to anyone but me – on the outside. Or if anyone had noticed, they certainly never said a word. You see, I was actually the second oldest child and born in a female body. I was born in a time and place and in a family where what was obvious was truth – what was visible was reality. If you looked at the sky and saw blue, the sky was blue. If you looked beyond and saw green, you could safely assume that the fields must be green. If it looked like a girl you called it a girl. If it looked like a boy, well then of course it was a boy. There was no room for disputation. What you felt on the inside wouldn’t matter and was not really open to discussion. It was just that simple. You didn’t look inside. Leave things the way they appeared and accept everything for what is was – even though everything is different…on the outside.

The furthest thing from my mind when I was finally ready to transition was that I would need to speak with a therapist. I had had plenty of time to think things through – decades, actually. There was not one ounce of uncertainty on my part when it came to wanting to transition; but – as I would soon find – my usual “suck it up and deal with it” answer to most things in the past didn’t hold much weight when it came to what was expected in order to transition. As I quickly learned, there were steps that one must take. It didn’t make sense to me that one couldn’t just do what they needed or wanted to do; but, I had to accept that protocol is protocol and I wasn’t about to do anything that might jeopardize getting my top surgery. So I began the hunt for a therapist.

All told, my search was a short and relatively easy one. The plastic surgeon that I’d chosen to perform my top surgery had given me two possible options in the St. Louis area. I took the information and went back to my friend, Google, to see what if anything I could find on the two choices. I started with the psychologist. He seemed capable enough and more than qualified. I made a few mental notes and moved on to the second recommendation. It was for a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I wasn’t entirely clear if this designation would be better for what I needed than a psychologist or not, but I figured there was a reason her name was being passed around so I moved forward with my search. I found nothing but 5-star client reviews and her work history spoke volumes about her path to providing gender identity care. The doctor I’d just researched listed gender identity as one of his services – but it kind of felt like that was exactly what it was – just one of his services. I didn’t bother to even call him. Everything “on paper” connected to the social worker made my decision unquestionably simple.

I sat and stared at the screen on my phone for some time while I worked up the nerve to make the call. I’m not sure how long I sat there, but I knew there would be no surgery without the “magical letter” so I listened to the call connect on the other end, then ring, then voicemail. Damn. Now what? It took everything I had to prepare myself for a voice on the other end even though I had no idea what to expect. I left what I can only describe as what felt like a ridiculously incoherent message briefly describing who I was, what I needed, and my cell number. I wasn’t sure any of it made sense, but all I could do was wait. I went back to work.

My wait for a return call was short. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of something at work that prevented me from answering so all I could do is listen to the phone buzz and buzz, then wait for the final buzz indicating the caller had left a voicemail. Yes! A voicemail. As soon as I had a free minute I checked my phone. The missed call and voicemail were not from the same number I’d called. I listened and found that it is was indeed the therapist and she’d left an alternative number for call back. Her voicemail was pleasant enough and I returned her missed call immediately – before I could talk myself out of it.

We spoke for 15-20 minutes. She asked a few questions about me and what it was I needed. She shared a little about herself and her practice. After her quick phone interview with me was finished, she explained that she believed she would be able to write my letter in 2 or 3 sessions. This was a huge relief, because ever since I’d been told that I would have to meet with a therapist I’d been picturing a long, drawn out process and months of lying on a couch talking about things that I had no desire to discuss with someone who sent knowing glances and wrote down my every word. I’m not sure what I thought those things would be – I just knew that I didn’t want to talk about them. Television does not paint a pretty picture of therapy and I wanted no part of it.

After she’d explained how this would work, she asked if I wanted to schedule a meeting – the first session. I don’t know if she sensed my hesitation or not, but she made it clear that I would be under no obligation to continue with a second session if I didn’t want to. That made it easier to say yes. That, and the fact that she’d already said she thought this would be a relatively short process. It was a huge bonus that she seemed personable enough and I felt that as much as I wasn’t looking forward to even one session, it would probably not be too painful. At least that was my hope. We scheduled our first session and she emailed me some forms and information and strongly suggested I visit her website to read more so I would be better prepared to meet. I followed all of her instructions and all of the information was clear and made good sense, but nothing that she’d written truly readied me to walk through the door of her office.

Terry Willits
I'm an international mixed media artist, writer, LGBTQ advocate, coffee snob, dog dad, and FTM transgender - but not necessarily in that order - and I practice what I post. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; I now do the art thing in St. Louis, Missouri. You should check out my work - it's recommended by 4 out of 5 people that recommend stuff.


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