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  • Writer's picturequeerhellth

Case #26

Overcoming Microaggressions Within The Mental Health Care System

I came out as non-binary around the same time my mental health plummeted. In the summer of 2016, I was in the process of moving to Toronto from a small city on Vancouver Island. I didn’t have much of a plan—I just packed the remains of my 25 years in B.C. into the back of my two-door Pontiac and began to drive. I wandered the highways of Canada searching for a similar vastness within myself, and after months of solitude, a truer expression of myself began to breathe. But the attempt to rediscover myself was like the removal of a dam, letting all my long-suppressed issues come crashing through unchecked. It meant my first few years in Toronto involved a considerable amount of time in hospital wards, emergency rooms and therapy programs at a time when I still used my old name and had little capacity for self-advocacy.

I trusted doctors and mental health professionals to understand that my crisis visits were not a direct consequence of my queerness. I was shocked when one ER doctor spent eight out of our precious 10 minutes asking about my “transition” (I don’t identify as trans nor was I medically transitioning) and inquiring repeatedly if I was going from male to female or female to male; he simply could not wrap his head around the answer being “neither.” After educating him, our remaining time was only enough to cover how much longer I’d be waiting in a random hallway before I got a bed in the ward. I was brought to the hospital by police because I tried to kill myself on the side of the highway—but that never came up. The doctor was more concerned with my gender.

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