Adventures in Fertility Clinics

In July, we were given a referral to the fertility clinic from our family doctor and finally had our first consultative appointment last week. While we are still inseminating with frozen sperm at home, and plan to for a few more months, it seemed wise to keep our appointment and get ourselves into the system.

When we arrived at the clinic, we passed forms to the receptionist and included a letter from Norse’s doctor explaining their identity and pronoun and requesting that all tests be completed at their home clinic. It was important for us to share this information through a letter, rather than explaining our need to work with the fertility clinic in person with doctors, nurses, and staff. In return, they gave us a contract which outlined all the doctors as “he” and all the nurses and “she” and requested a $550 joining fee. This package also included a study about the impact of heterosexual couples disclosing their conception method on the child’s well-being. Mixed results.

After waiting over an hour for our appointment (entertaining ourselves and dealing with our anxiety by lip-syncing Adele’s ‘Hello’– which was played numerous times as we waited), I was promptly weighed and measured before being placed in a small exam room. Our doctor clearly read the letter from Norse’s doctor, and this proved to both beneficial and difficult.

At the beginning of the appointment, he announced he has a gay son. Helpful.

The doctor confirmed that we were seeking “therapeutic donor insemination” (I’m still unsure about the therapeutic part) and that I had no medical issues or previous pregnancies. We then moved onto Norse’s health history, which prompted unnecessary questions about Norse being “gender reassigned” (as if trans was not the language clearly outlined on the letter and the language Norse was using for themselves). The doctor then offered Norse a hysterectomy because he “does it all the time” (and yet, his name has never come up as safe in the trans community for this or other procedures). The assumption that Norse wants to remove their uterus was incredibly awkward (if not traumatic) since we have yet to decide if Norse will carry baby number two, or provide eggs. The assumption that trans folks on the masculine spectrum desire particular surgeries is not new, but was particularly concerning in a clinic setting where we were discussing our options to become pregnant. Norse was never asked if they desired to carry if I was unable, which we were expecting since this is the kind of treatment many lesbians receive when working with fertility clinics. Unfortunately, for many women, the assumption that you would want to carry at all is deeply rooted in expectations of proper and ‘biological’ femininity. On the other side, the assumption that masculine folks would not want to carry is equally misguided.

While the doctor was good about deleting unnecessary information on the form (such as prostate cancer, semen analysis, etc), it was clear that the clinic did not have more than one form that assumed that people coming to the clinic were cis females with a cis male partners.

When it came to defining our relationship on the form, he looked at us and asked “same-sex?” We both answered “queer.” He then asked us if “queer” was “a bad word” and if the reclamation of “queer” meant he could use the ‘n’ word. Nope. It doesn’t.

Finally, Norse and I opened up about what we both do for a living, and began teaching.

Exhausted from the question and answer period, I consented to an internal exam (where, I swear, the stirrups were Christmas themed). The exam table, and thus my spread legs, faced the window and all of Portage avenue. I found out that my uterus and ovaries looked great, that my left ovary was active, and that I had likely ovulated in the past 24 hours. This meant that our terrible insemination was timely to some degree.

Our last step was to pick up blood work requisitions for both Norse and I to complete before we joined the “fertility program.” We resisted the mandatory HIV test (which is illegal, and a human rights nightmare), and the testing of the none carrying partner all together, to which the nurse replied “it is not just for your situation” and “everyone has to do it” in a way that ensured we knew us queerbos weren’t being discriminated against.

Upon returning home, Norse found that their form was marked “female” which does not match their health card, making the blood requisition invalid. Norse bravely called the fertility clinic to request a change and the nurse fought them about their sex designation. Norse requested a receptionist to call them back, and promptly called Manitoba Health to request support. A receptionist from the clinic called back to apologize for the error and is sending a new form in the mail this week.

When people asked how it went at the fertility clinic, we both answered “not terrible,” but the standard of care for LGBTTQ* people in the medical system is so low that “not terrible” is often the best one can hope for.

The good news is that we’re now in the system and we know what we are up against. We’re still dedicated to getting pregnant and committed to supporting each other along the way.




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