Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Pharmacy

I suppose that the pharmacy is one area I haven't handled my transition as well as I could have.  Or have I?  All I know is my interactions there, in a pursuit to acquire pharmaceutical hormones, have developed rather organically.

When I first got my prescriptions for hormones (on May 15, 2012) I decided to drop them off at the suburban Walmart pharmacy.  That was the first pharmacy I passed on the way into town from my doctor's office in the Raleigh area.  This is the newer, cleaner, less crowded Walmart and I enjoy shopping there more than the one in the city of Rocky Mount.  I admit that part of the reason I went there was I felt there would be less chance of running into someone I knew.

The best way I can describe myself that day, going to the doctor's office and dropping off my prescriptions, was androgynous.  I didn't think I was ready for prime time yet without the aid of a wig and makeup but I wanted to be real at my new doctor's office.  I did wear casual female clothes, jeans and t shirt, and maybe a little lip gloss and brow liner.  I'd been growing my hair almost 6 months and had my ears pierced already, so this was a look that might make some wonder....

Yes, I was on a high when I got home that evening around dinner time.  I asked my spouse Joan if she wanted to go out to dinner with me at a little Mexican place we enjoyed frequenting in Nashville.  We weren't getting along well then but she said sure, so I thought I would try a little something different with my presentation.

I'd never been out with her presenting fully female (she had wanted no part of it) but that night I thought I'd push the envelope a bit.  I changed into a little nicer clothes, fluffed my hair up for as feminine look as possible, put on some bigger earrings, a bra, a little more makeup and off we went. 

She didn't balk at my look, which I viewed as progress of sorts.  I was nervous being out like that for a couple of reasons.  First, it wasn't my best look at that time by any means.  I could be more "passable" if I spent more time with makeup and wore a wig.  I could also be recognized more easily by people who could know me or my parents, and this is a look that people who didn't know I was transitioning just wouldn't understand.  Though I was 80% out of it by then, I was still an active local real estate agent at that time.

I wasn't transitioning to hide, not anymore, so off we went.  The suburban Nashville Walmart is where I had dropped off my prescriptions and the Mexican restaurant is maybe a mile away.  I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions before we went to dinner.  I don't recall Joan going in with me.

When we got to the restaurant I wondered if anyone who worked there would recognize me as we had been there a few times before.  On the way in a man held the door for both Joan and I.  She looked at me a little differently over that dinner, I guess for good reason, and I could feel our relationship slipping yet farther away from (quasi) marriage and more towards one of pure friendship. 

I enjoyed that dinner and remember it well.  We were both in good moods and we had good conversation.  I seem to remember going to the ladies room and thinking that was a bold but liberating move.

When we got home I took my first hormones and the medical stage of my transition was off and running.  Joan knew everything at that point but was nonchalant about the hormones.  I think she feared what they would do and knew they were just another nail in the coffin of our marriage, but she didn't pay much attention to it.  When I had very emotional bouts over the next few weeks she would sort of walk away from me, not offering comfort. 


The first prescriptions I got were in my original legal name.  I suppose this made it much easier at the pharmacy because this was what was on my driver's license and insurance card.  So I picked up estrogen and spironolcatone prescriptions under the name Thomas Matthews. 

The next time I saw my doctor and got refills he asked me what name to use.  I must have said Tammy because that's what was on the prescriptions.  I never really explained that to the pharmacist or the customer service reps.  I looked more like Tammy by then (without the help of wig and makeup), a couple months after picking up my initial prescriptions, and the refills started coming back with the name Tammy Thomas Matthews on them.  I would ask for prescriptions for Tammy Matthews and the clerks addressed me as Tammy.

Over the seven months between the time I began hormones and went full time I probably went to the pharmacy in various stages of presentation, but never in a fully "male mode."  I do remember a few times I was due for electrolysis and had to go in with a couple of days of hair growth, during the stage when that was a problem. 

So there were some pretty awkward moments at the pharmacy along the way.  Actually I never experienced awkwardness from anyone else, just in the way that I felt.  When I went full time and began to present fully as myself every minute of every day, life became much less awkward.

There is an in between stage during transition, if we don't mask it.  I guess I felt it first at the pharmacy first because of my name incongruity as well as the fact that I was listed as male and picking up female hormones.   When I got my name legally changed and insurance cards changed I felt more at ease at the pharmacy, but no one there ever treated me in a way to make me feel uneasy. 

What got me thinking about this was being at the pharmacy this week and seeing one of the same clerks I've dealt with since I started.  She's always extremely nice but I feel that she's privy to a little secret the people in line behind me do not know.  She gives me a little smile.  I guess it's our little secret.

In the first paragraph here I alluded to the fact that perhaps I haven't handled my transition at the pharmacy as well as I should have.  What I am thinking is that perhaps I should change to a new pharmacy where they don't know my history and sort of start over.  I'm considering that but I believe I have gotten medication from all the drug stores here in the area at one time or another.  Because my social security number hasn't changed I think that would cause me to have to a name change at those other pharmacies.  So we are back to square one.


We change a lot during transition.  We evolve in our presentation, name changes at some point, the medications cause noticeable changes.  Some have surgeries that cause an abrupt, sometimes dramatic change.  I have wondered if pharmacists look for any of that and put two and two together knowing the effects of the meds they fill and the situation that causes us to have the prescriptions.

I've heard some of my friends describe being asked by pharmacists why they are taking estrogen.  Some will go in presenting female one month and male the next month.  It can be an interesting dynamic.  I'd love for you to share your own experiences with going to the pharmacy during transition in the comments section below.  People starting out do benefit from hearing my experiences and your experiences.  Some of them can be a little disconcerting and some can be comical.

Once again, thanks for reading my blog and thanks for sharing.  Please don't forget to take your medications.

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