Monday, 31 December 2012

As The New Year Beckons; What Awaits

As I'm typing this during the last hours of the year 2012 it's hard not to compare the situation I was in a year ago with today. The main feeling accompanying this comparison is one of exhausted, but minor satisfaction. The points where it mattered the most, such as my struggle against the Dutch hospitals and associated, as well as my personal living situation have improved considerably. My intersex condition has been acknowledged, I got my legal gender changed and I now have one of the best Dutch personal damages lawyers representing me in the case against the Dutch hospitals. This lawyer, Yme Drost, has recognized that my basic human rights have been infringed upon through the treatment by Dutch physicians and psychologists.

I am now also living on my own together with a girlfriend, Joanna, whom I love with all my heart. None of those things I could have expected early this year. So many times things seemed to be going lopsided and I can not count the number of times that I just broke down for no apparent reason and was ready to just give up on everything. My mom above all is beyond relieved that things have turned out like this, having had to support me from early 2011 on after things went so horribly wrong in January that year.

To be fair I see this period mostly as a bit of a breathing period. It's going to be a harrowing time financially next year as well as in other areas, as big decisions will have to be made and solutions found for other issues. I still have one more surgery to go, for which I haven't found a surgeon yet due to once again my unique physiology. The legal case against the Dutch hospitals will begin in earnest in February of 2013 as the first hearing by the medical disciplinary commission against the VUmc's gender team will take place in that month. The outcome of this is everything but certain. There's also the thousands of Euros kept hostage by my insurance company, Unive, which they refuse to pay to cover the expenses I have made for hair-removal due to my intersex condition. Again the discrimination also displayed by Dutch hospitals - among others - seems to play a major role here.

Intersex as a taboo in the Netherlands, and of course outside it. It's going to be one of the central items for me in 2013 and hopefully for the world media as well. With me having gained a foothold in the media with the possibility of a documentary being made about intersex featured around my story, it seems as though times may finally be changing after all of the struggles the past eight years. Hopefully 2013 will be the year that this taboo vanishes for ever.

Making up the balance, and looking back at the blog post I wrote about a year ago, I'd say that I have become more hopeful, stronger and in many ways even more mature than before. I also realize all too well that I'm at most half-way on the path which needs to be traveled in order to reach the end of this nightmare I found myself in due to the simple act of being born into a backwards, Calvinistic and intolerant society and country.

I sincerely hope that my girlfriend and I can say farewell to the country of the Netherlands before 2013 ends. My girlfriend has gone through many layers of Hell starting in her early youth, caused by her direct family and worsened by the so-called child-protection services in the Netherlands. Even now she can find virtually no support or recognition in this country for everything she had to endure physically, emotionally and otherwise. In many ways our stories are parallels of each other, featuring the same uncaring attitudes of Dutch health- and other types of care, not to mention the closed-off nature of Dutch society. It's time we started living in a country where those who do not fit into narrow labels are treated like actual human beings.

Consider this to be our new year's resolution.

Maya & Joanna

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Initial Hearing Against VUmc Gender Team In February 2013

Two days ago I got an email from my lawyer, Yme Drost, regarding the case at the medical disciplinary commission against the VUmc hospital's gender team. The initial hearing in the investigation has been scheduled for Tuesday, February 12th 2013. During this hearing the defending party, consisting out of Dr. P.T. Cohen-Kettenis (psychiatrist), Dr. W. de Ronde (endocrinologist), Dr. M.A.A. van Trotsenburg (gynaecologist) and Dr. J.H.T.M. van Waesberghe (radiologist), will possibly be present as well. At stake is the claim by my lawyer and me that the aforementioned performed inadequate diagnostics considering the state of medical knowledge and technology at the time, and have generally acted unprofessionally.

More detailed, the gender team as a whole has not followed protocol considering the diagnosis and treatment of transgender/intersex cases, violated my right to decide about my own body, refused medical scans, (genetic) tests and ultrasounds where they would have been relevant, ignored evidence from German clinics, improperly interpreted MRI scans and completely ignored my wishes and questions. The disciplinary commission's task is to establish in how far the VUmc's gender team has indeed failed in performing their assigned duties, and to decide about possible correcting measures.

I will be travelling to Amsterdam with my lawyer on February the 12th to be present at this hearing. It is with great relief that I will be present, as maybe now, after eight years of inhumane struggles justice may finally be served.


Thursday, 20 December 2012

Judgment Of Health Insurance Netherlands: Intersex Doesn't Exist

Today I received the judgement from SKGZ regarding whether or not my health insurance company, Unive, has to fully cover the permanent hair-removal therapy I'm forced to undergo due to my intersex condition. Their conclusion, contradicting statements made during the hearing [1] a while ago, was that I'm not transgender and haven't undergone surgery or have physical conditions which would warrant such therapy for medical or psychological reasons and thus won't need to be fully covered. The mere 300 Euro a year Unive covers now due to the extended insurance I have with them covers less than half of the costs, with me paying much of that amount myself due to having that extended insurance in the first place.

The final report from SKGZ doesn't list intersex anywhere in the conclusion, fully omitting it as a possible argument to use in favour of me. The overseeing organization for health insurance in the Netherlands, CVZ, also ignored the intersex part. They are ignoring that I am undergoing this therapy because I am _physically_ at least partially female, look female and wish to live in a female role, but due to my intersex condition I had an elevated testosterone level which led to facial hair growth which causes psychological issues for me. It's not optional for me to have it removed.

With this decision I have to once again wonder whether medical institutions and insurance companies/organizations in the Netherlands are all united in this... discrimination against intersex individuals, ignoring their existence and only admitting their existence where it will lead to surgery to 'correct' it. Salient detail is that if I had faked being a transsexual I would have had full coverage here from Unive. No questions asked.

Yet I didn't. And why? Because I only want to be myself, even if it means getting punished for it by every institution and so-called physician and psychologist in the Netherlands for it. Apparently the Netherlands continues its legacy of being an intolerant, backwards, Calvinistic and infuriatingly bureaucratic country.

Someone get me out of here...



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Frightening Campfire Stories: Reggefiber, The Horrors Of Dutch Bureaucracy

Before my girlfriend and I moved into our current apartment here in Almere, we looked at the options for internet. I automatically assumed that fiber internet would be available since virtually all of Almere is connected to the city-wide grid. Upon a closer check it turned out that this would not be the case. Despite being smack in the middle of the coverage zone, the apartment was listed as not having fiber available as option. Flabbergasted, I signed up for fiber once it would become available and settled for a sluggish 4 Mbit ADSL connection with provider XS4All while things worked out.

Once living in the apartment we learned that most people in the apartment building either were using fiber internet, or had the necessary wiring installed at least. The previous occupants of this apartment building must have refused to have the wiring installed back in 2009/2010. Now we would have to ensure that it could be installed. Our provider, XS4All, just let us know that we'd have to get the necessary wiring installed, and thus I looked at contacting the single company managing all fiber networks in the Netherlands: Reggefiber. Their response however was brief and quite cryptic, I'd have to let my provider carry out a feasibility check of installing the wiring. XS4All's response was one of puzzlement: they had never even heard of such a check.

Fast forward a few months, during which Reggefiber ensured me that I'd just have to ask permission from the neighbours living below us in the building to have the wiring installed - which we did - and XS4All's management contacted Reggefiber to inquire about this feasibility check. Eventually XS4All got the forms from Reggefiber needed for the check, and within a few weeks it showed that it was totally possible. Late last month I was able to order the 50 Mbit fiber install package with XS4All as availability at our address was changed to 'available'. Now we have the green light from the site, the fiber install package with the modem, a free installation courtesy of XS4All on hold, and we are waiting for Reggefiber to install the wiring. This should happen before the end of the year, they ensured me.

What most baffles about me about this whole thing is Reggefiber's insistence throughout this whole ordeal that fiber would not be available at this address, this despite the address being in the middle of the coverage zone, the rest of building being wired up already, and their records should show that an install attempt was made a few years ago, but refused by the technophobic people who previously lived in this apartment. For them it should have been a simple 'okay, we'll have it installed now' response, but instead we got the run-around for half a year, baffling even a grizzled, experienced ISP like XS4All, and still don't have things sorted out yet.

Experiences like these are seemingly typical of Dutch companies and government instances. Their whole support departments seem to be focused on confusing and wearing down customers and the like until they finally give up and leave them alone. Dutch bureaucracy has to be among the worst in the world in how it's customer-hostile, inefficient and bogged down by its own stacks of conflicting rules, regulations and dysfunctional administrations.

I just hope that we'll have fiber internet before New Year's now.


Saturday, 1 December 2012

The Dangers Of Seeking Help

Two posts ago I mentioned that I'm looking for a surgeon who can help me fix the last part of my body which still requires medical attention, also to ensure that the unusual female anatomy I possess does not cause issues in the future. I got a few leads thanks to responses on Google+ and Facebook. Unfortunately this hasn't led to any results yet. The few places which did respond merely told me that they don't do sex reassignment surgeries. Even though those are completely unrelated to the type of surgery I require: the restoration of an existing vagina. Not to create an artificial one, but to do whatever is possible with an existing female organ.

The results of these rejections has brought back many unpleasant memories. In many ways it has made me realize that despite some recognition of being intersex legally and in the media, in the end it doesn't mean much. I'm still on my own on this, and I still have to fight for every single inch of ground. The more I deal with finding help with something I need or require, the more I risk losing myself again and possibly my life. In the end it seems I still do not belong in this society.

This is the response I wrote a brief while after receiving the last rejection notice: "Just got an email back from the largest hospital in Munich, Germany regarding the surgery I still require to fix my female side. Their response was a brief and crude 'no, we don't do sex change operations for transsexuals'. Even though it doesn't concern a sex change operation, nor am I transsexual. Heck, they even responded in German, while I wrote my question in English. Why'd they even assume I could understand the reply?

"After just a few attempts to get a surgeon interested in my case like this, I already feel despair setting in. It's both familiar and frightening to feel my self-worth as a person fading again, as I'm once more reduced to a nobody.

"Nobody understands me. Nobody will help me. Nobody is going to lift a finger to help me survive. I may as well not exist..."

I really hope that I can get through this period. I'm not sure how long I'll last if this keeps up. Between everything else in my life, I barely have time for a breather once in a while.