Two days ago was the hearing against the VUmc gender team as previously announced on my blog. That I haven't written about it yet has multiple reasons, mostly that I needed some time to process it all and due to being quite busy with the efforts involved to leave the Netherlands. Long story short, I got virtually everything arranged there now. All services I was subscribed to have been cancelled where appropriate, I have no official place of residence in the Netherlands any more, and I have all the necessary paperwork to settle in Germany. Only blemish on this all is having to deal with the theft of my belongings, but this too should soon see some police and legal action.
Anyway, with all of that out of the way, I finally am able to write this summary of the hearing. Of course to me it's been something which is more than a day. Since the previous hearing on February 10th this year I have been more or less living towards this hearing. It's also in many ways the culmination of the nearly nine years I have had to suffer, the wasted decade of dealing with physicians refusing to be physicians. Yet despite the importance of the whole event I couldn't find myself to be nervous or apprehensive in any sense. If anything it was more of a 'let's get this over with' kinda thing, what with the low chances of success I have written about before.
On the day itself I travelled to Amsterdam together with my mother. We arrived just a few minutes before my lawyer, Yme Drost, joined us fresh out of another hearing at the same courthouse. He and I spent the minutes before the hearing started reading up on some parts of the massive piles of medical evidence and letters collected as well as discussing a few items of importance. Two friends also had arrived at this point and were waiting in front of the doors to the room where the hearing would be held. Shortly after 2 PM we were all let in and the hearing started. There was a surprisingly large audience, according to my lawyer. Nearly half of the seats were filled.
An interesting and pleasant surprise was the commission presiding over this hearing. The chairman was a female jurist, flanked by two physicians and two psychologists. This was unusual because psychologists aren't normally a part of the medical disciplinary commission, for quite obvious reasons. The chairman explained that because of the involvement of psychologists (Ms. Cohen-Kettenis) in the case, as well as the general psychological aspects, their presence was warranted. She also started the hearing by asking me how I was doing, after which I told her that I'm in the process of moving to Germany, for work and personal reasons, including my hope to have the final surgery there soon.
The general theme during the hearing which would take close to two and a half hours was that the VUmc members kept repeating the same mantra that it was their task to prevent unnecessary surgeries, that their approach of having only psychologists talk with patients even if they indicate being intersex is the right one, that their use of a blood test and quick external examination is sufficient to rule out intersex (or 'DSD' as they kept calling it), and that I was the one who had refused psychological help instead of them not having offered such help. They also insisted that I had normal male blood levels at the time and a normal functional set of male reproductive organs. The radiologist, Dr. Van Waesberghe, insisted that he had not seen any female organs on the scans, in addition to claiming that there had been no reason to contact the German radiologists, scoffing at the notion.
As the two physicians of the commission began to ask their questions, they asked me a number of informative questions, including on this restorative surgery I hope to have soon in Germany, the effects of testosterone blocker on prostate and testicle size as well as on the presence of the sperm-producing tissue (absent in my biopsy report). They also asked me questions about how I had experienced the help from German physicians, where I answered truthfully that I had loved it with their quick, efficient and personal attention. During their questioning of the VUmc physicians the latter were quickly forced to surrender on a few points and admit grudgingly that there were indeed a number of things they could have checked, including genotype (chromosomes, mosaicism), have performed an ultrasound and in general have paid more attention to the list of points I had brought to the VUmc's attention in the form of letters which were also part of the evidence.
The psychologists mostly had questions for me, especially on my drive for answers, whether I wasn't trying to prove that I had to be intersex or such. I told them about how until quite recently I'd regularly be standing in front of a mirror looking at myself and not knowing what I was seeing. How frustrated I felt at this, and how much I wanted to have a self-image. Some idea of what I was looking at instead of just facing endless questions. This was the only part where I actually became somewhat emotional.
During the final round of statements and questions my lawyer asked Dr. De Ronde of the VUmc whether the testosterone value measured of 21 nmol/L couldn't just have been a measuring error, considering the low amount of testosterone blocker I had to take (25% of what a male-to-female transsexual takes). De Ronde here upon dodged the question, saying that the exact amount of the blocker taken differs per patient. Besides, as he pointed out the other values which should be affected by a low testosterone level would have to be affected too, such as LSH, which were also 'normal male levels', according to De Ronde. I would like to note here that there is no way to verify the VUmc's measured values in any form or shape at this point. The testicular tissue biopsy results and testosterone blocker medication levels seem to put reasonable doubt there.
Yme also pointed out in his closing statement that it should be obvious to anyone in the room that even to his not medically trained eyes an intelligent woman was sitting next to him. That I would get referred to as 'male' by the VUmc seemed bizarre to him.
The gynaecologist of the VUmc, Dr. Trotsenburg, said in his final speech that all they wanted to do at the VUmc gender team was to avoid that people got unnecessary surgeries which wouldn't make them happy (despite me never have discussed surgery there). He also addressed me directly, saying that he had no idea where I found this current German surgeon, but told me to be careful. After this the lawyer of the VUmc gender team went on what I can only call a rant, distributing a stack of A4 pages to everyone with on it the reasons why I was a bumbling fool, couldn't be intersex, had arrogantly refused psychological help at any point and that all of the complaints against the VUmc should be summarily be dismissed. She sounded so angry at some points that I found myself thinking how much I disliked this person if she truly meant what she said.
After this I got a chance to say my piece. In my closing statement I mentioned how confused I still felt. I pointed the commission to how in 2010 a Dutch judge had approved my request for a first name change based upon having a female appearance, followed by the approval of my gender change to female by another Dutch judge in 2012. This, I said, showed that the justice system in the Netherlands agrees with me a) having a female appearance and b) being intersex, specifically a hermaphrodite. It also means that Dutch judges agree with the German physicians and not the Dutch ones. The only ones who do not agree here are Dutch physicians for some reason. I finished by saying that this was all I wanted to point out.
With the hearing over, Yme and I said goodbye to the commission and went outside along with everyone else. I felt pretty exhausted by then. Fortunately I could go home almost right away together with Yme. Before leaving, one of the friends who had arrived to watch the hearing gave me this plushie he had brought for me. I liked Yme's response to this: "That's part of it too, I guess." referring to me being female, I think.
Once back home I felt initially pretty good about things, what with Yme being more positive about our options of winning the case than ever before. Gradually I began to feel more depressed, though, until I couldn't stop myself from crying for a while. Even though I did very well at the hearing, with my lawyer complimenting me a number of times on my performance, it is as I pointed out in my final statement a ridiculous situation. To hear people who have ruined my life for so many years already say the same hurtful things again, defending their decisions and using the crude term 'Disorder of Sex Development' as though people with an intersex condition are some kind of freak, in addition to vehemently accusing me from exaggerating things and being a selfish little bitch... yes, it hurts. A whole lot.
I really hope that I do win this case. That those involved will have to eat some humble pie for once in their arrogant, infallible little lives. That life for people like me won't be turned into a living hell over and over again. Things have to stop here. If there's any justice left in this god-forsaken country, I hope it will be dished out here.
Whatever happens, though, I hope to be living safely in Germany by the time the verdict is made official. I still have to find house in the Karlsruhe area, but I have good hope that within two months it should all be arranged. Hopefully sooner. And please let this current German surgeon end the medical nightmare. I'm so sick of being 'special', 'different', 'unique' and whatever other sickening terms keep getting thrown at me. I want to be a plain, boring as hell person who just happens to be female. Pretty please?
The ruling will be made public on November the 19th this year.