I sensed something was wrong | Christina Mavuma
My visit to the clinic was the worst day, I will never forget.
This is one of the problems I never imagined myself experiencing, but unfortunately I came across it.
On the 17th of October 2012, I went for a check-up into a nearby clinic in Phase 2 Botswana, to seek medical help.
I took time to visit the place, expecting to get assistance. I didn’t anticipate any problems regarding my gender expression or identity.
When I arrived, I had to see a nurse first to register because I normally use private clinics to see a doctor. That day I had decided to do something different and visit a government facility.
The nurse and I were alone in the room. She registered me, until the point when I had to produce my national identity card. When she saw it, she started to look at me and ask me questions, which I answered.
Before she even finished doing the whole part one, I was told to wait outside, and I did.
She began going in and out of the room she was using, calling other nurses to come to her room.
At that point I sensed something was wrong but kept it to myself, to see what was the motive behind her actions. Other patients who were behind me were assisted. I waited 40 minutes for her to come and call me.
She didn’t even tell me what was wrong but kept passing me, going in and out with staff members and they would all stare at me, while I sat outside next to the room.
I knew she was doing something inside because she had my identity card the whole time this was happening and I just kept quiet.
Eventually I was called inside and she started asking my names, where I come from, where I live and why my names are Christopher Moemedi Mavuma on the card.
I responded. Her main focus was not on providing health care but rather indulging in questions out of curiosity.
Then she asked me if the identity card was mine, and I answered yes!
Why else would I have it with my photo in it?
Just before she was finished police officers came in the room and I was surprised why they were in the room. I thought maybe they are here to get something but to my surprise she told them that the reason she called them was because she could not figure out if this is really my identity card and she wants their help to verify that.
I looked at her and said to myself, you have got to be kidding me. I asked them what was going on and they also asked me if this was mine, I replied and said yes it is, it’s mine.
They asked me to sign just for them to see if it is mine. I became brave and asked them why I’m being asked these questions as if I did something wrong.
They told me that the nurse called them because she didn’t believe that it was indeed my identity card. I asked them why didn’t she ask me or find ways to know if this was my card. The police asked me to escort them to the police station to find out if this is my card. I refused.
I went to the clinic and instead of being helped with the problem I had, they fuelled more problems than what I came with. I felt they were really confused and feelingawkward about asking me about my gender.
The nurse didn’t even ask me how I want to be addressed but chose to go with whatever she was seeing. She didn’t even bother to ask me to explain to her, instead she made the situation worse when she called other nurses to eye me and called police officers to come and assist something that could have been avoided. I would have appreciated it if she had sat with me and asked what was going on as she was confused and needed clarity. She chose to think that she knows best and violated my rights. Tried to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible.
I also felt like I was denied the right to health care because of my sexual orientation and was filled with pain and disappointment. They go around bragging about right to health for every person yet they look at me differently when I come for assistance.
I insisted that the police officers take me to my mum’s house, since it was close to the clinic, for her to verify that it was me on the card. I walked out of the room feeling so unsatisfied with the service I got from the service provider. It was prejudice, I felt discriminated against.
I got home to my mum and filled her in on what happened and she enlightened them that it is my card and that was when they started changing their statement. I told them that there are so many ways to find out for example that someone is a Motswana if you are a nurse, doctor or police.
I told them that since she said to you that there are people from nearby countries who come to the clinic to get free medication, claiming they are citizens of Botswana. I felt it was just an excuse for me not to make a serious case against her. I also told them that I didn’t like the way I was treated, I know my rights and know how the law works as well as their curriculum.
If they want me to teach them how to handle such cases in future, I will teach them since they are clueless about such cases.
I went back to the clinic to lay a complaint. She asked me how the matter was handled. I just looked at her and proceeded to see the matron to complain.
The matron noted my case and said she will investigate and get back to me.
She insisted that we go back to the nurse to inform her that I have laid a case against her and she asked her to explain what had happened. The nurse gave an excuse that she didn’t know that it was me on the card. The nurse made decisions that she thought would confirm that it was my identification card and she started to apologize if ‘she made me feel unwelcome.’
By not asking me or the matron for help, she violated my rights. Instead she did what she thought was best.
I explained that people like her are driving trans patients like me away from the clinic.
I further told her that it is my right to get appropriate treatment.
She didn’t show respect by being relaxed and courteous, I also told her that its because of your facial reactions and by not speaking the right way, as you would to other patients.
This is why it’s hard for others to come to such places. It is because of the discrimination and prejudice from service providers towards us transgender people.
After my travel my case resumed.
The matron apologized on behalf of the clinic and staff and she promised that such incidents wouldn’t happen again. My final word to them was to become more knowledgeable about transgender health care issues and resources.
This story first appeared in Inkanyiso.