Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mario/Shekiya


Flip has a new roommate! Her name is Shekiya, formerly Mario. She is a transgendered person with darling sandals. It struck me as inappropriate that a person who considers herself female and is referred to as "she" by the nursing home staff should share a room with a male, so I expressed my view to the social worker who took me to see the director. Also present was the new patient's doctor, who was displeased that I dared to challenge their authority.

I explained that I am not prejudiced against transgendered people and in fact, I also support same-sex marriage. (They are different issues, but rights organizations always lump them together as LGBT {Lesbian,Gay,Bisexual and Transsexual} people.) Nor do I object to the patient him/herself. My objection is based not on biology but on personality, and Shekiya believes that she is female. If a person who was born female but was transitioning to a male identity like Chaz Bono were to become Flip's roommate, I would be fine with it because that person would identify as male, like Flip.

The doctor, who strongly resembled a rhinoceros and will henceforth be referred to as Dr. Rhino, made me repeat everything I said. I explained that since I cannot see the patient's genitalia and do not want to, and since everyone refers to said patient as "she," I felt that she should be rooming with another she. Dr. Rhino repeated exactly what I had just said but added a question mark at the end. For clarification. I was losing patience and prefaced my repetition with "As I said."

The director shared that it is the first time they have faced this issue, and they expected problems from the family of whoever they placed her with. But since Flip was a musician and therefore more likely to be liberal, as well as from San Francisco and not very aware of his surroundings anyway, it was the best place for Shekiya. She was missing the point. It was not about being politically liberal but about the fact that I did not believe Flip should be sharing a room with a female. Stephen, the social worker, assured me that there was in fact a male/female pairing in one of the rooms. I know who they are -- a husband and wife, which is not the same thing at all. Apparently, nursing home policy is based on genitalia and therefore Shekiya must be placed with another man. I asked what she was there for, but they insisted they were not at liberty to tell me.

The director agreed to move Shekiya as soon as they could arrange for another room, which might take "awhile." I went back to Flip's and Shekiya's room to feed Flip his lunch, and it occurred to me that it really doesn't make any difference. In fact, although Shekiya seems to complain a lot about everything, Flip could do worse for a roommate. I am still struggling with the fact that my husband has dementia and lives in a nursing home, so I was probably more likely to be thrown by the new development than I would have been otherwise. There is also the consideration that a person who believes she was born into the wrong gender has almost certainly suffered a great deal of rejection already, and I don't want to add to it.

This is new ground for everyone but if I claim to support transgendered rights, how can I fairly object? This is my chance to actually practice what I preach, even though I don't see this as a transgendered rights issue. So I went back to the director and told her that I was withdrawing my objection, and would accept the new arrangement. My only regret is that I can't share this with Flip, who would get a huge kick out of it.

Besides, if I play my cards right, maybe Shekiya will let me borrow those adorable sandals.

36 comments:

mischief said...

Gads woman, you are too fabulous for words. What a bizarre development in your situation -- and I adore the way you let yourself change your mind after adjusting to the idea. You are nothing if not flexible and open-minded. xx

Jo said...

Omigawd, Susan, just when I think your life can't get any more bizarre ~~ it does...! And you're right, I think Flip would get a huge kick out of it.

Omigoodness, there is a God and She has a wonderful sense of humour.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Lisa,

I understand that the nursing home is applying a different standard. They made their determination based on genitalia while I am going by personality. (Shrug.) It might be interesting getting to know Sheekeeah.

Jo,

Yes, I'm sure he would, and also that She does.

Molly said...

Do you have a name in mind for the book you HAVE to write about all this? Whatever it's to be called, put me down for a first edition signed copy!

Taradharma said...

If I may add my 2 cents, it is neither genitalia nor personality, it is gender identification. S. identifies as female, therefore she IS. If there is a general policy against putting opposite gender patients/clients together, then the facility has violated their own policy.

However, as you say, S. might in fact be a good fit for a roommate of Flip's, no matter what gender each of them happen to be. I applaud both of your actions, you are a queen to me! And not the flaming kind. :-)

nick said...

A very tricky issue (and one I know a lot about because I know a lot about transsexuality). If the roommate identifies as female, she may object to sharing with a male. On the other hand, if he/she wants to share with a female but is still physically male, a female may object to sharing with a man.

One answer would be for Sheekeea to have her own room. But if Flip and Sheekeea are happy to share with each other, there doesn't seem to be a problem.

Of course the underlying issue is gender identity and not genitalia, but I can see the difficulty for women if someone who is still physically/ biologically male (even if his genitalia have been removed) wants to be treated on the same basis as a natural woman. It's a very tangled subject with no easy answers.

nick said...

Sorry, I got confused by one of the comments. Her name is of course Shekiya, not Sheekeea.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Molly,

I have been writing a book about our dementia "journey," although I dislike that falsely cheerful, overused term. I'm thrilled to have one guaranteed reader, and that it is you.

Tara,

By personality, I meant gender identity. I wasn't as clear as I should have been. So yes, I believe that Shekiya's plumbing should be irrelevant to her placement and that since she considers herself female, her roommate should also be female.

I actually raised the same issue you did here, that they were violating their own policy, and was told that Shekiya had requested a male roommate. So I'm confused, and think that she may be as well.

As for being a queen, (a) that role is already taken and (b) I may very well go up in flames if anything more happens to test me.

Nick,

The obvious solution is, as you suggest, to put Shekiya in her own room. They seem to be making this far more complicated than necessary. As for Flip being happy to share space with her, I think he is at best confused because he has been there about a month with no roommate, and now there is someone between him and the windows. I'm not sure he understands that Shekiya is living there, too.

When I arrived today, S was lying on Flip's bed, and Flip was wandering the halls. I brought it to the nurse's attention and she moved S to her own bed.

And by the way, Shekiya's genitalia are apparently still intact, which is why the nursing home insists on bunking him with another person with male parts. I think their view is narrow and stupid, but there may be some law on the books which requires this.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Nick,

You were not confused. I was. I first spelled it sort of phonetically and then realized that it is probably spelled as it now appears.

lgsquirrel said...

Your light shines fast and bright even when life throws curveballs at you. I know my metaphors are all mixed up but I hope they still succeed in conveying my admiration.

Maria said...

One of our good friends is JD. He used to be Windy, a female. I called him and relayed your situation, asked him how he would feel about sharing a room with a woman. He was aghast. Said, "I am a MAN. If I am ever in a situation like that, I share with another MAN, not a woman. Why isn't that woman sharing the room protesting?" Good question.

e said...

Susan,

You are the epitome of grace.

nick said...

I've never heard of any explicit legal requirements on room-sharing, either in the UK or USA. I suspect you'd have to argue that a decision amounted to transgender discrimination, which in the UK comes under the law on sexual discrimination. A person would presumably have to argue that the denial of their request to share/ not share with a certain person was discriminatory.

Bearing in mind your remarks about Flip, I suspect the nursing home is taking the rather cynical view that Flip is so out of it he's unlikely to object to Shekiya's presence, especially if as you say he may not even understand what's going on with her.

the walking man said...

If this whole portion of your life was not so damn sorrowful it would be to god damned funny for words!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Calvin,

I do wonder at all the curve balls being thrown throughout this situation. In weaker moments, I have even wondered if it is my punishment for taking Flip to the hospital which started the whole thing, but I do not believe that any god worthy of the name would operate like that. So perhaps I am being tested, but for what? And by whom?

Maria,

Thank you for consulting your expert. I was told that Shekiya requested to be placed with a man, but nobody asked the man or his representative, needless to say.

e,

I'm not so sure, but thank you!

Nick,

You are dead-on about the nursing home director and her henchmen counting on Flip's being too out of it to object to anything. This makes me very nervous and disinclined to take even the occasional day off, as I've begun to do.

Mark,

I know. It's like an SNL skit gone terribly wrong. Who thinks up this stuff? What sicko comedian is writing my life?

Brown said...

Well done! Now, just think of all the other shoes she might have!

Life's bizarre little presents...I swear one can't make this shit up.

Paula said...

Susan, my initial reaction would have been the same as yours. If this person has the mindset of a female, then "she" has no business rooming with a strange man. It makes you wonder why she asked to be assigned a male roommate.

I think the privacy laws should be modified to where a patient or their guardian has the right to know why a roommate is in a facility, if the reason could put the other person at any risk. A few years back, my mother had to be in a nursing home for a few months to recover from an illness and learn to walk again. She was very frail, yet when she was getting close to release, they gave her a new roommate who was deranged and combative and very mobile. I was so afraid she would do something to cause my mother to fall and break a bone and we'd be back to square one on ever getting her out of there.

I'm glad you made peace with the situation. It is wonderful you are working on a book. Besides just being very interesting, your story could help countless others.

Pamela said...

But wouldn't she/he want to be in a room with a she? I guess that's not your issue though. If she wants to fight for it she can.

Amazing...what a life.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Brown,

Exactly! There is no way I could make this up - my imagination has limits.

Paula,

I would have been very upset that your mother was put at risk. And I do feel the need to know why Shekiya is in the nursing home.

I haven't really made peace with the situation. I just gave up fighting it FOR NOW because as I said in my post, a person who believes he was born the wrong gender has already experienced a lot of rejection in her life, and it would be wrong to add to it. (My alternating use of pronouns was intentional - not sure which really applies.)

Pamela,

I would think so, but then I have never suffered a gender identity crisis, and assume you haven't either.

I noticed today that Shekiya has breasts, which I didn't see yesterday. Or perhaps it was padding. I hope she finds peace within herself from the changes.

witnessing am i said...

Oh my. What is the right answer on this one? While I certainly agree with you on this one, I think it is a tough call for the nursing home. I guess since they are living quarters, it really does come down to genitalia.

I applaud your objection but also your withdrawal. I think both took courage.

"My only regret is that I can't share this with Flip." That is the worst part in all of this, isn't it? How I am sure he would help you through all of this, if only he could.

secret agent woman said...

You know, my initial thought was that insisting that they treat Shekiya as a woman IS supporting transgendered peoples' rights. After all, if she is now a woman, wouldn't she want to be treated as one, and placed with another woman? And my second thought was that what is most important is the personality of who rooms with Flip - you want someone there who won't make his life more difficult. So ultimately, I think letting it ride and seeing how they work out might be for the best.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

David,

For the record, I still believe the nursing home is wrong, especially since they honored Shekiya's inexplicable request for a male roommate w/o consulting me on Flip's behalf. But if she turns out to be harmless, the rest of it won't matter. My main concern is Flip, but I do feel sorry for someone with gender identity issues. To paraphrase Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises,"It's a rotten way to be wounded."

Agent,

I'm sure the administrators were more worried about the reaction of a female resident and her family if they placed a person with a penis in her room. I am uneasy that no one will tell me why Shekiya is there, though. She seems to be in her 40s and not necessarily all there mentally.

When I arrived yesterday, Flip was lying on a rubber mattress on the floor, unable to get up, and Shekiya was sitting on the edge of her bed, inches away, watching him intently. War makes strange bedfellows.

TechnoBabe said...

You are a deep thinker with an open mind and your dealings with the nursing home give you opportunities to show other people how a mature mind and kind hearted person can be. You always amaze me with your treatment of others and how you see things from other peoples view. Even in the midst of what you deal with every day now, I learn from you. I am so grateful for that.

mrwriteon said...

You were probably right to change your mind ultimately, but your original objection was also fully valid. What astounds me in your offerings on Flip's debacle and the agonies that you've gone through is the self-righteous arrogance of those with whom you are forced to deal. That sucks.

Elaine Steward said...

Actually, I would object because I'd be worried about Shekiya putting moves on Flip. He's very cute...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Babe,

If we are not kind,we are probably failing this incarnation. We are certainly failing ourselves. Some people are really difficult to be kind to, though. Hopefully, there is benefit in trying, even when we are not altogether successful.

Ian,

Yes, the doctor was really arrogant. He even ignored my offered handshake because he was already thinking of me as an adversary.

I'm taking Shekiya some fashion magazines tomorrow.

Elaine,

Why do you think I go over there every day? I need to protect my man from that little minx.

(Flip would really be creeped out if he knew. He is kind, as you know, but not quite as liberal as they believe. This would definitely occasion one raised eyebrow, which he has perfected.)

Jocelyn said...

I'm not sure what's worth objecting to or not in this situation, as attempting to decide that genitalia outweighs internal identification gets awfully sticky awfully fast--as your entire post notes very well.

That said, my gut comes down on the side of your initial reaction. This person is female identified, yet she's not being treated thusly, which feels like a kind of rights violation to this liberal. It has nothing to do with her being in a room with Flip--this isn't an issue of sex--but it has everything to do with a lifetime fight to claim gender, and that's what you were attempting to honor (it seems to me).

At the end of the day, not worth tapping more of your reserves to continue this conversation with people who didn't know how to hear you, so I respect that you tried to make your point and then moved on. From this point, S and her family (if she has one) can take it up, if it matters to her.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jocelyn,

You understood me perfectly. Shekiya has no family, which is not surprising. I'm guessing that Mario was dead to them as soon as he became a she. She is only 36 years old and I don't know why she's in the nursing/rehab facility. I can only imagine how difficult her life must have been, and still is, because of something which should not be anyone else's business.

Jean said...

You, my dear, are one classy lady. Wish I could help you! I couldn't help remembering Sandra Day O'Connor dealing with her husband's Alzheimers-he had 'fallen in love' with another patient at the care center. She is a classy lady, too.

Sending good thoughts your way.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jean,

Thank you for the good thoughts and for your visit. If I remember correctly, Sandra Day O'Connor retired from the Supreme Court to take care of her husband, so it was particularly bizarre that things turned out as they did.

neora chana said...

I admire your fortitude in dealing with all this. As a psychotherapist, I would say S. should be treated as female since she identifies that way. And typically you would think that someone who identifies as female would want a female roommate; we are accultured that way. But she asked for a man. Throws a nice twist into the works.

What bothers me is my gut cynicism that this is all about money and not dignity; ie, perhaps neither Flip nor S. can afford a private room, so they don't get one. I wonder if there are any openings in a female room?

Another thought is they are afraid an advocate is or will be involved in S's case and if they don't honor her requests, they may face legal action. And so they will risk trampling on Flip's rights to do so. If it wouldn't risk his care, it would be interesting to say you are going to get a lawyer unless they move S.

seventh sister said...

How do you know for sure that Shekiya requested a male roommate? Did she tell you this or was it the administrator? It sounds fishy to me.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Neora,

All the rooms at the nursing home are either doubles or triples. Flip was alone in his double until Shekiya arrived.

I think the administrators decided it was safer to invade Flip's male space than to risk the extreme ire of any woman who was given a roommate with a penis.

Jackie,

The director told me that. When I asked why, she said something vague about changing, but Shekiya uses the bathroom, not diapers. I also noticed that the sign next to the door with the occupants' names has "M" (Mario) as her first initial, not "S" (Shekiya.)

I just got my first bill for two months, which reinforced that things have advanced beyond my ability to take care of Flip myself any longer.

JeannetteLS said...

As if life doesn't throw us enough whoppers... To say that it's a new world we live in feels like understatement in all this. This is my first visit to your blog and I must say that you are reasoning your way through, around, over, and under all this with inordinate humor and grace. And, as long as you do not feel there is any danger to your husband's experience for now, you seem so wise to put it on the back burner... but protect your man from the minx and see about those sandals.

Wow.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Jeannette,

Flip now refuses to enter his room because of Shekiya. I don't know what his thought processes are, but it's clear he does not like her. When I mentioned this to the director, she said that Flip would have to be the one to move, even though he was there first, because he is the disgruntled one. I am going back for Round 2 today. My reasoning is that since they initially agreed to move Shekiya before I withdrew my objection, they should do so now, but I think they have a 24-hour rule.

Thank you for your visit, and welcome.

Paula said...

Susan, I've been wondering how you were. I'm sorry that the roommate is making Flip unhappy. He may not comprehend exactly what the situation is, but obviously something is making him very uncomfortable. The very idea that HE should have to move from the room he was in first infuriates me. He needs stability to maintain the mental ability he has left. That means a room mate he can understand and not being moved all over the building. Good luck; I know you'll fight for him.