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Review, Sheila Kirk, How to Be a Good Medical Consumer (1992)

Review, Sheila Kirk, How to Be a Good Medical Consumer (1992)

©1992, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1992). Review of Sheila Kirk, How to Be a Good Medical Consumer. Chrysalis Quarterly, 1(3).  Reprinted in TV Connection, 2(2), 9.





For 20 years my CV has shown this review as having appeared in the third issue of Chrysalis Quarterly. I just leafed through the issue and couldn’t spot it—and yet it’s in the folder of text files for issue three, and it was reprinted in another magazine, which means it appeared somewhere!

Sheila Kirk. (1992). How to Be a Good Medical Consumer. Waltham, MA: International Foundation for Gender Education.

I stopped by the IFGE table at last fall’s Southern Comfort conference in Atlanta, and proceeded to browse their books. They had a lot to offer, and I bought more than a few, but what gave me the most delight was a free little pamphlet by Sheila Kirk.

Sheila is a physician with long years of service in obstetrics and pediatrics; she knows more about babies than Dr. Spock—or even Mr. Spock, live long and prosper. Her work with the reproductive system has made her quite knowledgeable about hormonal systems, with the result that she is the author of the only book in existence which discusses hormones in relation to gender dysphoria—and it is written for the consumer! But I would argue that How to be a Good Medical Consumer is an even more significant contribution than Hormones.

Transgendered persons are rarely good consumers—of medical services, or anything else. As was recently noted by Pamela Westin and Paula Jordan Sinclair in an article in Renaissance News, the guilt and anxiety of transgendered persons frequently lead them to spend much more money than is necessary for gender-related products. So, too, does this guilt cause them to make bad medical decisions, bad life decisions, bad career decisions.

There is very little material available to educate and train transgendered men and women to make sane and rational decisions. Dr. Kirk’s booklet is a start. Despite its brevity, she addresses some critical issues: how to find a physician, how to evaluate the quality of treatment received, how to get a referral. There is discussion of second opinions, hormones, and surgery, and a plea for the consumer to understand that the physician is only human—all in eight pages.

For now, Dr. Kirk’s booklet is a cry in the wilderness, a voice in the night. But I hope and expect that it is the first brick in what will one day be a wall.

Dr. Kirk has just delivered another baby.