Day 1: Parsippany, we have a problem
I tried to fill out the online form for Yale grad student dental insurance. It told me that “sex is required”.
It wasn’t really clear whose problem this was, so I contacted approximately everyone:
- Delta Dental of Parsippany, NJ: they were zero helpful, as the signup form is maintained by Yale, and they were unable to refer me to someone at Yale
- Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences: they are nominally responsible for managing Yale’s end of grad student dental insurance, and responded within hours, acknowledging the problem, and promising further followup
- Yale Equal Opportunity Office: they called me back within a day and referred me to Yale Student Health
- Yale Student Health: they disavowed all knowledge of dental insurance, but promised to take my problem up their reporting chain
Two days later, I received a paper form which should let me get dental insurance. Owing to my shotgun approach to bureaucracy, it’s unclear who was ultimately responsible for fixing it, but at least it got fixed.
Day 2: Another day, another… wait, what?
I had an entirely-not-about-my-gender meeting with my faculty advisor and Xandi, the director of the PA program.
At the end of the meeting, Xandi turned to me and said “If you don’t mind, I have a personal question I’d like to ask you”.
Yes. Yes, I know. Everyone has a personal question they’d like to ask me.
“I don’t mind at all.”
“I didn’t quite catch your pronoun when you introduced yourself at orientation. Did you say it was ‘he’ or ‘ze’?”
That was the moment when I could begin to relax. The person in charge of the PA program doesn’t need me to explain gender, pronouns, or my existence. My gender and my pronouns are no more profoundly unusual than if my name had an uncommon spelling.
That was when I began believing I had found a new home.
Day 5: So much advising, so little time
My advisor reached out to me for guidance about what she can do to make my life in the program better.
Foolishly, I said I’d stop by for a quick conversation about it. It wasn’t quick.
It wasn’t quick because - and I really should have known this — both she and I like going off on tangents.
It also wasn’t quick because those tangents involved me sharing various micro- and macroaggressions I’ve received in the past; her sharing her own experience with discrimination; me sharing various anxieties I’ve been holding about the PA program and the medical profession; and her telling me about various forms of institutional support I can count on to help me navigate and mitigate those anxieties.
We both noted with dismay the lack of Kleenex in her office.
I have been warned about dreaming too big. Repeatedly and caringly, I’ve been cautioned against hoping for too much — by friends, by mentors, by my therapist.
The concern isn’t misplaced, but I think the question is backwards. I don’t want to be asking “How big of a dream is too big?”; I want to be asking “What kind of support and resources do I need to feel safe in dreaming big?”.
And right now, I am willing to believe that for my dream of being a gender-non-binary practicing PA, the kind of support and resources I am likely to receive at Yale — together with my existing social supports — will allow me to dream safely.