Joe Bloom – Mental Health

“What you’ve got to do is live like a man.”

When I was at CSTC [Child Study and Treatment Center, at Western State Hospital], this one girl wanted to make out, so I gave her a hickey. The staff took me aside and they said, “Oh, it’s okay to feel this way, but don’t do it here.” Like . . . Phft! I didn’t do anything. I thought it was pretty silly. But my sex life was nothing to write home to mother about, that’s for sure.

Anyway, I was in CSTC, got home in October, was fighting with my parents a lot. Finally, after about six weeks, they said, “We’re going to take you out to Eastern State Hospital.” I spent six weeks out there when I was 16. When I was 20, I was out at Eastern [State Hospital] again. I did a long stint out there, from ’75 to ’77; I was out there for about a year and a half or so. Anyway, I don’t know how they got it. But one of the psychologists started interviewing me . . . They actually did a DNA test. I don’t know if they thought I was intersex or what. They got to know me well enough that they figured something was wrong, so they actually sent me to Seattle to see some specialist. I took the Greyhound over to Seattle and they put me up in the convent or something. The guy [in Seattle] said, “Well, I think you’re transsexual.” This was like ’76. “I think you’re transsexual,” he says, “but you’re not old enough to really know what you want.” [I said,] “I’m 20.” “Ah,” he said, “so you know that was.” They sent me home; and they said, “What you’ve got to do is live like a man.” Now they’d hook you up with somebody that knows something about it, tell you about hormones and possibly surgery. [But then] it was just, “Go live as a man.” Then they’d kind of get this silly grin and say, “Which bathroom are you going to use?” And I’m like, “Up you. I don’t need this grief.”

I was in a commitment hearing not long after that. It must’ve been out at Eastern [State Hospital]. My attorney tried get me from being committed, because it was right after ’73, when they [removed homosexuality from the DSM]. My attorney tried to pull that ticket out and say, “Well, that’s no longer a mental disorder.” They just [said], “Yeah, you’ve got a lot more problems than that.” They just kind of dismissed it, and I never heard much more from the mental health system about my gender.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 24 July 2013.