reason for going into medicine-PS (long)

I have wondered about asking this question for quite awhile now. I am in a kind of unique situation as far as I know.
The background:
My (sucky) undergrad GPA and my recent re-acquisition of the whole “want to go to med school” are related. I was miserable and didn’t like myself when I was getting my first degree and frankly couldn’t imagine myself living the way I was.
The short of it is that I am a female-to-male transsexual. I was in denial during my undergrad work the first time around and I hated myself and who I was. It showed big time in my first degree gpa. I had this sensation of not being or feeling right all of my life…I won’t bore anybody with the details, but just imagine if you woke up in the body of the opposite sex and there wasn’t anything you could do about it.
I know there are all kinds of theories and beliefs about the validity of things like this too. Deciding to go through sex re-assignment was the best thing (outside of my wife) that has ever happened to me.
It is also a large part of the reason that I want to go into medicine. Having seen the medical community from the patient side (“shrinks”, GPs, surgeons) and having experienced the compassion and passion of some very fine doctors, it has made me realize that I want to be able to try and make a difference to somebody. I know what it’s like to wake up after a life changing sugery, or to be aware of my health at a detailed level. I honestly have been more aware of the workings of my body in the past 6 years than I ever was. Before I didn’t care, I didn’t think I was going to live past 25 because I was so miserable and depressed. Life wasn’t worth it. I was a freak and nobody was going to love me. (Insert pity party here chuckle)
The question:
I’m just not sure if this is the kind of thing I should put in a med school application. I mean, I know why my original GPA sucked and what happened. I also know why I want to go into medicine. I just don’t know if it is something I should let out of the bag so to speak. If you didn’t know, you can’t tell. I have had all of my surgeries and have been on testosterone for almost 7 years now. Heck, the last surgery (the genital re-assignment) was an experimental surgery. What was done to me had never been done before as far as my surgeon and I knew. It’s come out beautifully…if that part of the body can be beautiful. LOL. It was even part of a documentary. I have no real secrets
I guess I’m just asking if there is a place in medicine for somebody with my background and life experience? It has made me who I am today. It’s also kind of beyond the normal too. Ok, way beyond.
PS My post-bacc GPA is way better than the original. It’s amazng to me that I can feel this comfortable in my own skin.

Clay, thanks first of all for a great story. I am happy for you and grateful that you were able to get the support you needed to give voice to the person inside… really, thank you so much for sharing that.
Is there a place for you in medicine? Of course there is. There is no reason why there shouldn’t be a place for you… your experience should certainly not disqualify you.
Now, the next obvious question (which you don’t ask, but are obviously thinking), do you tell this story? This is a tough question. Others have asked about past experiences with mental illness, ongoing life as (for example) a diabetic, or experience of a family member’s health problems. In each case, I’ve said that the key factor for including it in your PS is if the experience itself helped to lead you to decide on medicine as a career.
For example, I have multiple sclerosis. However, my experience with MS did NOT directly influence my decision to to go medical school. It became one more factor to fret about when I was applying - what if I’m having an exacerbation? What if I need a cane to get into the interview? (didn’t happen, fortunately) Consequently, I didn’t reveal my MS in my personal statement. It just wasn’t germane to the biggest question of "why medicine?
Sounds like your experience as a transgendered person IS germane. But quite reasonably, you’re worried that as germane experiences go, this one is a little “out there” and could create a challenge for your typical staid med school AdCom person when they are reading your personal statement. I think you are right to be very concerned about this.
It may be possible to write your story with vague references to not being happy with yourself as you were, but over time learning to live with yourself, maturing, becoming more focused, blah blah blah. I am not really trying to mouth platitudes or mock this style of writing - just writing stuff off the top of my head so it is not really well thought-out. I think it IS possible to write about your experience without detailing WHAT the experience was.
Whether YOU will find it possible to do this and still be true to yourself is another question, though. You may find that it just can’t be done. If that is the case, I think you will, first of all, definitely want to enlist the help of a professional admissions counselor who can help you craft a PS that conveys what you want to say, so that your transsexual journey is part of the story and not the main attraction. You’ll want to have other people read your PS and be willing to be brutally honest in their feedback, too. You’ll want to write it waaaaay ahead of time and put it away and pull it back out weeks later and see if it actually says what you intended it to say.
And then you’ll want to be quite judicious about where you apply. I can state with confidence that your story wouldn’t raise eyebrows at GWU, which is well-known for being diverse. But it might not go over so well with our pals across town at Georgetown, which is a bit more conventional.
There is an organizational for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender People in Medicine - I don’t know their official name because they were always just “GLBTPM” at school. You might want to find this organization and start networking with them. Find out what schools their officers are from and what schools are best represented in their membership, and that’ll help you figure out the places where your application would be judged simply on its merits.
Clay, I hope this is helpful. Good luck!

Hi Clay,
In addition to the fine advice that Mary just gave you, I wanted to add something. It sounds like you have a story to tell and it should be told. Maybe your personal statement is the place for that and maybe it isn’t just yet. If it were me I guess I’d lean toward holding back somewhat, since you don’t have prior knowledge of your audience well when you’re writing for an application. At a time like this you don’t want to underestimate the potential for controversy (btw this concern applies to MANY situations vis a vis med school apps). But that shouldn’t stop you from writing AN essay on this topic. Don’t forget that there are ways to get your story out there besides the PS, and that the PS itself is not everything. I think it would help for you to clarify the goal of your PS as well as the amount of risk you’re willing to take, and then be ruthless in applying those decision, whatever they are. Be sure to get outside review.
Thanks for telling us your story.

Thanks for the responses. I know that in some cases it can be a conservation killing subject.
I think that seeing the area of the world I live in (Texas), that maybe I should try to hit the main points of it all without too much detail (be vague). I’ll have to think about it. I guess trying to contact a GLBT group at the med schools here and get a feel for the atmosphere wouldn’t hurt either.

I know that Mayo has a GBLT group so I am sure that if you were to apply here and gain acceptance you would never regret it…good luck!