In early 2019 I was invited to take part in a panel discussion on the consultation around the Gender Recognition Act. Specifically, the organisers were interested in looking at the de-medicalisation of gender identity. As a doctor who is in favour of removing medical evidence requirements for legal gender transition, a belief which is not shared by many others in my position (at least none who would be prepared to do so publicly) it was felt that mine could be a valuable voice in the conversation.
I responded to the invitation with glee. I am fully in favour of self-identification. I do not believe there is a need for a doctor to give evidence so that someone can legally change their gender. This is not a medical issue, but a legal one, and the rule book needs rewriting.
Shortly after confirming my acceptance, I received an email which stated that despite having genuinely believed that my insights would be valuable, due to the ongoing nature of the GMC investigation, it was felt that I should not be included after all.
I was totally and utterly deflated. It is one thing to be bullied and discriminated against by the UK medical profession and regulators for my attitude towards the healthcare needs of trans people, but when that translates into lost opportunities to be a true and vocal trans ally, it really hurts.
I am what they call ‘privileged’, a white, cisgender, heterosexual, educated woman. I have no close family or personal ties with the trans community, outside of those I have met through GenderGP and whom I continue to support though my advocacy work.
My passion and energy comes from my medical and ethical background, I cannot bear to see injustice served to those in desperate need of a fair hearing, handed out by those who are supposed to be there to protect this group. However, due to the investigation (which has thus far lasted 4 years) I am unable to use my medical skills to help. As such I have channeled all of my energy, expertise and experience to inspiring and educating. And despite the challenges I still face, I am delighted to say it is making a difference.
Therefore, it was with huge excitement that, last week, I was invited to join the Financial Times for a roundtable on the realities of gender confirmation and interacting with the modern healthcare system as a trans person. The event was hosted by presenter Sarah O’Connell and journalist Freddy McConnell also took part.
We talked frankly and openly about how trans healthcare is perceived and delivered in the UK today. GenderGP’s lead therapist, Marianne Oakes, shared insights from service users, she spoke of the challenges people face when having to conform to a set of criteria, of being made to feel ‘not trans enough’, and of the trauma faced by trans youth accessing young people’s services via the NHS.
Freddy McConnell spoke of how he navigated the system by being the ‘model patient’, but that he was swiftly discharged from the GIC when he told them he was planning on having a baby. Sarah O’Connell described one of her experiences with the NHS service as transphobic, so she left to seek private options.
It was incredibly empowering to be given a platform alongside three prominent trans individuals and to be allowed to share the insights I have gathered since I began specialising in this field of healthcare, first as a doctor and now as an advocate and campaigner.
The feedback we received from the session was amazing, with messages coming in to say viewers were moved by the conversation and deeply angered by the current state of affairs.
While the recording remains an internal educational tool, there have been several requests regarding distribution to other media companies both in the UK and further afield.
Wherever the recording gets shared, we are incredibly proud to have been part of the process and huge kudos to the FT for taking this much needed step towards educating those working in the media about the realities of modern trans healthcare.
This shows me that having one or more community members in a large and influential organisation like the Financial Times, can be enough to start to bring about meaningful change. This opens the door for people who may be in smaller organisations to do the same.