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In this mini episode of the GenderGP podcast, Dr Helen and Marianne discuss their trip to Cornwall, where they launched the GenderGP roadshow.
The roadshow provided an opportunity to meet some members of the team, ask any burning questions and (importantly!) enjoy a relaxed chat over tea and cake.
Please note: The GenderGP Empowerment Pack, which is discussed in this episode, is currently in production. As soon as it is live we will share it on the website.
To read a transcript of the full Q&A from our trip to Cornwall click here.
Safe Haven is a support group in Cornwall for trans and non binary people, their partners and families. To find out more visit the Safe Haven website.
The GenderGP Podcast
GenderGP on the road: The GenderGP Podcast S2 E5
Hello, this is Dr Helen Webberley. Welcome to our Gender GP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and non-binary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.
We’re here with a mini-podcast today, with the wonderful Dr Helen Webberley and me. We both recently visited the Safe Haven support group down in Cornwall where we launched what we think is the first of many or hopefully many roadshows. Which gave us the opportunity to interact and meet lots of our lovely patients, and also potentially lots of lovely new patients. How did you find the experience, Helen?
Dr. Helen Webberley:
I loved it. I’m always a bit nervous going to things like that because I have this horrible thing where I don’t recognise faces, and I knew that there were going to be lots of people there that I’d helped and you know empowered on their journey which I did, and it was just amazing to see so many people there and everyone kind of rushed over and said thank you so much. You know without you we couldn’t have done this we couldn’t have done that. And just to know what good work we do and to see such happy smiling faces was was truly amazing. And there were people there that started their journey with us a few years ago and were in quite dark places and now just to see the happiness of people living as they feel that they should live, living happily and identifying with their gender confidently, was just amazing. And then of course to see other people who were at different stages of their journey, you know some sadness in the stories and some you know hope for the future. But I absolutely loved it. And in that room that Jackie had put together so well, there was such a feeling of strength and passion, and a vision for the future. It was really, really empowering.
It’s not often that we get to see the end results of the project that we started if project is the right word. You know somebody comes to us in a dark place, goes on this journey, and they go out the other side. And I won’t say that they go off and leave us, but they’re just going up with their life. And then to see somebody who we’ve helped from the early stages, it was better than any research you could read. It was like getting to live the research if you know what I mean that the feedback that we were getting was everything — that we believe in what we do.
Dr. Helen Webberley:
I totally agree. You know you can’t capture can you those faces that energy the happiness the focus for the future you know you just can’t capture that energy on paper or in a table on a chart. It’s really hopeful for the future, for the whole of the trans community actually. And there were lots of questions when you know how do I get help how do I make this journey easier for my family and me. And you know this is still a tricky road that many people have to traverse. But I think things are improving.
Well I think one of the things that took away from this which gives me hope that these roadshows will be successful not just for the patients actually but for us as a service because I don’t know about you, but I got a sense of what it’s like living in Cornwall as a transgender person, and I’m not going to say that it’s massively different than anywhere else in the country. But I think we got to hear firsthand how it is living in a rural area with doctors who are completely unprepared, are prejudiced, are discriminatory against trans healthcare, and how these people have been coping. And one of the things I really enjoyed was the, in some respects, the anger but also the passion of the people that are wanting to make a change. Certainly in Cornwall.
Dr. Helen Webberley:
I agree. I think it’s almost shameful that so many people travel down this road stands that most beautiful part of our country on their holidays with their cars full of happiness and hope for the holidays when actually we understand that in small cut off areas. And I know this from living in poorer parts of Wales that there isn’t often the advantages that people have in larger bigger cities where there is more diversity and more acceptance, and there certainly was a big energy there wasn’t there, Of people saying you know we don’t get what we feel we deserve. And living in Cornwall, we have some horrible stories of people who are desperate for help and are really unable to get it. And what shall we do about it? You know how do we make the people who should be helping us help us?
Yeah, exactly. And I think one of the messages that we were able to send out was that I think we were able to give a message of hope because I think your experience as a GP definitely and how to handle GP and it wasn’t about saying here’s a letter to give to the GP. It was how to talk to the GP you know what your rights actually are. And I actually saw you know listening to that thinking My God I didn’t know any of that. So you know even though I work within this area. I was learning on the roadshow, and I was only learning because of the questions we were being asked. I thought we’d give a mention to Sally here as well because I felt her insight as a member of the team of gender GP and also as the mother of a trans person a trans child. I think that added to people’s warmth towards those that we were just now you know a trans woman on a mission a doctor on a mission. We are a group of people that genuinely care and have a vested interest in all of this.
Dr. Helen Webberley:
People sometimes ask me if I would ever want to go to work in the NHS. And you know very often my answer is is no I couldn’t work in that non-gender-affirming way. And I’m incredibly proud of the team at Gender GP, and the passion that they have and the belief that they have in that you know being transgender is simply a natural diversity of human nature. And people who have gender and congruence deserve everything exactly the same as anybody else, and they deserve to live their lives happily. And I know that the whole team of Gender GP has in their heart. You know, we believe that people should live their lives just how they want to and how and however makes them live their life most comfortably and I’m incredibly proud of the team, and I think that passion showed through you know certainly our audience, the people who welcomed us in such a welcoming way if you like, you could see that reflection in their eyes. I think that the power that towards the end of the session that the questioning was merely starting to say well how can we as a community help. You know we talked a little bit didn’t we about the difficulties that that I had had that gender GP had had over the four or five years that we’ve been in operation and there was a real sense of gratitude for us being brave and strong enough to go over those obstacles and to still continue with the mission that we believe in very very strongly. And there was a real question of how can we help. How can we make changes? And it’s difficult on an individual level. But when you’ve got a community as strong as the small community of Safe Haven in Cornwall and then the wider community of the transgender community in the UK and across the world you know all of a sudden you’ve got a very strong power there. And there was a real question wasn’t there how can we help. What can we do? How should we take this forward? How can we make this better for the future? And it was an immense power in that room.
The definitely was. One of the things I took away from there was that it did feel like that that support group was a tight unit on its own. You know that these 60 people in a room like that. I mean, I’ve been a member of support groups for the last 30 years and rarely would I see 60 people at any support group to see that unity. And actually, again a shout out has to go out to Jackie and Paul/Paula because whatever they’re doing down there, they’re creating a community. It’s not just people that turn open and then scope back. You know I could see that the connections between the people down there, and I got a sense that being cut off in Cornwall they weren’t aware of what’s going on elsewhere.
Dr. Helen Webberley:
So I really agree that one of the things that people wanted was to see what they can do to help. How how can they help themselves and how can they help other people. And we came up collectively in that room with this idea of a pack, an empowerment pack so that people can take the knowledge within that pack use it for themselves and share it with others. And so what we are going to do is we’re going to use our knowledge that we’ve collected that we’ve gleaned from our patients who we’ve helped over the years and combine that with our professional knowledge in the medical world in the therapy world and put together a pack which which really is going to be robust evidence-based and user-friendly and helpful so that people can say, “What are my rights if I’m not getting this from my GP or from my local hospital from my local counselling service from my gender identity clinic?” What should I do if I feel I’m not getting the right treatment, if I feel I’m not getting the right care, if I feel I deserve better than what I’m having? You know we can put together this pack, and people can say yes actually look here it says X Y Z, and I should be having this, and I am entitled to that, and I don’t deserve to be treated in that way. And when we develop it, we can share good experiences of people who have gone through the pathway. Well, we’ve already had a contribution from someone which shows how they manage to navigate the system in a calm and professional way in order to get the help that they needed. And that’s an incredibly useful asset. So we can pull together all of our knowledge: the knowledge of our transgender community, the knowledge of us as professionals, and put together a really robust resource that people can use for the future. And actually, I think it will help you know sometimes doctors and nurses and counsellors are scared to help because it’s the fear of the unknown. And actually having something tangible, something robust, something that’s written down on a piece of paper will help them to understand what their role is and what their duty of care is to patients, to clients, to people. So I think there’s going to be a really exciting piece of work. And the other thing that we want to do is you know we want to extend this reach it was so empowering to be in Cornwall that day. It was so lovely to see the community so strong together and happy. And we want to go out and see and meet more people. You know we’ve been kind of a digital service, and we haven’t had the luxury of meeting everybody face to face. It’s lovely to go en masse in groups all over the country and to meet everybody, meet the support groups that have been doing amazing work in the background and to hear stories of success and to help people whose stories haven’t quite hit that success just yet. So we’re really excited. And if anyone out there is in an area where they would like to put together a group and welcome us there to have a cup of tea and share some stories, then we’d love to hear from you.
One of my enduring memories actually of the whole day down there was as we all turned up just before we were to give the talk. We were walking towards the venue, and Helen said one of the things that she really worries about is somebody is going to walk straight and talk to her as if she knows them, and she won’t have a clue who they are. And we walked up the steps towards the venue, and as we got to the top of the steps all the people at the top just turn around and the look on the face as we just appeared and somebody came straight and Helen just started talking to her and the first word to her, “I knew this was going to happen.” But I also knew at that moment that it didn’t matter that the people knew us and felt they knew us. I was so excited to see us, and I was really humbled by that. You know we were just three people going in to talk. But as we met the people just the look on the faces and you know particularly Helen and knowing what Helen and I have both been through I just thought you know this is going to be okay. These people really do want to see, they just want to talk to us and want to get to know us. So that was one of my enduring memories of the whole day. The other thing I was going to mention as well is that when we did the talk I noticed that we all started talking, and there were points with you know when Helen was talking when I was talking and when Sally was talking that we actually started talking with so much passion that we touched on being emotional and we’d had a resistance I think to script what we were going to say. I was calling it to shoot from the hip, but I think you know the truth is talked from the heart. And I know Abby, our a wonderful organiser you know said every script to that. You know what you’re going to say, and we were all kind of being a little bit evasive, but I really think that that worked. Actually, we couldn’t help but get involved in what we were saying and get the passion across. Whereas, I feel that with a script, that we may have just lost a bit of that but I think it was okay. It was okay to be emotional. Maybe some people might argue that’s not professional. But to me, it felt like what we were saying conveyed exactly how we feel about the work that we do.
Dr. Helen Webberley:
So anyway, thanks, Marianne. I really enjoyed it. I loved going to Cornwall. It was beautiful. Thank you very much to Jackie and Paula/Paul for inviting us and for creating such a great space to have us. Thank you for that delicious lemon drizzle cake. I could come back just for that, and I’m really looking forward to more gender GP roadshows in the future.
I would like to second that as well. It was a pleasure to go down there and a pleasure to see so many people and to just enjoy the company of the support group. So thank you, Jackie and Paula/Paul.
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