Welcome to my blog, which I started way back in December 2002 - long before social media was a thing! With the advent of Facebook, Twitter etc. I don't write that often here now, but you never know when I might feel the urge to do so.
Friday, November 19, 2004
With the Gender Recognition Act and Civil Partnerships Act now both Law, Press For Change now seem to be focusing on the rather unsatisfactory (and that's putting it mildly) state of medical treatment available to trans people in the UK.
To many transpeople in the UK, I imagine that's no surprise given the known inconsistent availability of treatment across this country. Certainly, there is a widely held perception that the "old guard" at Charing Cross GIC (Prof. Richard Green, Don Montgomery and James Barrett) are out to "get" Dr Russell Reid (the consultant who oversaw my treatment and referred me for surgery).
This spilt is partially caused by their very different views of the treatment regime which should be available to trans patients. While Russell Reid's approach encourages patients to take responsibility for their own treatment, Charing Cross are well known for insisting patients must follow a strict and inflexible treatment regime. Those who refuse have to fight hard to make progress.
The most common manifestation of this is the Charing Cross refusal to allow patients access to hormones before transition, a practice I consider to be at best misguided and at worst barbaric and dangerous. By the time I transitioned on Christmas Day 2002, hormones had feminised my appearance to the extent that I had no problems integrating into society.
Personally, I don't think I could have transitioned without the feminisation that hormone therapy gave me. Had I been a Charing Cross patient, that fact alone could have been used by them to prevent me from receiving treatment unless I "co-operated". I shudder to think what could have happened to me in those circumstances.
Judge for yourself. I suspect this is going to be a prolonged and bitter debate.
UK: Report Critiscises Charing Cross GIC [B&H PCT]
A new report, "The Medical and Related Needs of Transgender People in Brighton and Hove" pulls no punches in critiscising Charing Cross GIC and recommends that the Primary Care Trust should set up its own local service for the many trans people living in the Brighton and Hove area.
The report is now available in PDF format on the Press for Change web site and is bound to fuel controversy on the state of trans care on the NHS. Read it at: http://www.pfc.org.uk/medical/spectrum.pdf.
And, below, we explain a part of the controversy which the evidence and conclusions of this report are bound to fuel.
If you wish to contact the author, Persia West, to discuss your reactions or your personal experiences of treatment by Charing Cross then her email is firstname.lastname@example.org. She is expecting reactions in quantity .. and any accounts which you can give her yourselves will strengthen her case, as she will no doubt be called to justify her conclusions.
Something Rotten in the State of the Profession
By Christine Burns
2004 has been an extremely controversial year when it comes to the question of treatment for trans people in the UK...
In mid January the news broke that four Charing Cross psychiatrists (including Don Montgomery, James Barrett and Richard Green) had lodged a series of eleven professional misconduct complaints against Dr Russell Reid with the General Medical Council (GMC).
The same day we were fortunately in the position to announce that the GMC's Interim Orders committee had decided not to immediately suspend Dr Reid as, in their view, there was no cogent evidence to do so. It also later turned out that many of the original eleven complaints were subsequently dropped when the patients themselves refused to permit their notes to be released.
About a month later, the Guardian's Social Care Correspondent (David Batty) was back on the case again, announcing that a former MtF patient of Russell Reid (Charles / Samantha Kane) was attempting to sue Dr Reid for damages in the civil court, claiming he was misdiagnosed and hurried through the transition process which he had claimed in a book (shortly afterwards) to be something (s)he "would never regret"
Batty and his associates in a TV documentary company have subsequently dismissed Charles Kane as something of a Walter Mitty character, although Kane continues to press his case for substantial damages against Reid and to try every available avenue to sell his contradictory story through the tabloid press .. surfacing now and then throughout the year to maintain interest in his story.
Throughout the year, in fact, the GMC case has rumbled on .. though in some cases we've decided to spare Dr Reid further anguish by printing allegations or rehashes of the news that he is professionally constrained from commenting upon.
Just as quietly, another process has been going on in the background too .. as a committee established last Autumn by the Royal College of Psychiatry began work to develop a new set of UK-based standards of care for trans people's treatment, under the chairmanship of Dr Kevan Wylie.
In September, this quiet process itself came into the news, when it was revealed by the Guardian's David Batty that Dr Reid (himself a member of the RCPsych committee), had been obliged to stand down and adopt an advisory-only role within the standards of care committee, following a challenge from James Barratt relating to the outstanding GMC hearing.
Unanswered questions still exist concerning the way in which this news was leaked to the press, as the proceedings of the committee where all this happened were supposed to be confidential at that time. Indeed, only NOW is Kevan Wylie's committee gearing up to consult more widely with stakeholders over what the committee has been doing for the last year. This will doubtless be a massive topic for debate in the weeks and months ahead.
Observers are certainly already asking questions about exactly what is wrong about the state of trans care in the UK, when one group of NHS doctors seem to have dedicated so much of their efforts to attacking a private practitioner who (prior to these allegations) was better known for the huge respect and popularity he enjoys.
There are clues contained in some of the 60 responses which PFC News readers sent in response to a small survey which I ran here during the Spring (and which I'm still working to collate). The most disturbing element of that survey was the things which many Charing Cross patients indicated that they were afraid to have attributed to them, owing to the climate of fear which seems to exist among many of them.
The responses from those who had recently completed their treatment (and therefore had less to fear) revealed some of the areas for concern though: Aggressive and rude handling, punitive rules, threats to withdraw treatment, appointments cancelled without notice, different therapists at each appointment, notes getting lost. A catalogue of complaint in fact. It was also clear from a first analysis of the results that, for all the hype about stanards, patients at Charing Cross are not in practice seen any more times before RLE, hormones or surgical referral than at other centres, NHS or private .. they just take longer to chalk up those appointments.
A internal Charing Cross memo penned by James Barrett in August and seen by several observers of this controversy also reveals some of the mindset within the centre. In a blow by blow tirade aimed at the latest draft of a document being prepared by the Parliamentary Forum, Barrett shows distinct contempt for trans people as a whole (and trans campaigners in particular). He dismisses the modern day self-descriptive language of the trans community, angrily asserts that transsexualism is a mental illness and takes "extreme exception" to a section saying that 'patient satisfaction audits should be undertaken'. He reckons instead that "a more independent measure of outcome than patient satisfaction audits should be applied" .. presumably meaning that the patient's view is secondary.
It is therefore extremely timely that a brand new and detailed report has now been published, lifting the curtain of silence around the state of Charing Cross GIC and reporting on what referring doctors as well as patients actually think about the service.
The new report, entitled "The Medical and Related Needs of Transgender People in Brighton and Hove" has been researched and written by Brighton trans campaigner Persia West, and was funded through the local LGBT community forum, "Spectrum", by the Brighton and Hove City NHS Teaching Primary Care Trust.
The report, which is now available to read at http://www.pfc.org.uk/medical/spectrum.pdf spares no punches in its critique of a service which is coming under increasing scrutiny from many quarters.
Rather than steal any of its' thunder, however, I recommend that you read it and that you make sure everyone you know reads it too and starts asking the questions that it poses.
Needless to say, this is a story which will be continued ...
18th November 2004
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The passing of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 earlier this year left a huge uncertainty over the position of married couples where one partner has transitioned. For those people (whom the UK Government repeatedly refused to grant full legal recognition under the Act, despite the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights) the Civil Partnerships Bill is key.
Unfortunately, it was also much more controversial, with the rather vocal "anti-gay marriage" lobby potentially threatening it far more than they did the Gender Recognition Bill.
Fortunately, it now looks like that danger has passed. As of today, the Civil Partnerships Bill now looks like it's about to become Law in the UK!
A little background.
Having passing it's Second Reading in the Commons, the Bill's progress in this parliamentary session (the last before the next general election) rested with the House of Lords. Unfortunately, the last time the Bill was read in the Lords a wrecking amendment was added to the Bill by peers (notably O'Cathain and Tebbbit, who also opposed the Gender Recognition Bill).
This time however the Bill has gone through, paving the way for all gay couples (and those where one partner was trans) to claim full legal recognition:
Lords back rights for gay couples
The government has staved off a confrontation in the House of Lords on plans to give gay couples many of the same rights as married people. A Conservative peer proposed offering family members living together some of the rights offered gay couples under new civil partnerships.
The proposal would have set up a battle of wills with MPs but peers voted down the idea by 251 votes to 136.
The Civil Partnership Bill is now set to become law this week.
Peers agreed other amendments proposed by MPs without any votes.
The controversial amendment by Tory Baroness O'Cathain called for close family members living together for at least 12 years to be able to get the same rights for capital gains and inheritance tax, fatal accident claims, and housing tenancies.
Some MPs last week accused those behind a similar move in the House of Commons of trying to wreck the Civil Partnerships Bill by making a point about gay marriage.
If peers take the opposite view, it would open a battle of wills in the final day of this session of Parliament.
Lady Scotland said she had sympathy with the aim of the amendment but urged peers to reject the idea to prevent the Bill being "held to ransom".
Former Labour Health Minister Lord Hunt said the change would make the legislation unworkable.
But Lady O'Cathain said excluding siblings from the Civil Partnerships Bill risked creating a new injustice.
If gay couples were to get new rights because they could not marry, siblings who could not marry should also get new rights, she argued.
She spoke of "special rights given to some but not to others who are in equal, if not greater, hardship".
Lady O'Cathain said the parallel scheme for family members would be "very much limited".
She acknowledged ministers' arguments that the bill was not the right legislation for the change.
But she declared: "We may never get the right bill."
Former Conservative Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit said the proposal was not a wrecking measure.
And he said it would not be needed if ministers would promise not to give a tax advantage in any future Budget to civil partners unless it was shared by family members who lived together.
The bill would create a "new inequality" between large numbers of co-habiting parents, children and siblings and the small number of civil partners, he said.
The bill would give gay couples the same exemption from inheritance tax as married couples.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
I can scarcely believe it! A year ago today I was lying unconscious in Operating Room 2 in Aikchol Hospital, awaiting my rebirth at the caring hands of Dr Suporn and his staff.
One year post-op already? Wow!
It's been quite a year. Since that day I've come a long way - both physically (I returned to Thailand for Facial Feminisation Surgery in January this year) and emotionally (after surgery the body and mind continues to adjust, which takes some getting ued to, particularly when you're getting back into day to day life).
It's a time of celebration for me. Appropriately, I've spend this weekend in the company of special friends, though not in circumstances I could have anticipated a year ago! Yesterday I had a (much postponed) appointment to have my bikini area and armpits lasered at Lasercare in Shaftesbury Avenue. Although I was expecting the worst it didn't materialise - having my armpits done were slightly painful (but not unduly) and even having my labia and perennium cleared was nowhere near as bad as I expected.
Given that I'd spent the previous 20 minutes rushing across London (including sprints down Oxford St and Charing Cross Road!) and had forgotten to take any painkillers until 15 minutes beforehand as a result, I was pleasantly surprised. The bottle of white wine I shared with Claire and Alex at Fiori in Leiceiester Square afterwards was certainly welcome though...
We spent that evening partying in Bar One in Leicester Square, followed by the nearby Pizza Express in St. Martin in the Fields. Where else can you see Scooby Doo and Sleeping Beauty hanging around at the bar?
Once again, this girl is one happy kitten! Friends make all the difference.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
It's my Dad's birthday today, and once again I've sent a card without the expectation of a response. This time I also included a picture of Beth and I taken recently. Just looking at it you can see the happiness in our faces, and I wanted my family to see that the stereotype they (or rather, my mum) feared I would become after transition are about as far from the truth as they could be. I'm certainly no stereotype, and neither is Beth.
On the back of the picture I wrote a short message saying how much I love them regardless, and that we'd love to see them sometime. That, of course, depends on them.
With the anniversary of my rebirth approaching on the 14th even the smallest sign from them would be welcome, but I'm not waiting up for them to come around. As the saying goes, you can choose your friends, but not your family.
As far as I'm concerned, it seems my friends are my family now.
Monday, November 08, 2004
It's been a long but fun weekend.
On Saturday Beth and I were in London for a meetup with Friends from AVEN - the Asexual Visibility and Education Network. Asexuality seems to be a very topical subject for the media at the moment (as the recent covereage shows) and it seems that society is slowly waking up to the fact that people are an incredibly diverse bunch. Personally, I believe it's all the richer for it.
Although I'm not strictly asexual myself, for me sex is just a way of expressing love, and its absence in a relationship really doesn't bother me. I honestly don't know why I didn't realise that until relatively recently...I imagine the testosterone which was poisoning my body until my transition has something to do with it!
On to the day itself. Once we arrived in London we caught a tube to Covent Garden where everyone was meeting up (outside M&S, no less!) before wandering off in search of a friendly place to chat and have lunch. We found that place in a nearby pub, and once settled in the downstairs bar we gradually got to know each other over a relaxed lunch.
One thing that did strike me was how diverse we all were. No two people shared the same story or outlook on life, but all had a common thread - they just didn't "fit" the expectations of others in society that they should be sexual beings. Several had only discovered they weren't alone in feeling the way they did through the recent media coverage!
I can see real parallels here with my own experience, and that of those I've met in the trans community. Increased awareness of diversity in society can only help all of us.
After a long and leisurely lunch we wandered into Leicester Square before descending on the Haagan Dazs Cafe ("table for 10, please!") for a rare taste of indulgence. It was wonderful, although we did feel a little guilty afterwards!
Afterwards we walked across Waterloo Bridge where Beth and I said our goodbyes for the journey back. It was a wonderful day, and I hope we'll all meet up again sometime soon.
We'd actually arranged to stay with our friend Claire in Redhill on Saturday night, and had a fun evening chatting and sharing a few glasses of wine before crashing much earlier than any of us planned.
The following day I went with Claire to Redhill Baptist Church.
As soon as I walked into the Church I was struck by familiarity. The atmosphere was very similar to that at Buckskin Evangelical Church - the Church where I found my Faith, but which ultimately couldn't cope with my transition. Although both Churches are members of the Evangelical Alliance (an organisation which is well known for its condemnation of transpeople), Redhill welcomed me unconditionally in a way BEC ultimately proved unable to.
The service was truly wonderful. Not only did they seem to have read my personal hymnbook (the one I carry in my heart), but the service as a whole was interesting, enlightening and thought provoking. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I felt that I'd come home. It was that special.
After the service we stayed for tea and I chatted to some of the Church members for quite some time. By the time we left, the Church was all but empty.
Thank you Lord. You've opened my eyes just that little bit further.
In the afternoon we all went for a late lunch to a local carvery. That's not the sort of diet we normally eat, believe me! It was very though, and as it's probably only the second or third roast dinner I've eaten this year I'm sure my waistline will forgive me this time!