En route to WYD

World Youth Day Logo

I'm currently on my way to World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. We've been travelling for 6 hours or so now and are currently in the ferry queue at Dover. The delays haven't affected us too much so far, but the queue for security checks here is pretty slow. Understandably they've heightened security following the recent attacks. 

However, I've realised that this journey will be a very long time to be wearing a binder and I will need to find some occasions to take it off. I'm currently very unsure how I'm going to do this, as we'll be sleeping on the minibus and I really don't want to be around other people if I'm not binding. 

So what is WYD? 

It's an international Catholic event bringing together young Catholics from around the world. It takes place every three years in different countries, with the last one taking place in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. 

I've wanted to go since I was around 13 or 14, but have always been prevented due to cost. This year due to having Polish members of our Catholic chaplaincy we have managed to get a really good deal on travel and accommodation which has enabled me to go. I'm very excited to experience Krakow, to spend time with members of my chaplaincy as well as gathering with thousands of other young Catholics. 

I'm very lucky to be travelling with such a lovely supportive group of people and I'm hopeful that this will further strengthen our friendships. We'll have the chance to visit some historic places and attend different talks and workshops, with the week ending in an overnight vigil with Pope Francis followed by Mass. 

We have a blog which may be updated more often with news from our group: http://sheffieldwyd.wordpress.com

Tags: catholic

Updates and renewal

I exhausted myself back in January writing and analysing the trans inquiry report and haven't written anything since. I was intending to write a second part to my thoughts on the trans inquiry covering the sections I'd neglected but I simply ran out of time and never finished it. I had exams I needed to revise for and then life has been hitting me pretty hard since then. 

It's not all bad news, I've had several great things happen in the past few months including finally getting testosterone prescribed and getting a place on a prestigious summer school scheme. I'm also off to Poland in a few days to attend World Youth Day and I'm very excited about that. 

However, I've also had to deal with my mood fluctuating and this affecting my concentration and energy levels as well as trying to fight and navigate my way through the nhs mental health services in my area. It's quite a minefield and at the moment I'm playing the waiting game (again) to find out if they are going to offer me treatment. It's quite possible they could turn round and tell me I'm too complicated and that I need to wait until my 'gender issues' are sorted before they'll treat me for anything else. It's frustrating because although I'm sure as I get further on in my medical transition my mental health will improve, I need support now. The mental health service I was under however, decided that there was nothing more they were willing to do for me and discharged me rather abruptly. 

I had university exams as well, and despite struggling with my mental health I managed to pass them all. A few modules I only just scraped a pass but overall my average isn't too bad and most importantly I have been allowed to continue on my integrated masters course. This had been making me quite anxious so I was very happy to receive these results.

We've had a very weak response from the government inquiry which many people have felt let down by. I've not had much time to reflect in depth on their response myself, but many other people have including the NUS and UK Trans Info. I also especially enjoyed this blog post which asks the question: A good month to bury bad news? 

House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee Transgender Equalisy Report

The trans inquiry report was released today. As a witness I received the report a few days early, which has given me the time to read and reflect on it. I thought I'd use this time to write a blog post, highlighting the things which really stood out to me, the good and the bad. This is the first part covering my thoughts on the first 5 chapters.

The first thing that interested me, highlighted in paragraph 13, is that the inquiry covered a wide range of policy areas, but due to devolution in the UK health services, schools and social care are only covered for England. The comments on the criminal justice system only cover England and Wales, under which gender recognition comes. This is great for those of us in England, but if we were hoping this inquiry might address the lack of a gender clinic in Wales or problems faced for trans people in Northern Ireland, then this is not the case. I hadn't realised this would be a limitation of this inquiry until I read this report, but I can see that there will be much more work to be done in parts of the UK that are not England.

Non-binary and non-gendered people

There have been concerns that the report was going to leave non-binary people out, and ignore their existence, and despite being binary gendered myself I would not feel comfortable accepting change if it means selling out the rights of non-binary people. Right from paragraph 3 of the introduction, it is made clear that whilst non-binary identities feature in the report, they are certainly not a priority.

While issues relating to these particular [non-binary and non-gendered] trans identities do feature in this report, it was not possible within the scope of our inquiry to undertake an in-depth consideration of the position of all non-binary and non-gendered people.

Now, having read the entire report, I'm not sure this is necessarily a negative thing. They are simply saying that they did not have the time or resources within this inquiry to properly take into account the needs and wishes of all non-binary and non-gendered people, and perhaps for them to admit that they have not been able to investigate this fully is better than them making an inadequate attempt at covering them.

The rest of paragraph 3 recognises that non-binary people exist and do face specific needs which will need to be addressed by the government.

However, we note that increasing numbers of trans people do identify as nonbinary or non-gendered and many of our recommendations will address some of the problems faced by people with these identities. But there is a need for Government policy to address their specific needs.

Non-binary people are mentioned throughout the rest of the report, and I will come back to them as I go through the different sections. The feeling I got from reading this was that they considered non-binary people to be something other than trans, and not to come under the scope of their 'trans' inquiry.

I'm not sure about the definition and terminology given to describe non-binary people in paragraph 3, but as I don't identify as non-binary I will wait to see how it is received by non-binary people themselves.

Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action

The first proper section of the report is entitled 'Cross-government strategy' and is really concerned with a report that was undertaken in December 2011 called 'Advancing transgender equality: a plan for action'. I've never heard of this plan, and the evidence given seems to be that not much came of it, and the action set out within it was not put in place.

However, the inquiry recognises that it 'remains largely unimplemented'  , and says that 'within the next six months the Government must agree a new strategy which it can deliver' (paragraph 26) as well as look at the previous plan and tell us which actions have been completed and which are still outstanding.  A new strategy must be agreed to tackle the issues which remain unaddressed.

Right at the end of this paragraph they say that this new plan 'should also include a wholesale review of issues facing non-binary and non-gendered people'. This is within the context of a strategy that the inquiry has said must be produced within the next six months, and so it would appear that non-binary people are not going to be forgotten in this context, and if we have no results in six months time, then we have a concrete piece of evidence to use to force something to happen.

Smash the Gender Recognition Act

When it comes to legal gender recognition, one huge flaw with the current system is that non-binary genders cannot be legally recognised. The report states that 'the Government must look into the need to create a legal category for those people with a gender identity outside that which is binary and the full implications of this' (p 31). Whilst it's positive non-binary people's needs appear to be recognised here, there are no time scales given and it does not seem as strong as the later recommendations in this section. It may be good if they do take the time to fully investigate how best to implement legal recognition for non-binary genders, in order to ensure there are no flaws or problems with the new system, but this is time during which non-binary people will continue to be failed by our legal system, and have to live with being misgendered constantly.

I was annoyed by some factual errors made in this report with regard to the current law and guidance on the gender recognition process. Firstly in the section entitled 'providing proof' paragraph 32 lists the things required for a gender recognition certificate. Unfortunately it implies that only one medical report is required, when in fact two reports are required. One must be from a registered medical practitioner or registered psychologist practising in the field of gender dysphoria, and the other can be from any other registered medical practitioner, such as your GP.

In paragraph 35 they state that medical treatment is not required, but 'the Panel may ask for evidence regarding why treatment has not been commenced' but in fact the official guidance to filling in the form for a GRC states that 'if you have not undergone surgery the report must explain why'. They haven't managed to get some of the basic information about the current gender recognition law correct, which is readily available  on the internet. Alternatively, perhaps the guidance provided to the public differs from the actual law, in which case we're being lied to and told we need evidence that isn't necessarily required.

I don't think the inquiry has managed to fully grasp how awful the concept of the gender recognition panel is and how invasive the requests for documentation and evidence is despite being told by many people.

However, for binary trans people we have a major victory as the report says that 'within the current Parliament, the Government must bring forward proposals to update the Gender Recognition Act, in line with the principles of gender self-declaration' (p 45). This is the model that was suggested to the inquiry by trans people as well as the model used in several other countries such as Ireland and Malta who have more progressive gender recognition laws. It's good to see that they have listened on this point, it's just incredibly disappointing that it won't include recognition of non-binary genders from its inception.

Age

Another aspect of gender recognition law which is important, is the age at which one is allowed to apply for gender recognition, which is discussed from paragraph 64. At present it stands at 18 years old, and anyone younger simply cannot change their gender legally. The inquiry was presented with evidence that supported lowering this age limit, to those aged 16 and 17 years old, and younger with parental consent.

There is a growing number of young trans people in the UK and the report outlines the reasons for granting gender recognition to children under 16, either with parental consent or similar to some other countries where there are court procedures. The report recommends 'provision should be made to allow 16- and 17-year-olds, with appropriate support, to apply for gender recognition, on the basis of self-declaration' (p 70)  which is a step in the right direction, but does not go far enough, as it goes on in paragraph 71 to say they are 'very cautious' about recommending gender recognition for children under 16. There is no reason given for this, and I would very much like to know why they have dismissed the overwhelming evidence they received in support of gender recognition for children under 16.

Spousal veto

The spousal veto is something which trans people are usually very familiar with, where in order to get gender recognition whilst married or in a civil partnership, the non-trans partner has to consent. This means gender recognition for people who are married or in a civil partnership can be delayed or even stopped completely by their non-trans partner.

Despite evidence demonstrating 'widespread hostility' (p 49) to the spousal veto, the report upholds the need for it as 'marriage is a legal contract' (p 62) and whilst the Ministry of Justice Minister said that they won't 'rule out considering the Scottish approach to this issue' (p 59), the Government won't be taking any further action on this issue, unless a case occurs and is brought to their attention.

This is a disheartening response, and one I'm sure many trans people will be unhappy with.

Equality Act 2010

Something I have wondered about, and discussed with friends is whether or not non-binary people are covered under the Equality Act's protected characteristic of 'gender reassignment'. The report goes into this in quite some detail, which I found very interesting to read, and actually learnt from.

Under the current law it is unclear at best as to whether non-binary people, and trans people who do not wish to medically transition are covered. Something which I think is really positive is that the report states that 'the protected characteristic in respect of trans people under the Equality Act should be amended to that of “gender identity”' (p 108) to ensure that protection is given to anyone who might experience discrimination because of their gender identity.

Exemptions (here come the TERFs)

The Equality Act 2010 allows for the provision of separate-sex and single-sex services where this is “a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. In other words, services are allowed to discriminate against trans people, and not allow them to access separate-sex and single-sex services if they have

As well as many arguments against the current exclusions, there was evidence submitted in favour of it by a group called Women Analysing Policy on Women, who turn out to be a very thinly veiled group of TERFs.

When the inquiry asked the Minister for Women and Equalities 'how far she thought these provisions were being used proportionately, appropriately and fairly' (p 122), she mentioned examples such as public changing rooms, bathing facilities, toilets and hospitals. Now she acknowledges these are huge areas, but there are very, very few cases in which these services should be allowed to exclude trans people. Public changing rooms, toilets and hospitals are places where the Equality Act should be protecting us, not banning us from using them. This is what the Minister for Women and Equalities thinks is an example of the provisions being used appropriately, and quite frankly that disgusts me.

The huge problem with allowing these kind of provisions which allow for discrimination, is that they are mostly based on how well someone 'passes', i.e. whether a trans person looks cis or not. This leads to discrimination against cis people who are perceived to be trans, as well as actively harming trans people.

Allowing for this standard of 'passing' to be applied to allow services to discriminate against people is deplorable, but the inquiry does not agree, and recommends that only people who hold a GRC should be protected from exclusion from services based on their gender identity. With gender recognition becoming easier to obtain, this won't be so bad for binary trans people, but once again passes over non-binary people, or people who don't feel they want to legally change their gender.

Sport

Although gendered sport isn't something I'm particularly interested or involved in, I think the recommendations in this section could produce something good. They 'recommend that the Government work with Sport England to produce guidance which help sporting groups realise that there are likely to be few occasions where exclusions are justified to ensure fair competition or the safety of competitors' (p 143). This would be an excellent piece of evidence to use in campaigning for more gender inclusive sport in schools and universities.

NHS Services

This section starts off very strongly with 'we have found that the NHS is letting down trans people, with too much evidence of an approach that can be said to be discriminatory and in breach of the Equality Act.' (p 144), and covers a wide variety of NHS services including gender identity services.

Before we get on to the gender identity services, I think the most notable conclusion made here is that 'a root-and-branch review' (p 184) of areas such as transphobic behaviour, and continued professional development for GPs, 'must be conducted, completed and published within the next six months'.

Gender Identity Clinics

The conclusions reached for this section of the report don't go far enough in my opinion.

An informed consent model is discussed, but they are 'unconvinced of the merits' (p 212) that this would provide. We evidently still have some way to go to reach a gender identity service that is fit for purpose and actually exists to serve and treat trans people.

I am however, pleased that they recognise that Gender Identity Services being under mental-health services is 'a relic' (p 209) and that they recommend it is transferred 'to some other relevant area of clinical specialism' or they are established 'as a distinct specialism in their own right' (p 209). This would certainly be a step in the right direction toward depathologizing us and an end to being transgender being seen as a mental disorder or illness.

There are calls for clinical protocols to be updated and standardised (p 213) and for patients to be fully involved in their treatment (p 214) which I would welcome, but with the NHS as it is, I can't help but wonder if this will actually make any difference to how we're treated in our local clinics.

Real life experience has been discussed in this section in some detail, and paragraph 215 summarises this. I have two problems with their conclusions: firstly they've missed the point that people are often forced to do 'real life experience' even before getting hormones, not just before genital surgery. Secondly, this bullshit about real life experience 'preparing the patient to cope with the profound consequences of surgery' doesn't even make sense. How is living in your prescribed gender role going to help with getting surgery on your genitals? For most of our  daily lives our genitals are not visible, they don't affect how we go to school or work, and experiencing life as one gender before we are allowed the associated genitals certainly isn't a necessity, and I don't see how helps.

Capacity

It's common knowledge that Gender Identity Services are in crisis, but once again we are simply told that the waiting times are 'unacceptable' (p 229) without any plan for how this is actually going to be addressed.

There is a lack of specialist clinicians, and I eagerly await the response from the Department of Health on 'how it will work with Health Education England and other stakeholders to ensure that this is addressed' (p 230).

More factual mistakes

I picked up on another factual mistake in the section on 'children and adolescents' in paragraph 239 which states that 'hair-loss and hair-growth are reversible' which is not true. Any hair that has started to grow as a result of hormones treatment will continue to grow and will need to be shaved or permanently removed using laser or electrolysis hair removal.

Conclusion

These sections of the report contain many important promises for change, including self-declaration of legal gender, changes to the Equality Act and improvements for Gender Identity Services. However, I'm not one to put much trust in the establishment to follow through on their promises, and I'm sure it will ultimately come down to labour on trans people to hold these government officials to account over the coming months.

Whilst I hope this report will trigger some important discussions and legislative changes for non-binary people, they won't be immediate and only time, and a lot of hard work, will show if this report will actually bear fruit.

Tags: trans

My periods suck

I got my first period when I was 12 years old. It was a week of some of the worst pain I had ever felt in my life up to that point. I had most of that time off school, because I was also throwing up from the pain. People said I was now a woman, but I didn't feel much like a woman.

Every month of the next few years I would suffer through varying levels of discomfort and pain, never knowing whether this month would be particularly bad, or whether I'd be able to control it with painkillers. I spent many uncomfortable days in the medical room at school being told I should go home, but being unable to get up in order to go home without feeling dizzy and my vision blacking out.

I went to doctor after doctor to beg them for something that would help. They had a variety of suggestions including the hilarious "you should just go for a walk, that really helps me". How could I go for a walk when I could barely stand? I tried different pills and painkillers, but none of it seemed to make any difference in the long run. I might have a month or two of relief, but it would soon hit me again.

While I was recovering from serious injuries a few years ago, I didn't have a period for several months and I felt so free. I hoped that they might be gone forever, something I hoped for after every period. I wanted them gone, I have always wanted them gone.

I was used to using pads because that's what my mum said I should use, and the one time I needed to use tampons I found it incredibly uncomfortable. So as well as the pain, I also had to deal with the unpleasantness of seeing the evidence of my periods in my pants, and on the tissue, every time I went to the loo. At the beginning of my transition I used to have to switch back to female underwear so that I could use pads during my period. It wasn't until I was 18 that I discovered applicator tampons, which were absolutely amazing for me. I was able to wear my boxers all the time, and it made changing sanitary items much less dysphoric for me.

There was a great article written on Everyday Feminism, about how periods do not have to be inherently female, because trans men also get them. I love the sentiment, and really wish I could make it work for me, but I can't. My uterus might not be female, but that doesn't mean I want it.

Not every trans person feels they were "born in the wrong body", but it is a cliche which applies to my personal experience. Some parts of my body are more wrong than others, and my uterus is most definitely wrong. I have an overwhelming sense that it should not be there, but it has been reminding me every month for the last 8 years that it is.

I've just had the IUS put in, and after several weeks of constant pain, it seems to finally be subsiding. I've still been getting some irregular bleeding, but the pain has finally become manageable. It's merely a stop gap though, until I can finally have the surgery I need to remove this part of my body with causes me so much pain, both physically and mentally.

But what about children?

Something being trans does make you consider a lot younger than most is your fertility. Having a hysterectomy is a permanent operation which would leave me unable to carry my own children and, as I also plan to have my ovaries removed at the same time, produce my own biological offspring with current technologies.

Some trans men do carry their own children, but I have always known that that wasn't for me. To begin with I didn't think I wanted children because I couldn't ever imagine being pregnant and I had no desire whatsoever to give birth to my own child. I later realised that while I couldn't ever see myself being a mother, I strongly desired to be a father, and I definitely did want to have children one day.

I'm perfectly happy with going down the adoption route and would love the opportunity to give a child a home who needs one. While preserving my fertility might be a nice dream in an ideal world, the reality is that taking steps to do so would only further delay my medical transition and would not necessarily be that useful or successful.

Tags: trans

I wrote a submission for the Transgender Equality Inquiry which is currently being undertaken by the Women and Equalities Committee, about my experiences as a trans person. This led to me getting an email asking me to come and give oral evidence to the Committee, something which I felt very honoured to have been asked to do so, and I was looking forward to doing so a great deal.

Unfortunately, on the morning I was due to go down to London I overslept and woke up 15 minutes after my booked train had left. This is something which does often happen, due to a combination of depression, other medical problems, and medication, and while I am constantly trying to prevent it, sometimes it's unavoidable. However, I hurriedly got ready and rushed to the station to try to catch a later train, which would have made me late, but I wouldn't have missed the entire thing. I arrived at the station just as this train left, and the following train would have got me to London after the session had ended. At this point I just sat on a bench at the station and cried.

I felt like a failure, and like I'd let people down. However, later that evening I did receive a nice phone call from a committee specialist who assured me that it was okay that I'd missed it, and they understood, and were grateful for the effort I had put into my written submission.

I'm still absolutely gutted I missed the opportunity to speak about my experiences and provide oral evidence to the committee. As my submission hasn't been made public by the committee yet, I thought I'd post the full text of it here.

Trans Inquiry Submission

Terminology

Transgender / trans – Someone whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Generally the shortened version, trans, is more commonly used among younger trans people in conversation.

Trans man – Note the space between ‘trans’ and ‘man’. I identify as a trans man, because I was assigned female at birth and now identify as male.

Non-binary – describes someone who does not identify with either binary gender (male or female).

Misgender(ing) – To address someone using the wrong name or pronouns, or incorrect gendered terms (e.g. sister, brother, man, woman etc.)

Sixth Form

I transitioned whilst I was attended the sixth form attached to my upper school. It went pretty well, the teachers were very quick to respect my wishes and start using my new name and pronouns, and they were on the whole very supportive.

The only issue I really faced was the use of toilets. Initially it was suggested that I use the disabled toilets, but I thought that this was inappropriate as I don’t have a disability that requires me to use them. In addition, the disabled toilets were located on a main corridor, so it would have been very conspicuous were I to use them. The deputy head then got back to me, and explained why they weren’t happy for me to use the boy’s toilets – she thought that a year 9 might see me in there and complain that there was a girl in the boy’s toilets. This hurt me, because I don’t see myself as a girl, and I wanted the school to deal appropriately with this if it did happen, not restrict me because it might happen. They suggested I use the staff toilets instead, which would require me to go down the staff corridor and again, I thought that this would be very conspicuous.

Luckily, as I didn’t do sport in sixth form, there was no issue about changing rooms, but if I had then I think this would definitely have been an issue for the school.

I sent an email to my entire year group, explaining my transition and everyone who replied was very supportive. I had a lot of support from friends and classmates.

The school was happy to add my chosen name to the school system, and when I had completed a deed poll, they changed the school records to match. I also had the support from the exams officer if I had wanted to update my exam certificates.

Higher Education

I am currently at the University of Sheffield. I had already socially transitioned when I applied to university, so I found the process fairly easy. When applying through UCAS however, I was unsure as to whether I was supposed to indicate my legal gender, or whether I could select the gender which matched my identity. I played with the system, putting my title as Mr and my gender as female, and the UCAS system complained that they didn’t match, but I think it would have let me submit it anyway. This is not clear at all in the system. In the end I applied to university with a male gender, and I have never had any issues with this. All my university documents refer to me as male.

In terms of teaching, and the content of my course, as I study maths gender generally isn’t an issue. All lecturers and staff that I’ve spoken to have respected my name and pronouns. In lectures, I even had a very good lecturer who once acknowledged the existence of non-binary people.

At university everyone has been very supportive and I have a large group of supportive friends. I have been involved with the LGBT committee and have found that very welcoming toward me.

Gender Identity Service

When I first socially transitioned two and a half years ago, I went to my GP and asked to be referred to a Gender Identity Clinic. She referred me for a local assessment, and I didn’t hear anything for several months. It was incredibly hard to find out if anything was happening, but I eventually found out that my referral was on hold because no-one in my area was currently doing assessments. About 6 months later, I had moved so I went to a different GP and again asked to be referred. This time, he referred me directly to the clinic in London (which was my closest at the time) and I received a letter from them shortly after, telling me I would get an appointment ‘soon’.

I waited for many months, checking occasionally with the clinic to see if there was any progress. About 9 months after my referral I was invited to the clinic for an information day. This wasn’t an appointment, but they did give me some useful information, and do some blood tests. It was very disappointing however, that it wasn’t an actual appointment and nothing really came of it.

About 3 months later, a year after I’d been referred, and by which point I had moved up to Sheffield, I received my first appointment at the clinic in London. I had to travel down from Sheffield for this, and my trains were delayed meaning I was slightly late to the appointment. The office staff were rather rude to me, and I was quite stressed and upset. Luckily the clinician decided to still see me, although he made it clear that he was doing me a special favour.

I was told that I could have hormones by my second appointment, once I’d been seen twice.

As I was now living in Sheffield, I asked about being transferred to the clinic in Sheffield, and I was told that it would take less than 3 months for me to be seen in Sheffield and I wouldn’t have to go to the back of the waiting list. I thought that this was a good option, as I found it incredibly stressful and tiring to have to travel down to London. Due to my physical limitations at that time, I simply didn’t think I could manage it.

I was told that my assessment should be continuous between the clinics and there should be no gap in my care now that I’d started the assessment process. I was told that I would only need to be seen once more before I would be prescribed hormones, which are what I really need to be able to feel comfortable and happy within myself.

I then went home and received a letter shortly after from the clinician I’d seen detailing my appointment. He had said he would forward this on to the clinic in Sheffield and ask them to see me, so I phoned the Sheffield clinic and they had no record of me. I wrote to the clinician in London and 3 months after my appointment with him, he finally sent a letter to the Sheffield clinic, which they received in February. The Sheffield clinic then said that I would have to wait 3 months from the date of them receiving the letter for an appointment. I was angry about this, but there wasn’t much I could do so I resigned myself to another few months of waiting.

After 3 months, in May, I phoned the Sheffield clinic again, and was told that they had only just written to London to get my notes sent up. another month went by and they still hadn’t received them, so I sent them the letters they had, and eventually they sent me my first appointment.

So, in July I had my first appointment in Sheffield, now two years and five months after initially asking to be referred. The first thing the clinician said to me was to accuse me of being late, when in fact I wasn’t, the receptionists had just failed to notify her on time that I had arrived. She also questioned why I had a chaperone with my and who he was, making me feel like he wasn’t welcome in the appointment, when I had brought him along for support.

The next thing the clinician did, was to spent a while logging in to her computer and hunting for my notes. She opened them up and complained that there were lots of pages sent from London which she hadn’t read, and asked me what was in them. I looked upset, so she attempted to terminate the appointment. We continued and I went over the same information as was contained in my notes. She explained that my appointment in London didn’t count for anything and I would have to go through the Sheffield assessment process which involves me seeing at least 4 medical professionals and being discussed by a panel before I am allowed to move forward.

This is a ridiculous example of gatekeeping services and creating unnecessary barriers to vital treatment. These appointments have left me feeling awful and almost suicidal. I am still waiting to be prescribed hormones, and it is horrific having to wait. I have to continue living my life, being misgendered, living with my voice and my skin and my face, and not being able to do anything about it.

I did procure some hormones from in the internet a few months back, but I have just recently had some blood tests which showed that there was no difference, so I am back to square one, and feeling pretty awful.

The health system has made me feel utterly helpless, like I am some object being pushed through a system which I have no control over. They keep saying they have to follow protocol, but there seems to be no human aspect to this at all. They simply follow their guidelines and rules when it suits them, and ignore them when they want to. It is in their protocol to see people who have been transferred between clinics, but they’re quite happy to ignore that, but then they of course have to follow their assessment protocol to the letter.

I have been seen by over 15 mental health professionals in the past 4 years, I should think they would have picked up any serious mental health condition that would prevent me from making a sound decision by now.

General NHS services

I have been under various mental health teams in the past 4 years, as I’ve moved location several times. They have generally been quite supportive, although the lack of knowledge was very striking. I had to educate most of my mental health professionals on trans issues. I had a few instances where I was made to feel very uncomfortable by very aggressive misgendering.

The main problems I have faced in trying to access mental health treatment have been constantly being told that the Gender Identity Clinic will fix everything, and once I am on hormones my mental health problems will go away. Now, while my mental health conditions are certainly exacerbated by my gender issues, I don’t think they are entirely caused by them. I would like ongoing support to be there if I need it, regarding issues not related to my gender identity. I have constantly had to fight to continue to be seen, with clinicians leaving and attempting to just discharge me suddenly.

I have had three hospital inpatient stays in the past two and a half years. The first was when I had only been socially transitioned for a few months, and I was still very unsure about whether I was able to ask them to call me a different name to my name on my records. I was generally treated well however, with most medical professionals respecting my name and pronouns. However there were some discontinuities in my care. In one hospital I was put on a male ward, which in hindsight I am very pleased about, although at the time I wasn’t fully aware. Then when I was moved to a second hospital, I was put on a female ward, which was quite distressing, but at the time I didn’t know I was allowed to ask to be moved so I suffered through it.

When I returned to that hospital 6 months or so later, they initially put me in a female bed, but one of the nurses was very considerate and informed me of this and at my request arranged for me to be moved into a male area.

Gender Recognition

I have been living as male for the past two and a half years, and so this puts me over the threshold for the two years required for gender recognition. I have started collecting the documents required and looking through the forms. However, it is a very tricky process and I am worried I won’t get it right and have to redo it all. I also would need to pay for a statutory declaration to be witnessed and it’s had to find out how to do this and how much it would cost. I am a student, so have very little money available to do this.

Applying for gender recognition costs £140 I believe, and applying for a fee waiver involves filling out another long form and submitting even more evidence. I can’t afford the cost, but all the evidence that is required for a fee waiver is yet another barrier to getting gender recognition. I can’t see why there isn’t an easier, more streamlined, free process for changing your legal gender.

Thankfully, gender recognition doesn’t really affect my life much at the moment, it would only be relevant for me if I wanted to get married. I have a passport in the male gender, and this serves my purpose for most things. Getting a passport in the correct gender was a much easier process than legal gender recognition, merely having to submit one letter from my GP. As much as I’d like to have legal recognition the process is very daunting and I am worried I would be rejected by the panel after going through all the effort of gathering and submitting evidence.

Transphobia

I have been lucky to experience very little transphobia, but I have experienced a few incidents which have scared me.

I have had a few issues in public toilets, or toilets in pubs and clubs. One time, I was just washing my hands in toilets at a rail station and an attendant came up to me and told me that these were the male toilets and I shouldn’t be in there. The other people in the toilet began to stare at me, and I felt very uncomfortable and I tried to tell him that I was male. He didn’t seem to accept this, and I quickly left, feeling quite anxious.

Another time, I was in the toilets of a club and drying my hands when a man came up to me and asked me if I was a man. When I said I was, he began insisting that I was a woman and looked me up and down in a rather threatening manner. I was quite scared because he looked like he was about to do something like touch me to check. He then hovered outside the toilets for the rest of the time I was there guarding the entrance.

These kind of incidents are hard to report and I wouldn’t know who to report them to. They are not emergency situations and I feel it’s unlikely anyone would be prosecuted, but they made me feel very unsafe.

I have also had occasions where I have had things shouted incoherently at me on the street like ‘freak’ and I’ve been unsure whether they were addressed at my because of my gender presentation or just my general appearance.