NHS Direct Spring 2010 Newsletter: Member profile

A little while ago I was asked to write a short piece for the NHS Direct Newsletter – very short – and it’s just been published in the Spring 2010 edition.

Being an NHS-focused piece I had to keep very much to the medical aspects but I hope this will be a worthwhile compromise if it helps to raise awareness of the existence of transsexual people, albeit at a comparatively simplistic level.

The article itself is online here but, for my own archival purposes, here it is:

Member profile: Helen

I was five years old when I first realised that the body I’d been born into wasn’t the body my brain was expecting. I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was feeling is now known as gender dysphoria (GD), meaning that I believed my gender identity to be different from my anatomical sex.

However, by the time I finally made an appointment with a GD specialist many years later, I was diagnosed as being transsexual – someone who has a life-long and extreme form of gender dysphoria.

After diagnosis I was able to begin treatment: I met a specialist psychiatrist for a full assessment, began hormone therapy, speech therapy and hair removal procedures.

Real Life Experience

But transitioning isn’t only about directly medical treatments: there are social, cultural and legal changes involved too. I started to live full-time in a more appropriate gender role (this is often referred to as the “Real Life Experience”); I let my family, friends and employers know; and I changed as much of my legal documentation as possible.

In 2007 I underwent sex reassignment surgery (SRS) and breast augmentation, both of which procedures (among others) are accepted by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) as being medically necessary as part of a treatment for gender dysphoria in transsexual people, and the results of which I am very happy with. Last year I met the criteria for applying for a full Gender Recognition Certificate and, at last, can begin to feel truly comfortable in my gender identity.

I’m glad to have become a member of NHS Direct and hope that I can contribute to raising awareness of transsexual people and any related issues within the NHS, and also to help in making sure NHS Direct’s online advice is appropriate and doesn’t limit people’s usage of the health and symptom checkers.

The irony is, of course, that I’ve been unable to register with either of my two local NHS GP practices because of transphobic receptionists and practice nurses. Perhaps I should print it out and go back and try again. “Don’t you know who I am?!” Yeah right, like that’ll make a difference…

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