All may, some should, none must

I can remember reading (and probably still have the newspaper cutting from the late 1990s) about the transition of property tycoon Sam Hashimi into glamorous designer, Samantha Kane. Money was no object and no expense spared to create a ‘perfect female’ image with a jet-set lifestyle and boardroom presence that resembled, in retrospect, the character Alexis (formerly Alex) in the sitcom Ugly Betty.

But seven years on Samantha had already begun the process that would reverse her transition and return her to a male persona as Charles. It was Charles Kane who delivered his 4thought tonight, arguing that many Trans people who have transitioned probably share his experience and are unhappy with their ‘new’ life, but too afraid to say so.

It is sad that it took such a tortuous route for Charles to finally find himself, but his experience of transition is atypical. Most research, though more is needed, shows that gender reassignment is an effective treatment: ‘A recent survey (2008) showed that 98% of those who had undergone gender confirmation surgery were satisfied with the outcome.’

It is not, though, something to be rushed into, but, for whatever reason, it seems that the usual protocols that govern gender reassignment – the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care – were not followed in his case, and in particular that he had lived as a female only a matter of months before he underwent surgery.

Keith Tiller too, on Wednesday evening, said that his doctor had emphasised that he needed surgery, but all this sounds very surprising to me. Most clinicians in this field are usually firm gatekeepers who, far from pushing their clients towards the operating table, are keen to discern with the person that this really is the right step for them. Moreover, many Trans people transition without genital surgery.

And among those who do decide to take this step, especially NHS clients in earlier years, there have been interminable waits. Things are much better now, and it would be dreadful if the clock were to be turned back and operations rationed, whether because of financial cuts, or because a handful of people made a mistake and regretted their transition.

Whether a Trans person ought to transition will involve a whole host of factors, but the Anglican advice about private confession to a priest seems to hold good in this context too – ‘all may, some should, none must.’

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