Being a transsexual isn’t the most important thing in my life. It’s not really important at all to be honest. I think I decided I should have been a boy when I was about 7 or 8. I read the Famous Five books and realized that I wanted to be George. I read about a genetic syndrome where girls sometimes grow penises at puberty, and hoped that would happen to me. When my Mum told me that you could have an operation to change sex I told her I was going to have one. I told everyone at primary school that I was going to be a boy, and it was just accepted as part of me.
At secondary school things were a lot more complicated, people thought it was funny that I tried to be a boy, so I decided to try and be a girl because I would be a freak if I was a transsexual. I did try. I really did. I tried to do all the stupid make up and silly clothes, I tried to say I found boys attractive, I tried to pretend I liked Take That.
When I was 16 I realized that I couldn’t ever have a relationship with a boy because girls were more attractive than boys, and the thought of touching a penis made me vomit. So I was a lesbian for a while. That was ok. But didn’t seem right. When I was 17 I went to a GP asked for a sex change. He referred me to a psychiatrist. He was nice and said he would refer me to a Specialist but as I was about to go to University and the waiting list for the psychiatrist was 18 months there wasn’t much point.
So I arrived at medical school pretty convinced that I was going to change sex at some stage. The whole atmosphere of Medical School in the late 1990s was very heteronormative. There were only a few gay students, and I generally didn’t know if I could still have a medical career and change sex. I went to the formals at Hall of Residence in a Tux, but I my friends were very concerned about me going to the MedBall in a Tux, they said it would ruin my career. So tried not to. I tried really hard not to want to change sex. I got a girlfriend. I asked the counselor at the university to talk me out of it. But she wouldn’t, she said she wasn’t qualified. I asked my GP and he found someone to refer me to. But she said that the NHS wouldn’t fund the surgery – but just wanted to be talked out of it.
My GP referred me to a Gynecologist who ran a psycho-sexual clinic, she was very nice, and spent months trying to talk me out of it. Then eventually she said that I was the most definite case she’d ever seen, but she’d only seen 4 cases. But at 19 I was also the youngest.
I saw a copy of Marie Clare with an article about a transsexual in it, and they had been seen by a psychiatrist in London called Russel Reid. I found details of his private clinic, and worked out that I could just afford a trip to London and a private opinion.
He was very helpful, and after half an hour said I was definitely transsexual, and I really should find the funding to pay for surgery some how. I was a little surprised that he made the diagnosis so quickly, but thought that this was because I’d already seen a doctor for counselling. Later I found out he had been struck off after a number of hasty diagnoses, which hadn’t worked out that well.
Funding was difficult, my parents were on benefits, and certainly wouldn’t have given me the money even if they had it. So I asked the bank if I could have a loan. At that stage Nat West offered very large overdrafts to medical students, and you didn’t have to start paying them back until you qualified. I went along to the bank and explained my situation. There was a problem: the loan was to cover course related costs, not changing sex! But the bank manger was very sympathetic, she thought about it, and then she said ‘you know we don’t ask for receipts and I’m sure you do have course related costs.’
The next day I went back to sign some paperwork: she told me that she’d been looking at her son the night before, and wondering how she’d feel if he decided to change sex. She’d decided she’d love him what ever happened.
Actually it was quite an advantage having parents on benefits, because they didn’t have any money to give me they didn’t have any power over me. I rang up one day and told them I was going to change sex what ever they said, and that was that. They were actually rather surprised, and seemed to have forgotten I spent 4 years at primary school telling everyone who would listen that I was going to grow up to be a boy.
The Medical School were quite clear that they didn’t want a partially transitioned transsexual around patients. They said I could come back if I could present an acceptable appearance to patients and if a psychiatrist said I was sane. In the pub at the end of second year I announced that I would be taking a year out and coming back as a man, and people were great with it.
So I took a year out and worked in a call centre – a great job when your voice is breaking and took out a loan to pay for surgery. In that year I had a mastectomy and took some hormones. I changed my name on my 20th birthday and had surgery a few days later. After a year they said I was sane enough, and male enough to come back, and I did and it was fine. I had a hysterectomy right after the end of fifth year. And then I just got on with life.
When I went back in to my new year group I felt although everyone had been talking about me. I was still in that stage where you could work out if I was male or female. I could get away with using either toilet without being challenged. Actually I was fine, most people were fine with it. Some people didn’t know how to treat me, but by far the greater majority of people were completely cool with it. Even some people from conservative religious backgrounds. The patients mostly didn’t notice or didn’t care, the consultants certainly didn’t challenge me, or even let on that their was anything amiss. I remember just 2 weeks after I started hormones, when i really didn’t look like a guy much at all, I was a medics party and one of the girls asked me to walk her to a cashpoint. I really didn’t think I’d have been much use if we were mugged, as I was barely stronger than she was, but it was nice to be accepted as male.
I did my foundation jobs locally, in one of the hospitals I was a student in. I was aware that people would know, and I was aware that people were aware of it. It was acknowledged to be gossip. It never really got in the way of anything though! I did an Obs and Gynae job, and people suggested that I should specialize in it, but my then-girlfriend-now-wife talked me out of it. She was worried that it would get in the local paper and be a big scandal. I went onto do medical training instead.
I moved to do my medical training to another deanery, for some reason the gossip didn’t follow me, and no one there knew.I moved again as a registrar, this time even further away from university, and now no one knows apart from my GP and my wife, and one consultant who is very openly gay. No one has ever asked why I took a year out of university. I’m aware that people will find out soon, when I meet people from the hospital I trained in at conferences they always remember me, and it’s quite clear why. So it only takes one drink at one conference for everyone to find out.
I’m a Med Reg now, within a few years of being a consultant, and I have to admit I’m glad I’m stealth, and no one knows, because I do worry I wouldn’t be able to get a consultant job if people did know. Though I spoke to the consultant-who-is-gay and they said they didn’t think it would be a problem at all if it came out.