Following on from the discussion on Shout Out last week about NHS services for trans youth, I thought it might be interesting to look at people’s personal experiences of NHS help, particularly at the early stage where the individual identifies as being gender variant, or uncomfortable with their assigned gender, and decides they want to do something about it and need help.
Quickly throwing in a caveat here; not everyone wants or needs help or intervention from the NHS. And the NHS does not, and does not pretend to, offer everything on a plate. Far from it. You do not need permission to be who you want to be.
But some people will want help from the NHS. Advice, counselling, hormonal and/or surgical intervention. And the first port of call is your GP. Who should refer you to a local psychiatrist for assessment, if you are seeking referral to a Gender Identity Clinic. And then if that psychiatrist thinks your needs can be helped by the GIC, you will be referred on to one. In the case of Bristol, either the one at Exeter or the Claybrooke Centre at Charing Cross.
We’re interested in hearing your first-hand experience of the early stage of this process. What help were you looking for? How did your GP respond? What happened? If you’d like to contribute your experience, you can add it as a comment below, or have it as a separate blog entry (just ask!) -under your name or anonymised. Would you be willing to record your experience for Shout Out? Or have it read out on there?Please say.
To start the ball rolling, here’s my own experience:
By the summer of 2001, I had come to see transitioning as the only viable way forward for me. But there seemed to be a big gulf between where I was, and where I wanted to be. I wanted help, and hormones. So I saw my GP, and explained as best I could.
I was lucky; he was fairly knowledgeable, and very supportive. He started things moving.
Though things do move slowly in the NHS…. a few months later the PCT responded that they could provide nothing, and recommended I see Prof Richard Green at Charing Cross, as a private patient.
I saw Prof Green in December 2001. He told me to go away, start living full-time, and come back in six months, after which time he would maybe possibly consider prescribing hormones.
It was a bit of a disappointment. In fact, it was a serious blow. Though this response was very much in line with standard GIC policy at that time.
He also advised that I should be referred to the GIC as an NHS patient. But at that time, the PCT was broke- they’d recently paid out a huge wodge of compensation over the children’s hospital scandal. My GP said they couldn’t even afford the plastic hip joints for hip replacements, at that time. So I didn’t try to push it.
In March 2002 I saw Dr Russell Reed, again as a private patient. He offered a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and a prescription for hormones. As he said, “She has been tempted to obtain hormones through the Internet and under the Harry Benjamin Guidelines it is more appropriate for these to be medically monitored.”
Two months later I formally changed my name and began living full-time in female gender role.
Russell Reed was later found guilty of ‘serious professional misconduct’, by the GMC, after a case brought by some of the senior clinicians at Charing Cross. Which I thought a shame.
My GP has continued to be supportive.
I re-entered the NHS care pathway in 2005.
What I know now, that I wish I knew then: how the system works; what is the care pathway; how much your transition is really very much up to you; the NHS can help, but support will most likely come from people in a similar position to you. And family if you’re lucky.