Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

A break from fic

There will, in all probability, be more fanfic later this evening, because I am so close to finishing the Nip/Tuck book that I can feel it in my aching bones. But someone - I don't know who - asked me for comments on this and the Bob Withers letter here and I suppose I should stick in my comments on the Russell Reid case, and the few people now complaining that he put them forward for gender reassignment surgery they have subsequently come to regret.

I have never entirely understood why the Guardian is so very keen on running hostile pieces about trans issues, or indeed why feminists like Julie Bindel and Germaine Greer get so very exercised about the subject. Given Bindel's form on the subject, I find her 'compassion' towards 'Claudia' distinctly suspicious and am also intrigued by her failure to check a single one of the facts in Claudia's account of her past - if Claudia had and then lost the successful showbiz/opera - and which of the two, pray? - career that is alleged here, surely it should have left some sort of trace in the world.

Even if we look at Claudia's account, and take everything she says as gospel, one or two issues emerge. One point is that she pressured Russell Reid for an early surgical date because of the imminent retirement of a particular surgeon - presumably this would be Phillips of Charing Cross. It seems to me that, if her account is true, Reid was guilty of misconduct but only to the extent that she pressured him to be. Phillips was a good surgeon, by all accounts, who operated on several of my friends, though he mostly associated with the regrettable John Randall period at Charing Cross, of which more below. I can believe that, when he was about to retire, people tried to get in before the deadline; the charge that Russell Reid went along with this is a very specific one which I would like to see argued. At the same time, whatever his faults in regard of this, those people who pushed for early surgical dates on this basis have to take some responsibility.

In the event, she had a poor surgical outcome and did not enjoy sex afterwards- this is not unknown and indeed my own reassignment surgery involved me in many subsequent surgeries and health problems. I cannot believe that an intelligent person could give consent to surgery without considering the possibility that things would not be entirely wonderful in the aftermath.

One of the reasons I find Bob Withers' letter so unpleasant is not just the unhelpful analogy with people thinking they are kangaroos, but his implication that if surgery goes wrong, it can never be put right. I persevered with corrective surgeries, and went on making a fuss about medical mistakes, and ended up with a reasonably positive outcome as far as my ability to enjoy sex went. I think that the issue here is in part the fact that, without a certain degree of self-protective stroppiness, the after-care for trans people provided either on the NHS or privately is inadequate in the extreme. The system is at fault, rather than individual practitioners within it - at fault not for providing gender reassignment, but for not thinking through the implications of such provision.

Withers exemplifies in his snide dismissal of other people's perceptions every negative perception I have ever had about Jungians. I know that Jungian therapy does not have to be this self-satisfied and offensive; I also know that sometimes it is.

As for the other things of which Claudia complains - her lover leaving her and her rape and subsequent mistreatment by the police - it is hard to see how the psychiatrist who recommended her for surgery can be held responsible for every bad thing that happened to her since. She should be making a complaint against the police, not her psychiatrist, but, of course, the psychiatrist is already on trial.

My feelings about Russell Reid are not that he should necessarily leave the GMC without a stain on his character - there are conceivably questions that need to be asked - but that proceedings against him should not have been taken without criticism also being made of the doctor to whom his career has been a reaction. John Randall was the psychiatric gatekeeper at Charing Cross for decades and was a bully who enjoyed making his patients worship him. He also had a bizarre and outdated set of ideas about womanliness to which he tried to make his patients conform; many of his successors have followed in his footsteps - one of the reasons why Russell Reid is facing discipline is simply that he tried to pay some attention to people's actual perceived needs and to who they actually were. Reid may have gone too far in the direction of liberal interpretation of the so-called Harry Benjamin standards - themselves hardly written in stone.

The real problem with the Guardian's string of stories and articles is that they encourage the idea in left-liberal circles that somehow it is OK to be prejudiced against trans people, and OK to terminate free medical help for us. I can conceive of no other minority agaisnt whom a left-centre newspaper would campaign in quite this way.
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