I can't say the last few days have been good for the cause of transgender medicine here in the UK. You see, the papers have picked up a story that's been rumbling along quietly for a while now, that of the General Medical Council investigating Dr. Richard Curtis, prominent trans man as well as the go-to doctor for private treatment of our condition. As I understand it there's the usual crowd of regretters claiming that they never wanted to transition really, and blaming their doctor.
The news coverage has been predictably depressing. Short on news but long on sensationalism and outright transphobia, it's as though the Leveson Inquiry never happened. The trans community, seeing the whole debacle as something of a witch hunt against one of their own and reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the departure of Dr. Russell Reid a decade ago, have reacted with anger. There's a hashtag on Twitter, #TransDocFail, which is full of the staggering ineptitudes and failures of duty of care felt daily by transgender people in the medical system here in the UK. It's depressing stuff, but it needs to be said as a response to the rather obvious misinformation on the subject.
The trouble is, I'm not entirely comfortable with the battle lines here. I think there are serious shortcomings with the way transgender people receive medical help here in the UK and I've been happy to write about them here ad infinitum over the last few years, but my personal experience of the GIC system has been mostly pretty good. I've been unimpressed a couple of times by psychiatrists modifying their responses to me because of my background and occupation, but the fact is my course through the system has been exactly as advertised. And on the other side, I'm not entirely at ease with the haste with which some people I know have passed through the private system. The screwed-up ones in my experience tend overwhelmingly to have transitioned very quickly through the private route, and I can't help thinking less than eighteen months from hairy panty wearer to post-op is just a little irresponsible on the part of an attending doctor.
So rather than black-and-white I see grey on both sides. Overwhelmingly though I see the most fault in the relative scarcity of professionals involved in our field and their concentration in a fairly small number of places. I can't help thinking that the best way to fix the #TransDocFail would be not to go after individual doctors or clinics but to broaden the availability of treatment over many more centres.
Transgender medicine is not rocket science, surely it can't be that difficult to make it better!