The NHS Leadership Academy works closely with patients, service users, carers and NHS staff so that participants on the professional leadership development programmes can hear the real experiences of treatment or care in the NHS. Patient representative, Dawn Pomfret, shares her personal journey around her transition, and the importance of sharing this with NHS leaders.
“Pervert.” The word rings in my mind, even now 40 years later. That was the diagnosis that my old GP gave me on the day I went to ask him, after summoning up all the courage I could, to me one simple question. I sat there a 14 year old boy who was scared and frightened but in need of finding out who he was. I asked that simple question “Why do I know I am a girl?” I felt that with a deep unshakeable knowledge that comes from hours of prayer, begging god to help me and take pity. I was of course not as lucid and succinct as that, I babbled and stumbled with tears, pouring my soul out. “I AM A GIRL.“ “PLEASE HELP ME.” Well, I was offered help of sorts, but after the words he uttered, I am pretty sure I missed most of the meaning or what he said. Electroconvulsive Therapy, Aversion therapy and then – to make all things right – chemical therapy, to control my various urges. That day he, my GP, set in motion a series of events that ripped my young life apart. My father (how I hate that word when I talk about him) was called, and let us say I was taught a lesson in male behaviour I would never forget.
43 years later and I am 56 and sat in another GP’s surgery waiting room. Just as scared, about to utter those words again. Wondering what would be offered to me. My name was called and I walked in a very different person to that young boy. I was 140 kilos and my right leg had been amputated due to a work-related accident. I was obese and I sat and I cried. The GP looked at me and pushed a box of tissues towards me and span her chair so she could look into my face as I crumpled. I took a deep breath and took that precipice moment I stepped off the edge and said: “Doctor, I feel and know I am a woman and I can’t hold on any more. She looked at me and then as I expected the same or similar diagnosis, she simply said: “It sounds like you are trans. I will get you an appointment with a psychiatrist to make sure that I am right.” So two weeks later I was seeing a psychiatrist, who after a lengthy session told me simply: “Yes you are a transsexual and I might add a classic case. We will now refer you to a Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). They will advise you on how you go forward.” If only my first day at the doctors had gone like this, what a different and less painful life I might have had. Luck played it part and I got to see The GIC very quickly. I did however have to self-fund my own hormones. I told my GP what I was doing and she started to do blood tests to make sure I was within the correct parameters. I started on my journey and I changed. I now weigh 68 kilos and I look a little different. I have ongoing problems – my surgery has had one of the possible complications and that’s a mess at times – but am I happy? Let me just say “HELL YES.”
I think it’s important to put a face to the word transgender. To try to show it’s not a lifestyle choice. Transexuals have no choice on what we are. You cannot ignore this condition. It will take your life. It will become harder and harder to stay on this planet unless you get adequate and prompt treatment.
I’m very grateful for the Academy allowing me to chat with participants early in their career so they can meet the human being, and not just a name or a story. The most important thing is to remember you are dealing with a human being, not a statistic.
I want to show future movers and shakers of the NHS that trans people are not to be treated as an afterthought – we need to get it right and do it well.
Above all, trans people are human beings just as prone to outbursts as the rest of the population. This is our life. Or should I say, this is the start of our life that you could be dealing with. Just one negative comment can do a lot of damage, so please be careful.