I rang up my friend Kate after seeing a report on Russia TV about a university in the United Kingdom that reportedly approved then later rejected a proposal to do research about people who regretted the decision to change their gender surgically.
My friend Kate is gay. I told her that Bath Spa University reportedly said such research is “politically incorrect”. The university reportedly told James Caspian, a psychotherapist, that the university found it best “not to offend people”.
The matter was reportedly hauled to court but later thrown out. The court furthermore ordered costs amounting to $7 000 against him.
But Caspian has vowed to challenge the university’s decision, calling it “censorship”, according to Natural News website. He is said to be raising funds to take the matter back to court. He contends “free speech and an independent academia capable of critical thought is a cornerstone of our democracy”.
He was intrigued by the comments of urologist Miroslav Djordjevic, who specialises in gender reassignment surgery and who is said to have reported an increase in reversal surgery. Djordjevic apparently performed seven reversals in one year at his clinic in Serbia, citing a trend of regret.
Kate’s response was nonchalant. She was not surprised that research revealed a great number of people had decided to reverse their gender transition surgery. She knew of someone who regretted a surgical transition but that it did not reflect negatively on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex (LGBTI) community.
LGBTI people were human beings and were well within their rights to change their minds, like any other human being in any society. People in the LGBTI community would not be surprised to hear that there are those who have regrets.
She said, even if there were those who would find such a study offensive, that would still be okay — there is no society that has agreed on everything.
But she claimed that the only politically incorrect issue was the fact that it is almost impossible to transition in South Africa, and that it is so expensive. She said it would be better to research that.
Her sentiments are shared by United States transgender activist Riki Wilchins, who reportedly said that Caspian’s area of study would also not be the first place she would put her money if she wanted to study the problems afflicting transgender people.
Besides this, Wilchins said “the strong political undercurrent in previous studies, which had been used to restrict transgender people’s access to surgery”, should not be discounted.
The Weekend Argus reported that the Transgender Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital provides excellent care but individuals in the Western Cape have to wait up to 25 years for gender surgery.
The provincial health department reportedly allocates only four days of the year for gender surgeries at Groote Schuur because the “clinic’s resources are overwhelmed by demand”.
The cost of private surgery and other medical expenses ranges from R450 000 to R600 000.
Kate’s greatest concern is that the rights of the LGBTI community should not in any way be hampered, including their right to freedom, acceptance and safety.
I explained that I had read reports that Caspian understood the concerns of the transgender community and refuted the opinion that his proposed research would not be helpful in any way.
Caspian works with transgender and transsexual people and reportedly said “older studies on the subject were out of date and new research was important”.
That said, I share Kate’s and Wilchins’s sentiments. The struggles of the LGBTI community far outweigh the need to highlight that some transgender people may eventually experience regret.
I cannot imagine what good a study that aims to show that people who want to transition might later not want it. It can only further impinge on the rights of those who have taken the tough journey of living their best lives despite the judgment and hate of a homophobic populace.
As Wilchins said, there is no need to highlight that transgender people really don’t need this or want this, or they are just deluded or suffering from some other kind of psychopathology.
Palesa Lebitse is a legal researcher, writer and feminist