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PFC Suicide Statistics

Please click here to download a document on suicide statistics for trans people, part of a wider report to be published in February 2007. To understand the context in which this report was made, please see this e-mail from Christine Burns of Press For Change.

Following my earlier response concerning suicide statistics, I’ve now had time to upload a brief paper about the sample results I requested from Stephen Whittle’s research team.

These suicide statistics are shocking. I can tell you that, even with almost 15 years working in this field, they stunned me. I want to stress, however, that if you quote them it is REALLY important to understand the context for :

1. These are NOT, REPEAT NOT, figures about people regretting treatment for their gender issues. These figures reflect members of a highly stigmatised population whose suicidal feelings are triggered by rejection by families and friends, harassment and discrimination at work, threats of violence in their communities and then (to cap it all) wicked neglect by the health and care system. Suggestions that the cure is to blame could not be further from the mark.

2. For a narrative context to that claim see :

* Reform of Service Provision of Gender Identity Disorders in the NHS and
* In Support of Dr. Russell Reid
* PFC Members Profiles

3. For an employment discrimination context see “Employment Discrimination and Transsexual People” (Whittle, 2000) at In spite of protective legislation Transsexual people were found to suffer disproportionate discrimination in terms of recruitment, retention and promotion. Over half of those surveyed had changed employers because they were forced to leave by their previous employer, or felt compelled to leave by working conditions post-transition. many reported they were doing lower paid work. 38% had experienced harassment at the time of transition. 25% had experienced it at work for a period after transition. 23% reported verbal abuse. 6% reported physical abuse. 49% reported that they frequently felt discriminated against in recruitment.

4. At the time of publishing these statistics I and my colleagues are advising an increasing stream of trans people whose PCTs have either set out to make it next to impossible to get any referral for treatment of any kind (spending £’000’s on legal advice to stay just the right side of the law with their choice of words), or whose policies create unacceptably long waiting times. One patient whom I regularly advise has already waited two years since first seeing her GP for help, and (after resorting to a solicitor) has finally been told that her turn will come for referral to a single clinic in two and a half years from now. If she is lucky (and still alive by then) she will be seen in 2008 rather than 2009. The clinic in question, which is funded for less then 25 patients at a time, indicates that patients like her are likely to then be with them for at least another three years. Indeed only one of their patients has been referred on for surgery in the last three.

5. For some patients the rules can appear almost wantonly abusive. One patient, on Incapacity Benefit because of a separate disability, has been told by psychiatrists in charge of her clinic that she cannot be referred on for reassignment surgery because she doesn’t have a job. Imagine that person’s reaction when her understandable annoyance was diagnosed as a psychiatric problem, for which she has been offered counselling !

6. Far from being an exception case, this patient’s experience is increasingly the norm. Many will suffer clinical depression (fuelling their suicide risk) simply as a result of the blatant neglect they encounter.

The statistics for despair would probably be even higher were it not for the fact that some have the money to arrange for their own care — completely outside of the system, and without the protective umbrella of health monitoring. They buy hormones on the internet. It’s easy – just Google for “transsexual hormones” or visit Inhouse Pharmacy (a site that’s so well used it has a Google ” page rank of 4/10). An increasing number go abroad for private surgery — again purchased through the Internet because the NHS offers literally no choice and generally only neglect and abuse.

Earlier this month the Department of Health published new policy extending service choice to mental health patients in the UK. Trans people aren’t mentally ill — they’re just treated as though they, are under the same logic that once pathologised non-hetero sexual orientation. The ability for trans people to have choice in services is a key reform tool — enabling people to avoid sub-standard and abusive services, and avoid artificially created bottlenecks in provision. It’s not the solution, but it’s the means. Yet this week a senior figure in the Department expressed the opinion that choice of this kind was in the realm of “Porcine Aviation” — a smug intellectual way of saying “Pigs may Fly”.

So there you have it. Evidence of dreadful levels of despair — much of it created by a deeply transphobic NHS. And the response from people who should know better? Utterly beneath contempt.