In 1996, Nigella Lawson wrote an article for The Times that is still relevant today:
Perhaps one of the most telling symptoms of the transsexual is that there is no other interpretation allowed of their malaise than the one they choose to put on it. As tonight’s moving television programme, The Wrong Body (part of Channel 4’s Decision series) shows, even while transsexuals complain about the intolerance that the rest of us have for them and their condition, it is they who are so intolerant.
In the first instance, they cannot tolerate their sex, in fact are so unable to tolerate it that the only way they have of dealing with it is first to deny it and then, if possible, to do away with it.
But this intolerance extends to a refusal to consider any other explanation for their distress, indeed to a tendency to feel annihilated by any such unauthorised approach. There is obviously an identity problem here, but I cannot help feeling that it is not one that can always so easily be solved with a sex-change operation or, as it is now called, gender reassignment.
The issue of this operation, and whether it should be available on the National Health Service, is becoming ever hotter. More and more health authorities are refusing treatment, and indeed only last week a number of transsexuals who have been unable to receive the treatment they want on the NHS began legal action to try to enforce their rights to it.
At the same time, a rather more straightforward legal battle is being fought to allow transsexuals to alter their birth certificates after surgery, so that their given sex accords with the sex they have been changed into. I’ll agree that it does seem crassly illogical to allow people to have sex-change operations perfectly legally, but then use the law to prevent their living as the sex they have, to all intents and purposes, become. What I’m not saying is that such operations should be outlawed. Those who want undiseased breasts and wombs and penises removed are right, of course, to say that it is their body, their choice. The NHS may also be right, at times, to respond that it is their budget, their choice. But it must be wrong for the issue to be decided on grounds of funds and finance. The question is, what is the nature of the problem and what therefore is the appropriate treatment?
Treatment there should definitely be these people are suffering horrendously but I cannot see that this should inevitably be in the form of surgery. All transsexuals are utterly convinced that they are, as they say, trapped in the wrong body. But does this make them right? I know psychiatric care is already provided, but there must be some kind of approach that might help people really to work out what is at the root of this incredible distress.
I was stunned in the programme by two unconnected comments by a couple of the girls who wish to be boys. The one, in her his late teens, spoke of her his horror at developing breasts at puberty: “I wanted to be like my father.” The other, a child of 13, brought up by mother and stepfather, said that she he wanted to be called Rick “short for Richard which is my Dad’s name”. You don’t need to be Freud to see there is something going on there.