On The Irish Times recently was an article State paid for 14 sex-change operations over five years , in which Fine Gael deputy for Galway West Brian Walsh made some comments about sex change operations for transgendered people, including some statements implying the SRS is merely cosmetic. This sounds like a scientific claim, so I asked him about it.
I emailed him:
Hello Deputy Walsh,
I'm writing about your recent statements about sex change operations in today's Irish Times ( http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2011/0914/1224304082329.html ).
You state that "There is a body of opinion within the medical profession that considers the surgery to be entirely inappropriate for the treatment of gender identity disorder" and that "many clinicians consider to be essentially cosmetic procedures"
I don't know much about the medical stuff like that, could you tell me what medical professionals/professional bodies view this as a "cosmetic procedure"? What source are you using for this?
He replied with:
Thank you for your recent email. World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) itself acknowledges that there are two bodies of opinions as to the appropriateness of gender reassignment surgery as a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID).
You will appreciate, given the low incidence of demand for such procedures in Ireland, that there is little by way of authoritative academic studies on the subject here. However, one of the best-known advocates of the view to which you have alluded is Dr Paul McHugh of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Maryland, USA, who has published several texts and articles on the subject. Others include J Paul Fedoroff, assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, whose article on the subject can be viewed here: http://www.autogynephilia.org/psychiatry_rounds.pdf
There is cogent research and opinions on both sides of the debate as to the appropriateness of gender reassignment surgery for the treatment of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and I hope that this serves to identify some of the sources to which I alluded in my comments on the matter that were published yesterday.
I would also like to apologise for any distress and anger that my comments, published yesterday, on the subject may have caused. I fully appreciate the strife and sensitivities associated with Gender Identity and it was not my intention to cause offence. I would also like to point out that contrary to what was published at no point have I called for funding for GID treatment to be ended.
The comments were made in the context of another serious case with which I am familiar in which a 22-year-old girl has been denied funding under the E112 scheme for the treatment of an illness that currently threatens her life.
I hope that you will appreciate that there is also very strong feeling at this time on the part of that girl’s parents regarding the administration of the E112 scheme, which I feel that I was reflecting in my role as a public representative.
I hope that you will also appreciate that I regularly encounter cases in which patients and their families are denied funding for treatment that they consider critical.
I do not dismiss the merits of gender reassignment surgery as a treatment for Gender Identity Disorder nor the State’s prerogative to fund it. However, there is a need for consistency in the area, which is illustrated by the fact that the State finances the procedures abroad but refuses to recognise a person’s new gender when they come back.
To this end, notwithstanding my concerns about the conflicting opinions on the matter within the medical profession, I have recently written to the Minister for Health to clarify the Government’s position in this regard and have asked him to explore the possibility of applying pressure to private healthcare insurers to cover such treatment as medically necessary procedures recognised by legislation so as to maximise accessibility for those who require it most.
I hope that this clarifies the matter to your satisfaction.
Brian Walsh TD
I replied asking:
Hi Deputy Walsh,
Thanks for your prompt and detailed reply. I shall investigate those sources you provide. I know that sometimes the media are looking for a story which can make one's words appear out of context.
You mention the inconsistency of the state paying for gender reassignment surgery and then not recognising the new gender. Does that mean you support trans people changing their gender legally?
And he replied with:
That does indeed mean that I fully support the legal recognition of trans people's new genders - as is the position of other states throughout the rest of Europe.