‘It was great that Wendy Peters was inducted as a Rotarian on Tuesday 27th November by our District Governor Allan Smith at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth.
Welcome Wendy as a Rotarian’
Imagine waking up each day feeling not right, feeling socially and professionally isolated with overwhelming obsessional thoughts and feelings of guilt, affecting your ability to function normally or practice effectively.
I have the condition known as gender dysphoria, I have undergone gender reassignment surgery and also feminizing facial surgery. I am now a “trans” woman, other terms include gender incongruance, transexualism and transgender.
Gender Dysphoria affects 21 in 100,000 with up to 1500 new cases presenting each year for treatment and the rate of presentations rapidly increasing year on year. This rate compares with a similar number of cases of bacterial meningitis presenting each year in the U.K. Males make up 80%, but like many conditions the number of females presenting is increasing. The suicide rate is 25 times the normal with between 30 and 40%. Treatment is often 100% successful and often life saving, but can be difficult to access.
Two out of three general practitioners have no experience of dealing with these patients, they are often treated with little sympathy by the general public, the media and society in general. They are often ridiculed and humiliated and may experience verbal and even physical abuse.
Recent studies show brain structure to be different in “trans” women and “trans“ men, this indicates that there is probably a genetic component to gender dysphoria.
To be transgendered is to be lumped together with lesbian, gay and bi-sexual organisations, but this condition has nothing to do with sexual preference. It is a hard and long journey for most trans people with many difficulties to overcome even after treatment.
There is often controversy over gender identity during major sporting events and this year; with the success of the Paralympics it shows that we can enjoy and accept the talents of sportsmen and women with physical disabilities and gender dysphoria is portrayed in popular films and television series. I hope that with greater understanding will also come acceptance.
I have been asked to help promote an awareness campaign for GPs in the north West.
I worked as a GP for 29 years, for 21 years as a male. I had a female partner who is now a trans man, neither of us were aware.
I initially self referred to a psychiatrist outside my area, I thought my situation was impossible and had feelings of guilt and suffered from highs and lows, when I would have frequent suicidal thoughts. I started to have facial hair removal treatment and a series of facial cosmetic procedures, I had counselling and was referred to a gender identity clinic. I had speech therapy and eventually had GRS (gender reassignment surgery), with breast augmentation in Thailand after completing one year of real life experience as a female. I was able to continue to practice, but only after the GMC insisted I be examined by two psychiatrists to confirm I was fit to practice!
My PCT instructed me to write and inform all 12,000 of the practice patients, I was stalked by the local press who eventually manufactured and published a story and syndicated it to 6 national newspapers and two Sunday newspapers, despite receiving no comments from myself.
The reaction from family, friends, colleagues and patients was both negative and in cases very positive.
I lost some very close friends, I received one unpleasant letter from a patient, I received many letters of support from patients and the practice staff were very supportive.
I retired from general practice years ago. I spent 5 years working in India and Nepal with a travel company, also helping out in a school for Tibetan refugees, as well as holding surgeries in monasteries.
I have ridden a motorcycle in every continent, apart from Antarctica, and have ridden from Portsmouth to Capetown.
I now work as a volunteer for Diversity Role Models and am also a Human Library book.
I first met Rotarian Tim Mason at a meeting led by an inspirational speaker Joanne Lockwood. This was the start of my Rotary journey. I hope my story will inspire and enthuse others to look at Rotary Social Innovation with new eyes and even join us in our new ventures.
Dr. Wendy Peters
Footnote: Having joined Rotary Social Innovation as an Associate member (a chance to experience Rotary before joining), Wendy then experienced international Rotary during one of her expeditions through India on her motorbike. She met up with some Rotarians in a small community in North India, near to a school she was visiting and, following discussions about the sanitation in the community which is full of parasites, wants to support their determination to gain a village centre well providing clear, filtered water. With this experience, Wendy has decided that she wanted to join Rotary and it was a pleasure to be part of her welcome into Rotary by DG Allan Smith.
Janice Mason, President Rotary Social Innovation