Academic sympathy for transsexuals

August 30, 1996

Deirdre McCloskey's excellent piece on gender transitions in academia (THES, August 23) implies that transsexuals face a particularly tough time in Britain.

While she is correct that the position of transgendered persons in English law is at best ambiguous, and at worst verges on the oppressive, the everyday experience of many individuals, but particularly academics, crossing the normally immutable gender divide in Britain is very positive. Within the past five years the media position on transsexuality has become largely supportive; there are few difficulties in securing amended documentation (such as passports and driving licences) in the elected gender role; and public awareness of the plight of transsexuals has been considerably heightened.

While Professor McCloskey certainly has a point that academia represents possibly the ideal setting for a workplace transition, there is no need for those contemplating such a dramatic shift in persona to flee to Holland or America.

I am aware of almost a dozen individuals who have made such transitions in United Kingdom academia; most benefited from tremendous institutional support, and both they and their universities report the experience of transition as being nowhere near as traumatic as they may have feared.

NICKY SINEAD GARDNER Maddybenny, Co. Derry

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