Not everyone will understand that every trans adult started life as a trans child. They might not have known it at the time, the realization that they are trans may come later in life, but your gender identity is innate within you. Whatever age the realization hits someone that they are living their life in their birth assigned gender rather than their authentic gender, they must be supported in that from then on. I remember asking a young trans boy how he knew that he was a boy and not a girl, and he asked me the same question. ‘Dr Webberley, how do you know that you are a girl?’
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Helen Webberley.
Dr Webberley is a UK trained doctor with a passion for equality in healthcare. In 2015, in response to a growing need for compassionate, unprejudiced and non-discriminatory healthcare for transgender and non-binary people, she founded GenderGP which has gone on to become a global leader in telehealth providing care for thousands of gender diverse people across the world. Her patients have called her work life-changing and life-saving and despite huge personal difficulties she has continued to fight for this marginalised and underserved group of people.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
The most obvious person here is ‘the 12 year old’ https://www.gendergp.com/without-dr-helen-my-son-wouldnt-be-here/
This patient hit the news with the obvious ‘sex change drugs given to a 12 year old’ type headlines. His was the case that was the main arm of the GMC investigation that has consumed the last 5 years.
However, in real life this young chap was a transgender teen who just wanted to live as normal a life as all his classmates. He was assigned female at birth, and had an identical twin sister, but he was male through and through. NHS protocols don’t allow trans teens to have the puberty that matches their identity until they are 16, and in all honesty that would have been too late for this chap, and I don’t know whether he would have made it, or whether he would have ended up being another one of those trans suicide statistics.
I helped him, I gave him the hormones that allowed hi to develop through his male puberty alongside his peers. And he is thriving. I hope that the attention that his case has got will help many other trans teenagers to live authentically.
I remember one of my first online trans patients back in 2015. We were on half term holiday in Florida and just on our way out for dinner. She was a middle aged trans woman tentatively asking whether I could prescribe her hormones as the NHS had been unable to help her. Her email came through and I was so excited at the thought of helping her and about how the service that I had devised could help people from their own home, using video consultations, finger-prick home blood testing kits and online pharmacy solutions. She has kept in touch ever since and she messages me on Facebook every now and again. Over the past 6 years, I have watched how she has transformed her life into living as the woman that she is. Last week she told me about her final stage, her genital surgery. Her message was simple, ‘It’s finally done x’
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
1 — Believe that trans people exist. They are just the same as any other person, it’s just that things got a bit mixed up and their body produces a different hormone to the one that traditionally matches their gender, which means that other people get confused about what gender they are. Belief is key, trans people are real.
2 — It is all about education. Educating the general public, those in high places, those who find themselves in touch with trans lives. Without education and knowledge, there is only fear of the unknown.
3 — Learn from those who know. Learn from talking to trans people and those who are closely involved such as parents, families, teachers, carers. Learn what it might be like to be trans, and what we as a society can do to help trans people live their lives more easily. Ask trans people how we as a society can help, let them inform and lead decision making.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is about inspiring people to follow you, whether that is to follow your lead in work or home or life. Inspire people to follow the path you lay out for them so that they can achieve the greatness that you envision.
In the workplace that path is made of protocol, policy and process. Inspire your team to understand that if they follow your lead in the way you have outlined, then the outcomes you desire for your customers will transpire.
In the family that path is made of society’s rules of living as a good person. Inspire your children to live an honest, generous, kind life by leading the way by example.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Not everyone will understand that every trans adult started life as a trans child. They might not have known it at the time, the realisation that they are trans may come later in life, but your gender identity is innate within you. Whatever age the realisation hits someone that they are living their life in their birth assigned gender rather than their authentic gender, they must be supported in that from then on. I remember asking a young trans boy how he knew that he was a boy and not a girl, and he asked me the same question. ‘Dr Webberley, how do you know that you are a girl?’
Believe every trans person, even if they aren’t able to articulate as well as we need them to. They are not making this up, they are not deliberately not giving you the information you need, it may just be that they are not able to tell you in the way that you are used to being able to understand. I remember a 16 year old trans feminine person with autism coming to see me. I wanted them to explain how they would feel if they switched their hormones and developed female attributes such as breasts and hips. They couldn’t explain it and I denied them the care they were asking for. Thinking back, I wish I had tried other ways for them to make me understand.
I wish I had known that even though the road has been a terrible path at times, there is always light at the end of the tunnel and you should never give up. At times I have thought of giving up, but I am still alive and have helped so many people, that I am so glad that I didn’t. I remember walking along a busy road and just thinking that the front of that bus might make everything easier. I am so glad I chose the pavement.
Invest in good legal advice. Pay for the best that you can afford, it is a very worthwhile investment. Not all legal advice is the same. I have sometimes tried to represent myself at legal hearings thinking I could do better if allowed to speak in my own words. How wrong I was.
The people who have power over you such as regulators or politicians, may not always get it right. However much you try and convince them, if the policies and protocols have not yet been written then there is room for human interpretation and error. Trans healthcare is unknown territory and can be just as scary for regulators and politicians as it is for lay people. However, with perseverance and education, we will come together and leave our prejudice and fear aside.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Trans people just want to live their best life. They want to be happy, successful, loved, accepted — basic human needs. Those of us who are not trans simply need to accept our trans comrades, and allow them to live their life without prejudice or discrimination. My movement would be simple ‘believe in transgender identity’.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have always loved this quote from the bible, ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?’ Even though I do not follow a religion, I think the lessons in the bible can be very valuable. We should lead by good example rather than setting unrealistic rules and dictating what we think our life team members should do.
Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? They might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Divina De Campo sent me a private message on Twitter when I was going through the GMC hearing, sending me love and support. Trans role models are so good for raising awareness, starting discussions and fostering education. I would love to have lunch!
Parents of trans kids who are openly supportive and also well known can be amazing role models to other people in the same situation. I love how open and honest Cindy Barshop and her son, Jesse, have been and how willing they have been to share their story to help inform others. I would love to meet them and do a piece with them to shout loudly for trans awareness.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Helen Webberley of GenderGP Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.