Recipe for Misunderstanding

Gotta love Nigella Lawson. She’s smart, sexy: knows her way around a kitchen. She looked great on the cover of DIVA back in March, seemingly un-airbrushed. But did you know that, before she became a saucy TV chef, she was a journalist with some rather questionable views on “transsexuals”? No, me neither.

But after her name popped up on twitter last night, my friend told me she still hadn’t “quite forgiven Nigella yet”. Forgiven her for what? Baking cakes and faffing about with chilli oil? Making you want to go round her house for dinner and wash your fingers in little bowls of water with slices of lime floating about in them? Nigella: you’re forgiven!

Well, turns out that on February 6th, 1996, (not too long after I was born) she wrote this in the Times:

Sex change operations don’t work

I know, to my cost, that adverse comment about the Royal Family or the airing of insufficiently sentimental and therefore unEnglish views about animals inevitably excite the biggest postbag. But for sheer vitriol and threatening aggression or perhaps rather more accurately, defensiveness you cannot beat the transsexual correspondent.

I have twice, in completely different contexts, written about transsexuality. In neither case did I ridicule or sneer at those who claim to be trapped – that is inevitably, word for word, the complaint – in the wrong body, but I did question them, and it: and hence a batch of letters, the hostility of which it is hard to convey.

Nigella, was that you? I thought you were the nice cake lady!

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.

Wtf? Transsexualism’s an internationally recognised medical condition. Why on earth would you look for other explanations if your doctor diagnosed you with 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.

Come on Nigella, you were having a laugh there, surely? Imagine if she’d written: “Blacks just won’t accept racism, and that’s what makes them the truly intolerant ones.” I’ve never really got this whole ‘tolerance’ thing anyway – why has what I do with my life and body got anything to do with anyone else? I don’t really like heavy metal music but I’m not horrible to people who do: I just treat them like I do all people. Does that make me ‘tolerant’?

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.

OK, fair enough… but I hope you’re not about to say that such operations should be outlawed Nigella?

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?

Undiseased? Wonder what Nigella would think about a woman who discovered she had a pair of healthy testes lurking about her innards.

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.

“All transsexuals”. All Muslims? All wheelchair users? Just why do cisgender writers – no matter how sympathetic to our sufferings – feel they have a right to talk about trans people’s bodies and motivations with such baseless authority?

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.

Freud? Pfft. And no ‘normal’ little boy wishes to be like his dad, does he?

Is that a phallic symbol you've got there Sigmund, or are you just pleased to see me?

Is that a phallic symbol you've got there, or are you just pleased to see me?

Nigella concludes:

The voice-over of tonight’s programme, however, reported that some post-mortems of transsexuals showed that their brains accorded with the sex they thought they should be rather than with the sex their genes made them. This, if true, would indeed be staggering evidence, though the vague, unscientific nature of its reporting hardly makes it sound, so far, conclusive.

Nigella Lawson clearly wrote a whole feature about transsexual people – including whether or not we should receive NHS treatment, the suggestion that we’re delusional, and sweeping generalisations – without doing much more research than watching a Channel 4 documentary. It beggars belief.

This is not a Nigella-bashing blog. She’s probably really lovely, and would no doubt feel rather embarrassed about this now. It was 15 years ago. People change. Awareness spreads.

But not fast enough. The reason I chose to revisit this entry is because it really highlights some of the key problems we’re currently facing in the media and society at large:

1. Ignorance & Arrogance

Why do people who clearly know very little about transsexualism – who most likely have no trans people in either their family or close circle of friends – feel so incredibly comfortable discussing our lives? Spouting on about what is, essentially, a misunderstood medical condition. Without doing any research. But not only that – then questioning whether we should even receive treatment. If I was posing the question that a certain procedure shouldn’t be available on the health service I’d bloody well read up on it first. And then she thinks we’re hostile which, I have to admit, made me laugh. We probably are. But can you imagine if she were talking about Jewish people? “This is the third time I’ve written about Jews: they reacted really badly the first two times but I still feel I have something more to say….”

2. Sweeping generalisations

I don’t feel like anyone trapped inside anything. I’m just me, and that happens to be someone who feels more comfortable in a female body; expressing themselves through a traditionally feminine set of behaviours. But such generalisations are, largely, a by product of:

3. Learning about trans people through the media
Do you think documentary makers fully grasp the power they wield over our community? A large proportion of the public get all their information about trans people from the media – just as Nigella appeared to have done. She didn’t seem to question that the programme presented a distorted and edited version of these people’s lives.

4. Othering
I sometimes feel a bit pedantic pointing out that transsexual is an adjective, not a noun, but it makes a big difference. This piece really gives the impression that it was written for people who aren’t themselves transsexual. Very much “us and them”. If you don’t quite see it, re-read the piece but just swap ‘transsexuals’ for ‘gays’, ‘blacks’ or ‘retards’.

5. Branding trans people hostile/unreasonable/touchy
Kind of like when someone says that black people have a chip on their shoulder, no? Quite a clever trick, this accusation has often been used to ignore completely valid expressions of anger. The best idea is to always remain calm.

So that’s it really. I’m sure Nigella’s an absolute pearl and all that, and yes: this is donkey’s years old, but the points it raises are just as relevant 15 years on. Indeed, there are still many fairly decent, fairly educated and fairly open-minded people out there who, nevertheless, don’t have a frigging clue what transsexualism is.

Which is fine. I just wish those people would stop creating news features, documentaries and other media output about transsexualism. Stop focusing on the surgeries some people may choose to have. Is that too much to ask?

But, if I got my wish, would we ever see anything about trans people in the media again?

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31 thoughts on “Recipe for Misunderstanding

  1. Keltik says:

    So what’s the fix? Education, right? How about convincing your friends at Channel 4 to get some excellent documentary film maker to follow a trans person through their transition so people can see whats really involved?

    • Ah well, what I have up my sleeve with Channel 4 remains up my sleeve… for now. x

    • Emily says:

      I really enjoyed this quick doc, which can be seen for free online:

      It’s not detailed, but some people respond far better to an emotional hook than statistics. I particularly admire the mum in this program, who is _amazing_. You can tell she’s struggling to come to terms with it, but in her own time – with her son, she’s just so strong and supportive. Melts my little hippy heart…

      • misswonderly says:

        Hi Emily, I agree. One of the very best documentaries. I think the reason is precisely that it’s really as much about the mum struggling to come to terms. Trans people just are. Our only struggle, apart from any tedious medical detail, is with our social environment if it is hostile to the very notion of trans especially in children … as it invariably is.

        Even the best intentioned parents abuse their child when they try to force a gender identity on them which doesn’t fit.

        This documentary was so good because it dealt with nearly all the points Paris makes above. As I remember it, the voiceover was minimal. John spoke brilliantly matter-of faculty about any medical detail. His mum humbly described her very understandable difficulties and grief at the perceived loss of her ‘daughter’. There was no generalising. This was one boy and his mum allowed to tell their very personal stories.

        John did chose to talk a bit about the abuse and othering he has been subjected to. Above all his optimism about the future and sunny disposition were a wonderful testament to the support of his mother, close friends and non-judgemental medical professionals. The internal anger which has so characterised the trans community in the past is unlikely to have a big place in John’s character. To me it is the transition of the society, in which we as trans people live, that is the area where documentary makers need to concentrate. This documentary showed that brilliantly.

        Perhaps the most optimistic message to take away from this blog is that Nigella herself seems to have transitioned from unthinking transphobe to a thankfully far less judgemental place. I think this has also happened more widely in society over the last decade and it has to be at least partly as a result of the familiarisation about the existence of trans people resulting from the standard narrative TV documentaries … however arrogant and generalising.

        C4 has made some dire programming about trans people in the past. They have also made some of the very best. We hope the balance will start to change now so that most are responsive to individual stories rather than generalising and prescriptive, which in turn make them far more interesting like this one.

  2. The Dove says:

    I like how you turned it into an interview

    ‘OK, fair enough… but I hope you’re not about to say that such operations should be outlawed Nigella?

    What I’m not saying is that such operations should be outlawed.


  3. Sarah L says:

    As you say, Paris, Nigella Lawson may well have changed her views since the publication of this article or perhaps she may honestly admit that she has no informed view. The lack of sophistication with which even apparently sophisticated people sometimes view television constantly surprises me. It’s only in the last few years that the wisdom of having psychoanalytic psychiatrists on TV questioning people’s motives in front of an audience of millions has been questioned from within the medical profession. As recently as 2004 Professor David Southall even alleged to the police that Sally Clarke’s husband was responsible for murdering their children, having never met him, but having seen him on a television documentary. I find the fact that this could have happened so recently scary to say the least.

    Of course there are still journalists who take it on themselves to make wild generalisations and express subjective views free from any evidential basis about all sorts of issues. The depressing news that Desmond’s Channel 5 are to relaunch Big Brother, long past its sell-by date, means we will doubtless be subjected to further speculation from people with letter’s after their name about the behaviour of people within ‘the house’, a carefully edited version of which we will have seen on television.

    Another problem with TV documentaries on trans issues in the past is the way they have tended so much to concentrate on the middle-aged transition, usually middle-class, white and MtF. Understandably parents with trans children in the UK have been, and continue to be, extremely reluctant to allow their children’s lives to become the focus of a TV documentary. Unfortunately this has had the effect of giving the impression that transsexualism is in some way a ‘mid-life crisis’, which is far from the case as this paper makes clear – Transgender children: More than a theoretical challenge.
    It’s only in the last few years that a handful of documentaries filmed in the US have featured trans children. Those who have met and spoken to the parents of such children will be well aware of the struggle those parents usually had in coming to terms with the fact that their children are trans and that this is a very real condition indeed. I imagine the fact that Nigella has had children of her own and grown older and wiser since writing this article may have changed her views on many things. I only wish she could meet with some of those parents and gain some first hand experience with which to refute what she has written in the past. The puzzling thing to me about those groups like the American Family association is how they can call themselves that and yet reject their lesbian and gay children. It’s no different with trans.

  4. janefae says:

    Hmmm. I really must take some time out to write a long post explaining my issues with your point 4. But that’s (mostly) pedantry on my part and you know that i know the issue you are getting at.

    Otherwise, i’d say that you mostly hit the nail on the head. In general its about ignorance. But far more seriously, its about a particular constructed model of what it is to be trans and what the main staging posts on our journey happen to be..

    And that is not helped by a medical profession that largely imposes on us an analysis and a road map that we wouldn’t choose for ourselves – and thereby sets us up for criticism of things we don’t actually believe by others.

    I think, i hope, i explain it better here:

    For me, though, its about an insistence on gender binary by the professionals, with an almost absolute focus on the road to the before and after of grs. That totally colours public perceptions of what we are about.

    That is, we are told that to get treatment we MUST express an unconditional desire to swap sides, gender-wise. And everything is about grs. This leads to all sorts of accusations about how we have a naive view of womanhood (or malehood) and how we can never “become” what we desire. Except in many cases it isn’t US who desire that: its the bloody psychs!

    Dittor the surgery. What you come to realise along the way is just how much this is PART of the whole…not the end result in itself. You grow and change the whole way before…and you keep changing and growing after. How DARE twits like Nigella tell us that we’re obsessed with the op, when in reality the obsession is held by those in the cis world.

    There are various slogans i’d advocate for trans men and women, but the one that I’m most favouring this morning is “I am what i am: get over it!”


  5. Natacha says:

    Good blog. I hope she has changed her opinions, but there is no evidence for that…

  6. There is a whole story behind this particular article.

    As you say Paris, it was originally published in Nigella’s Times column on 6th Feb 1996. As I’ve never bought the Times the first I knew about it was when a friend in the Cheshire village where I lived back then brought it round to show me.

    In those days I was the secretary of the local Conservative association and he was the treasurer. (Yes, I know, I know .. sorry .. OK?). The previous September I had come out to my party colleagues to begin my career as an ‘out’ campaigner. Previous to that, they had no clue of my past and, to give them credit, they adjusted pretty quickly once they realised that it had no effect on my ability to sell raffle tickets.

    When my colleague brought the article round to show me it was because he realised how problematic it was … how inaccurately it described someone who had a significant part in his community.

    I had just started the original Press for Change web site and so I put a copy of Nigella’s piece up there, comment free, as something that readers could judge for themselves. Then I largely forgot about it.

    Two and a half years later I got an email from John Diamond, a fellow journalist colleague of Nigella’s, and also her husband. He had throat cancer; it had metastasised and we already knew from his columns that he had months to live.

    Nigella was preparing to launch her TV career .. the thing that would secure her future after his death .. and John was apparently trawling the web to look at what people would find if they googled her. As the PFC site was by now an enormous success, Nigella’s article was top of the search rankings.

    To cut a long story short, Mr Diamond wanted us to take the article down and was prepared to engage the full might of the Times’ legal department and copyright law to ensure we did. He wasn’t interested in how we saw this piece as a historical artefact .. the means to discuss how trans people were portrayed in the press .. he wanted it gone.

    The correspondence became more and more acrimonious, especially as I published his opening gambit on PFC News for everyone to know what he was doing. In the end, however, we took the view that we weren’t going to expend important energy fighting this one.

    We took the copy itself off the PFC site and replaced it with a link to the self same copy in the Times online archive.

    Note that Nigella herself never featured in any of this. I don’t even know if she was aware it was happening. I challenged John Diamond over whether his wife wanting him fighting her battles like this, but I never got an answer.

    Over the years, however, I’ve met many former detractors who would rather not be reminded of what they had written years before. It’s the same with other examples. Can you find anyone who’ll admit to having written racist or sexist articles at the height of when they are in vogue? Would Jan Moir prefer that we all forgot her deeply homophobic writing?

    I confess I have mixed feelings about this. I’m a patron of LGBT History Month and I often tell people how important it is to be aware of their history .. the reasons why things are as they are.

    On the other hand, progress also requires that at some point we agree to leave the past where it belongs and move on. I don’t expect apologies any more from Nigella. In fairness, she was copying the narrative of the time. She was writing what her editor expected. Holding grudges is pointless.

    The key is what Nigella thinks and says now. Her deceased husband’s determination to airbrush away the memory of this article might be a clue. But it would be really nice if Nigella was to assure Paris that she has a better informed position today.

    • janefae says:

      I shall ask (what Nigella thinks today) and feed back any response i get.

      Otherwise, Christine makes an important and valid point. On the one hand, i am very wary of the ability of anyone of a certain age in the psychiatric profession to deal with gay issues, for the simple reason that for much of their formative years, homosexuality itself was defined as disorder.

      Whatever they think of the issue now, that upbringing must have some influence on their thinking.

      All the same, we must be very careful not to alienate possible allies by a McCarthyite style witch hunt. By which i mean: people DO change, and we should be careful not to put them on trial for views expressed a generation ago. (FFS: whilst i remain constant on some issues, i suspect that if i were challenged with stuff i wrote 20 years ago, i’d have some embarrassing moments).

      Nor should we expect cis folk to understand intimately the ins and outs of trans concerns. I certainly didn’t before i began to transition. Or to take another issue: like many on here, i guess i’d self-describe as broadly anti-racist. But i haven’t the faintest what are the burning issues today, what the pain points, what the subtleties of anti-racist discourse. And i suspect few of us have.


      • Zoe Brain says:

        The trouble is, such views are gaining, not losing, traction in the GLB Psych community.

        One only has to look at “Dr” Az Hakeem’s screed on the subject i”‘Transsexualism: A Case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?'” Chapter 10 of ‘Lectures on Violence Perversion and Delinquency’ to see that. His letter to the European Court of Human Rights stating that Trans Women were “deceptive gays” tricking straight men into having sex, and even (Shock Horror) Marrying them by deception is sui generis. He and Justice Ormrod are of like mind. Likewise, he described the GRA as a blow against Gay Rights.

        “Dr” Hakeem runs the only “talking cure” clinic for Transsexuality in the UK. He, along with Ms Julie Bindel, will be giving a presentation to the Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in May.

      • I must pick you up on the McCarthy allusion Jane.

        Senator McCarthy’s enquiry was an aggressive pursuit of mostly innocent people, based on ‘evidence’ which amounted to little more than innuendo or saying things out of fear of the same.

        In this case Paris has heard about this piece that Nigella wrote and I supplied the archival material and historical details to be able to understand it in context. The evidence is real and, I can support my account of what happened on 23rd August with the actual emails were it ever necessary.

        I don’t advocate pursuing any kind of witch hunt against Nigella. Her piece was a one-off for her. It was ‘of its’ time’ and was derivative in the sense that other writers had said the same before. She is like a figurative General Belgrano. Well out of the exclusion zone and steaming in a completely different direction.

        My interest in filling in the detail is so that people can understand the climate in which our activism had to operate in those days.

        As I’ve blogged recently, anything we did ourselves was never reported unless we won a case in court (in which case it was unavoidable). Even Alex Carlile’s Private Members Bill (four days previously) was not reported in the newspaper of record. And Nigella’s part in this erasure was to review a positive TV documentary (by lovely Oliver Morse) in this negative put down way.

        It has to be remembered too that Nigella was writing in the age of truly disposable journalism. She expected what she wrote one day to be on the floor of the proverbial budgie’s cage the next. She could never have imagined (a) that her arguments would be made to look foolish by events and that (b) people might remember and talk about them 15 years later.

        There’s a moral there for every writer.

      • “All the same, we must be very careful not to alienate possible allies by a McCarthyite style witch hunt. ”

        I understand that you are not actually accusing me of doing this, and merely ‘warning against it becoming that’ but I still don’t see why that’s neccessary. All I have done is repeat something which was published in the Times. I’ve actually been incredibly positive towards Nigella, and any criticism I have levelled has been at what she has written and at cis writers in general. I specifically avoided using the word transphobic in the piece. I don’t think there is any danger of this becoming a witch hunt.

      • misswonderly says:

        As you know, Paris, I’m a huge fan of your positive and reasoned approach. To borrow from Azhole Hakeem you are the girl who tends to shout: “The emperor has no clothes!” but, unlike him, justifiably so and it’s so often really refreshing to hear.

        What I’m noticing, which I think is totally brilliant, is that what used to happen, is not really happening here. Because of trans erasure in the past there have so often been two predominant reactions from the trans community … either Christine’s Stockholm syndrome ‘Keep your head down and don’t upset the big people who control our lives. They’re not really bad. They’re only trying to help us by keeping us in chains” … or outright, uninhibited, usually anonymous fury. It has historically been very much too easy to flame the trans community and cause it to bitterly turn on its own.

        The reason I posted in a way which might be described as ‘timid’ on facebook yesterday was that already epithets such as ‘twat’ and ‘idiot’ were starting to be used to describe Nigella. A few years ago this would have swiftly escalated out of hand no matter whether her piece was written yesterday or 15 years ago. It may be that both these epithets could still apply to her but … and I know this is the point you make in your blog … it’s as well to discover if her views have changed before people start using them. Trouble is … people often do not read blogs carefully. It’s another of those ironic double standards. Trans individuals have been so used to being routinely treated as faceless Aunt Sallies [often to our faces] that perhaps there has been an irresistable tendency to see our oppressors in the same way. However, whenever this happens, it’s us who are the bad people.

        Press for Change always had a policy of trying to win friends rather than make enemies, which stood them in very good stead. Perhaps now things are changing and certain people do need to be called to account .. a change which I suppose began with the persistent attitude of a tediously self-seeking journalist.

        I do think that Christine’s Belgrano metaphor is apt. As you know, in the work we’ve done with TMW, I have been astonished at how far off the radar trans issues are for the majority of ‘well-informed’ media people [actually so have some of them been shocked which has been encouraging] let alone the population as a whole. Other than accepting the delusional, sex-obsessed, deceiver stereotype, they tend to have never given the matter the least introspection. I doubt Nigella has given it much thought since 15 years ago. I don’t know the exact context, as Christine does, but I’d also suggest that her hostility then was at least partly fuelled by the level of anger which greeted her original observations [however justifiable]. The unfortunate possibility I see is in things becoming ramped up to that level of anger perhaps before Nigella has even heard of your blog [if she ever does so] so that what she sees is not your measured argument but the sudden revival of a hornet’s nest which she stirred up 15 years ago without expecting it to be such hornet’s nest.

        However so far the response from the trans community has been measured and thoughtful … but also, which is the best bit, confident. I entirely agree with Jane that there needs to be a political awareness … Prodding sacred cows needs to be undertaken in a situation where everybody is informed about the righteous reasons for doing so. I’m not so sure about the ‘cold’ or ‘calculating’ though. That’s not really your style, Paris. I think you’re the more effective for the passion and actually the unencumbered directness you bring … and actually I’m loving the way some of us older folk [friend and foe alike] find ourselves floundering in the face of it 😉

  7. Some historical context.

    Nigella was writing just four days after the events which I described here:

    The End of the Beginning

    The documentary she used as a hook was one of the few media reactions to Alex Carlisle debating his Private Members Bill on legal recognition for transsexual people of 2nd Feb 1996. The documentary was positive (we had media friends as well as enemies). Nigella would have known the context. However, if she had referred to Parliament seriously debating trans legal rights it would have somewhat undermined the impression she wanted to give.

  8. janefae says:

    pardon? Zoe, if you can give me a link to or copy of the Hakeem letter in which he talks of “deceptive gays” I’d very much like to see it.


    • Zoe Brain says:

      It’s mentioned in “Transsexualism: A Case of the Emperor’s New Clothes?'”
      Chapter 10 of ‘Lectures on Violence Perversion and Delinquency’ (Karnac Books 2006)

      “The Portman Clinic has been applying a psychoanalytic framework to the understanding and treatment of violent, perverse, criminal and delinquent patients since its foundations in the early 1930s. All Portman Clinic patients have crossed the boundary from fantasy and impulse to action – action that defies legal and moral boundaries but that also breaches the body boundary of the victims. Ultimately, the violence underlying most of such violent, perverse and delinquent action also attacks and disturbs the mind of both the victim, be that an individual or society and that of the perpetrator. In this volume, contemporary staff describe their thinking and clinical work. Theoretical underpinnings for the understanding of perversion and violence, questions of risk and ethics and the institutional difficulties which emerge during the care of these patients are presented alongside chapters on clinical work with adults and adolescents, including chapters on pedophilia, the compulsive use of internet pornography and transsexuality. ”

      • Zoe Brain says:

        Quotes from the article (emphasis in the original)


        “A recent ruling in the European Court of Human Rights resulted in the decision that a postoperative male to female trans-sexual had the right to marry a biological male (2002). In response to this I and a number of other clinicians wrote a letter which appeared in the national press stating our views on the condition and how we felt that such a decision by the European Court of Human Rights was a victory of fantasy over reality…”

        “Of course neither I nor any of the other clinicians with whom I work are opposed to a trans-sexual being allowed the right to marry, but our objections are that they be allowed as a person of the sex they are not. If legislation was to change to allow individuals of the same sex to marry, then this would allow trans-sexuals to marry individuals of either gender without problems. It seems that the recent ruling is a step backwards for the right of same-sex marriage, an issue that affects homosexuals in this country and to prevent them from having the opportunity of marriage. It seems that rather than change this legislation (although the recent developments in ‘civil partnerships’ goes some way towards this) the ruling for trans-sexuals that it is not acceptable for members of the same sex to marry with the exception that it is acceptable of one of the sexes can at least have the suitably deceptive appearance of the other sex.”


        “A similarly related ongoing battle is the fight for the trans-sexual to be allowed to change the gender specified in the birth certificate. Again, we are faced with

        “A further illustration of the deception would be the possibility arising in the event of both of the aforementioned pieces of legislation. They could result in a man marrying what he presumed to be a woman who had a female passport, a birth certificate declaring him to be female at time of birth, who is taken to be female and an individual whom he believed he could marry and who could be the mother of his children but in reality his wife actually being a man.”

        “This is followed by the psychiatric profession entering in the ultimate collusion with the psychosis manifest in their insistence that these patients dress up and live in their desired gender role for two years, in order to ascertain how successful the deceptive process can be.”

        Elsewhere he states that this psychosis is an encapsulated psychosis, which is why the patient doesn’t show any signs of mental illness. The same justification as the old Soviet diagnosis of “sluggish schizophrenia”. Read the whole thing.

        No reference to reports of results of course.

      • janefae says:

        ah. thanks very much for that, zoe. seems to be much the same as the view given to me by the catholic church: once a man, always a man.

        In the church’s defence, they do believe that they are merely passing on wisdom sent from God – and they do, at least, permit that one can return to communion with the church without all this fuss about deceptiveness.

        Do psychiatrists talk to God? We-ell…i guess they talk to one another at their various conferences, which maybe is the next best thing.


  9. Charlie says:

    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.

    And this is coming from someone whose dad Nigel named her Nigella?

  10. janefae says:

    Tish, Paris! “All you’ve done”….

    The point, as Christine hints at, is that nothing is without significance and, as far as i am concerned, the mere act of writing about something is, itself, to influence debate and subsequent politics. As you say, that doesn’t mean i’m accusing you of anything at all – and i’m not.

    However, what your post has done is place Nigella in the sights of the trans community in a way she wasn’t 48 hours ago. Which, again, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

    I’ve developed the McCarthy allusion slightly more in a post tonight:, and maybe that goes some way to undercutting Christine’s point.

    I would certainly never liken our (or Paris’) approach to that of the good senator. Nonetheless, it is a rare political event that leaves no tactical lessons for even those diametrically opposed to the views expressed.

    The reason i am thinking about the issue in this way has far more to do with the fact that there is a conference coming (the RCPsych one) and before we get to grips with that, i’d be happier if people were thinking a bit more like political activists.

    That means a bit colder, a bit more calculating. There may or may not be room for anger in our politics. We ought to think about our answer to that, rather than just reacting.


  11. […] the weekend a post appeared over on last of the clean bohemians reprising an article by Nigella Lawson written around 15 years ago. It wasn’t good: loads of […]

  12. Julie Bindel says:

    Oh my god help! Someone just sent me this post and I didn’t believe it until I read it. There is no hope for me then. You are dredging up a piece from 1996 and condemning her all over again for something she wrote 15 years ago………

    Move over McCarthy.

    • ashleek9 says:

      I wouldn’t call it ‘dredging up’, so to speak. It’s not gonna turn into a witch hunt or anything. Hell, the post even says that her views could have changed by now, and is not even insinuating that she’s transphobic.

      Let’s say that this was about a different celebrity and a different topic. Say, for example, Lenny Henry said something about Jews in a bad light 15 years ago, or Rebebecca De Mornay said something about gays, or Barry Chuckle said something about asians. I think what their opinions were, however long ago, would be of at least some interest to the community that the comments were said about. The same applies here.

  13. misswonderly says:

    It’s always heartening when people learn from evidence and experience. It’s always heartening when the Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-bys of this world accept that gratuitously intruding their own ill-considered prejudice into the lives of others can result in genuine suffering. I was never a big fan of the overblown middle class cosy image, which Nigella projects on telly. I’m a lot more inclined to be a fan of her personally now.

    • I could not agree more Sarah! I have a new-found respect for Nigella now. I’ve always found her cosy image quite appealing, so I may be a bit biased, but I respect the fact that she now feels embarrassed about writing something like this. She seems like a very decent person and it’s great that she, like many other people, has moved on from this sort of thing.

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