Whilst at hairdressing college she found her boyfriend. He was from a family of musicians and got her started as an opera singer. She had some success, for example playing support to Marc Almond. She was also a drag performer.
After being beaten by a Dutch border guard who took exception to the discrepancy between her appearance and the ‘male’ in her passport, they decided it was time to complete the change. She was prescribed female hormones by a psychiatrist in Glasgow in 1985. She had surgery in 1986, rushing it so that she could have a specific surgeon before he retired. She was referred by Russell Reid.
Her boyfriend left her in 1987 when she developed a hair-ball in her vagina. Other prospective boyfriends left when she told them of her past. She lost her confidence to face an audience. She suffered a breakdown, that was made worse by transiphobic response from the Glasgow police after she was raped.
She now regrets that she had the change. While reading The Silence of the Lambs, she decided that she should have been rejected when she applied for a sex change. She is pursuing a civil claim against Russell Reid.
- David Batty. “Mistaken identity”. The Guardian. 31 July 2004. www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,1271931,00.html. Also at society.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,7890,1273045,00.html.
- Julie Bindel. “Mistaken Identity”. The Guardian. May 23, 2007. www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,329899169-110592,00.html
I have written on Julie Bindel before, and of course she is the cause of an outcry from transsexuals etc because she has been short-listed by Stonewall UK for an Award as Journalist of the Year. She has issued a statement in reaction to this outcry in which she cites the case of Claudia again. I, and I think most transsexuals, feel that Bindel is incapable of understanding us, and wish that she would stop writing about us. Her current statement contains reactions from transsexual and intersex persons, some of whom are well known activists. The statement is worth reading, but do continue on through the comments, and notice that initially Bindel responds, but then doesn't. Many of the most salient points elicit only silence from her.
My second declaration of interest is that I went through Russell Reid only two years later, and he passed me onto James Dalrymple, FRCS. In those days UK surgeons were Mr, not Dr. I understood quite well that Reid was acting as a gatekeeper. That he was deciding whether I was suitable, and that there was no question of the session being therapy. At the price that he was charging, I did not want to stay for therapy.
I am intrigued by Claudia's rush to get a specific surgeon before retirement. Neither Batty nor Bindel name this surgeon. My guess is that it was Peter Philip, who mentored James Dalrymple. Why Claudia thought that Dalrymple would not do is not explored.
Thomas Harris' The Silence of the Lambs, whilst a fairly good thriller, is however badly researched on the issue of applying for a sex change. Some readers, with reason, regard the book as transiphobic. Notice the sentence in the Wiki summary: Lector "explains that Bill isn't actually a transsexual, but only thinks he is".
Both Batty and Bindel hold back Claudia's surname. This is odd in Batty's case as the print edition in the Observer Magazine included a full page photograph of Claudia. Is her privacy being respected or not? Ironically I learned Claudia's surname in an article about Bindel. However I see no reason to print it. Indeed I suspect that 'Claudia' is also a pseudonym. If you have had an international career as a drag performer and have sung opera as an opening act to Marc Almond, we should be able to google something.
There is an apparent discrepancy in Bindel's account. She says that Claudia started living full-time only after starting hormones in 1985. But she was crossing a border as female when she was assaulted, and Batty implies that she had started at age 18. The discrepancy may be only an artifact of journalistic style.
Bindel opens her new statement by being 'angry' at Vancouverite Kimberly Nixon for suing a rape crisis centre after it rejected her for being transgendered. The treatment that Claudia got after being raped in Glasgow shows just how essential it is that all rape crisis centres should have transgendered counsellors for those who need them.
It is of course ironic that Bindel, who condemns transsexual surgery as something imposed upon us by heterosexual men, then condemns Reid for not adhering precisely to the Standards of Care Guidelines.
Claudia's case is of course a sad one. However Batty interviewed her 17 years after her boyfriend left and Bindel three more years after that. She does not seem to be attempting to de-transition, nor rebuilding her life after the common female experience of being abandoned by a boyfriend. She also waited 20 years before suing Reid.