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01 December 2012

Gary Norton (1937 - ) RAF, architect, changeback

Gary served in the Royal Air Force, and afterwards became an architect. He and his wife lived in Coventry and had four children during their 25-year marriage. He was a secretive cross-dresser, and his wife apparently never found out.

In his late 40s he went to his doctor being depressed after losing a job. He talked about dressing in his wife's clothes and was offered female hormones, which he took. He never told his wife, and six months later he left her. He was referred to a psychiatrist, diagnosed as having GID and approved for gender surgery paid for by the National Health Service. He continued working as a man right to the day of the surgery in 1989.
"I put it down to nerves, but even in the operating theatre a voice in my head said it was a mistake, but I felt it was too late to back out. I had gone too far. The next thing I knew I woke up a woman."
Her ex-wife and four children broke off all contact. Gillian, as she now was, quickly grew tired of doing her hair and make-up and even hated dressing in women's clothes full time. A year after the operation, she wrote to the psychiatrist saying that the operation had been a mistake, and could it be reversed. She was told to get on with her new life, and make a success of it. She passed well, but always felt that it was an act.

Finally after 23 years, he stopped taking female hormones, and gave all the dresses to a charity shop. He is relieved to be Gary again. He has applied through his doctor for surgery to become male-bodied again but his Primary Care Trust has declined to fund it.

I am not one to speak up for psychiatrists as gate-keepers, nor for therapy from psychologists or counsellors.   When I transitioned no-one offered me any counselling, and in retrospect I am glad of that. However what I do feel is essential is to meet and talk with other transsexuals.   In the late 1980s SHAFT had become inactive, and Press For Change was not yet formed.  However the TV/TS Support Group was active – although that would have required a trip to London.  The Beaumont Society was also active, and while it was unsuitable for many transsexuals, for a gynephilic such as Gary who perhaps should have settled for occasional cross-dressing, it would have been very suitable.

Nor do I insist that a real-life test is essential.  Miranda Ponsonby skipped "all that bloody nonsense" and turned out fine.  Personally I did just eight months, and again it turned out fine.

However Gary seems to combine not having done any research with being the kind who does what the doctors tell him. Just because the doctor gave him a prescription for hormones, he did not have to take them. And he could have stopped at any time.  Heterosexual men attracted to the idea of being women often stop the hormones after a few months – that is after they find that erections are now hard to get.

Likewise Gary did not have to turn up for the operation.  After I had been approved, my job situation changed and I phoned the surgeon's secretary to see if the operation could be brought forward.  I remember her saying: "No problem. We get cancellations all the time".

My last girlfriend said to me, once it was obvious that I was was going down the transsexual path: "When you really are a woman, you will dislike women's clothes". If that is the criterion, I am still not quite there.  However I am amazed at Gary`s continuing assumption that a woman has to do her hair, wear makeup and wear dresses.  That is an option, yes.  But many women chose otherwise.  Gary seems as unaffected by feminism as he was unacquainted with the Trans community.  More than that he does not notice the variety of women around him.  (The most famous fictional inhabitant of Coventry is Hyacinth Bucket of Keeping Up Appearances, who does very much do her hair, wear makeup etc, but her sister Daisy has a much more relaxed attitude.)

Gary says that after taking the pills: "Before I knew it my beard had stopped growing and I grew breasts".  He was very lucky there.   Most of us had to have many, many hours of painful electrolysis to get rid of the beard.

He also managed to get approved so that the NHS paid for his surgery.  Many of us had to use our own money.  It is a bit much that he expects the NHS to pay for a reversal also. 

The Daily Mail article stated that he is legally a woman.  That must mean that Gillian applied for and got a Gender Recognition Certificate.  When you do that you sign a declaration that you will not switch back.  However I don't think that there will be any consequences for not keeping her word.

Stopping female hormones after being on them for 25 years is not such a big deal.  Some trans women, who are remaining women, do so with minimal problems.

It is interesting that the Daily Mail journalist, Kelly Strange, uses female pronouns for Gary both before he became a women, and again now that he has switched back.  This is actually gratifying that we have made enough noise about misgendering that Strange is playing it safe, even though Norton denies that he was ever really a woman.

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