Why are we social care practitioners so good at looking after
vulnerable clients, but not so good at helping our fellow
I have had mental health problems and work in the private sector,
as I have found it difficult to return to the public arena. I have
found that if any staff member suffers from any type of depression
or low mood, their line managers and peers run for cover. Fellow
professionals cower in silence as if attempting to shield
themselves from the “virus”.
My sin is that I have a gender dysphoria, having been born as one
gender but feeling more aligned to the other. When I declared this
to one of my directors, I was informed that I should look elsewhere
for employment before the decision to do so was taken from me. Not
“thank you very much for all your hard work – is there anything I
can do to help?”.
I have a degree, a diploma in social work and two management
qualifications. I have 20 years’ experience and have managed large
staff teams and budgets. But in real terms this does not mean
anything. In order to qualify for gender reassignment I have to
live and work in my female role for two years. I have red hair and
long nails as I begin my transition into my appropriate gender and,
as a result of this, 20 years of my career have been swept away in
an instant. All this despite the national shortage of qualified
It feels like some employers will not go near me with a barge pole
and that I am now forever cursed for being honest. Yet I have
continued to work, despite the daily turmoil and anguish of who I
am and even though I have been unable to inform others that I have
feelings, emotions and needs that are not in keeping with the
person they see before them.
Let’s hope that the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment)
Regulations 1999, under which it is now illegal to discriminate
against a person on the grounds that they are changing, have
changed, or intend to change their gender role, together with the
guidance contained within the Gender Bill 2004, soon have an impact
on the care sector.
Otherwise, the 20 years I have spent supporting and enabling people
will have gone to waste.
The writer is a social worker.