>> Britain’s oldest sex change as James becomes Ruth at 81 thanks to NHS surgery
Il s’appelait James, mais appelez-le désormais Ruth Rose. Père de trois enfants et quatre fois grand-père, il est devenu le plus vieux Britannique à bénéficier d’une opération de changement de sexe.
« J’ai toujours su que j’étais dans le mauvais corps, depuis l’âge de 9 ans », s’est-elle justifiée auprès du Mirror. Mariée pendant 42 ans, Ruth a étouffé ses émotions pendant toutes ces années. Elle commence à vivre comme une femme après son divorce, il y a onze ans, mais il lui faudra attendre l’âge de 77 ans pour s’afficher officiellement et commencer un traitement hormonal. James saute enfin le pas en juillet dernier en renonçant à ses organes sexuels masculins. « C’est comme si le dernier vestige du trompe-l’œil avait été enlevé. Je me sentais euphorique. »
Plus de pénis… mais pas non plus de vagin !
En revanche, l’opération n’a pas doté le patient d’un vagin. « A mon âge, je n’envisage pas de rencontrer un nouveau partenaire sexuel. Il ne s’agit donc pas de ça, mais c’est agréable de se sentir féminine. » Son seul regret : ne pas avoir de plus gros seins.
Pas besoin de s’encombrer d’avantage, Ruth a déjà dû s’habituer à des conséquences physiques imprévues : « Il y a des choses associées au genre sexuel que vous apprenez enfant et que vous devez désapprendre, comme la manière de boutonner sa veste ou de se pencher. »
Trop âgé pour la chirurgie ?
L’âge du patient a cependant suscité les critiques. « J’ai cru que j’étais trop vieux pour me faire opérer mais les chirurgiens ne l’auraient pas fait s’ils ne pensaient pas que je pouvais aller jusqu’au bout. »
Au delà de 70 ans, l’âge devient pourtant un facteur de risque pendant une opération chirurgicale. « L’organisme est plus fragile et cumule souvent plusieurs pathologies. Quant au corps, il perd progressivement sa capacité à s’adapter et à traverser l’épreuve d’une intervention chirurgicale », précise la rédaction d’Allodocteurs. Ruth a donc été chanceuse sur ce coup, mais il serait plus sage de renoncer à une plus grosse poitrine.
>> A former RAF navigator has become the oldest person in Britain to have sex change surgery – at the age of 81.
The NHS op for Ruth Rose, once a man named James, drew criticism because of her age. But she said: “I always knew I was in the wrong body.”
Ruth has only one regret about her sex change – she wishes she had bigger boobs.
But the oldest Briton to have gender realignment surgery is otherwise delighted with life as a woman.
After longing to be female since the age of nine, Ruth finally achieved her wish this summer – in an operation on the NHS which is bound to spark controversy.
She used to be James, a divorced father of three and grandfather of four.
But she started living as Ruth four years ago and then began having female hormone therapy.
The final stage of her transformation – removal of the male sex organs – took place in July.
Ruth is aware that she will attract criticism. But she insisted: “You get people who can’t keep slim or who smoke and have all the related health issues – but the NHS will still treat them.
“They would operate on someone who had a great bulge on their cheek. It might not be malignant, but it could cause embarrassment. Well, a transgender operation is similar to that.”
Charity worker Ruth smiled as she said in a candid interview with the Sunday People: “I’m now fully equipped.
“I’m enjoying the fact that I have made the transition. My main thing in life isn’t going around saying I am a lady now. But not a day had gone by since I was nine when I didn’t think I was in the wrong body. I always felt I was a woman.
“It was my doctor who told me to go ahead. She said, ‘Go to the clinic and get it done.’”
Ruth, of Newhaven, East Sussex, began living more openly as a woman after divorcing the mother of their three children 11 years ago.
She is an activist and public speaker for charities like Age UK but said: “I stopped going to events as a man four years ago.
“When I was married, I was living half as a man and half as a woman, dressing up to see friends but a man at home.”
Having a totally different operation successfully helped Ruth make up her mind that she was not too old to go through the medical procedure that made her fully a woman.
She recalled: “I went in for a hip and knee replacement or I faced life in a wheelchair.
“My doctor had said I should have the gender transformation operation but I thought I was too old. I thought I had left it too late. But the surgeons wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t think I could go through with it.
“I am the oldest person to have it done.”
Ruth’s procedure and treatment on the NHS cost £4,000.
She said: “A lot of people think it’s just a case of chopping it off, but it’s much more than that.
“Some people are assessed for eight to ten years by psychiatrists. The rate of suicides for people waiting for transgender operations is seven times higher than normal. People are living lives of despair.
“The surgeons I have spoken to say they have saved hundreds of lives by stopping people from committing suicide.”
Ruth was in hospital for five days in July having the procedure.
She said: “It was very painful and took six to eight weeks to heal up. But I am very happy with the results.”
Without wanting to go into full detail about her surgery, Ruth explained she did not have a full construction.
She said: “It would have been ridiculous for me to ask for a vagina so I could go sleeping around. It would be inappropriate.
« I was offered it but turned it down. I won’t talk about the intimacies of it. A woman who had a hysterectomy wouldn’t go into detail about that.
“The intimate sides are as private as a woman would want. I don’t at my age expect to have a sexual partner and wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did.
“It’s not about having a sexual relationship. But it’s nice to feel you have sexuality. It’s nice to feel feminine.
“Frankly, I don’t envisage getting that intimate.
“But I feel so much happier now. I thought my life as a woman would never be fully fulfilled at my age.
“It’s as if the last vestige of sham has been taken away. It was much more than getting rid of some obnoxious unwanted parts. I felt euphoric.”
Ruth, or James as she then was, felt the urge to be a woman while at school and began dressing up in secret.
At 18 she started an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering, joined the RAF at 23 and married in 1961.
Despite Ruth’s secret desire for change, the couple stayed together for 42 years. She went on: “I did not tell my wife about my feelings.
“I thought if I got married those feelings would go away. But they didn’t.”
The marriage ended in an amicable divorce and they are still close.
Ruth recalled: “We are a close-knit family and they are tolerant. But my decision to go for gender realignment surgery came as a shock to them.”
Speaking of the changes she has experienced, Ruth explained: “Hormone treatment has affected my mental approach to life. I’d had a long-felt need for change. Gradually the hormones change your attitude towards life and towards your emotions, which is so nice.
“It fills me with joy in so many ways that I notice my womanhood. It just falls into place.
There were unforseen physical adjustments as well.
She explained: “There are some things you learn as a child which are gender orientated and you have to unlearn them.
“Men’s and women’s jacket buttons do up differently.
“Bending over to pick things up is another. As a man you bend over from the waist with your legs apart – but as a woman you crouch down and pick things up from the side.
“I’m sure I’ve become much more like a woman in so many ways.
“I would never describe myself as a great driver – but now I’m forgetting to signal before I turn.”
Ruth said: “I wish I could grow a bigger bust but I don’t think I will. The surgeon told me I would end up with a bra cup size one down from my sister.
“I haven’t put any extra on my bum either. You may ask, at my age, why should I care. But it’s nice to become more shapely.
“One thing that has changed is that my waistline has gone higher. Women’s waistlines are four inches higher than men’s. And that’s certainly happened.
“But some things cannot be changed. Women’s forefingers are usually longer than their ring fingers and mine will always remain the same as it was.”
She added: “I have never been abused by anybody about this and I wouldn’t expect to be. We are not freaks to be on show and it is so nice to be part of a community in the gender that I feel is right.
“Life is very nice to me at the moment. I stay fit and healthy. I swim in the sea every day of the year and go sailing.
“The fact that I am a different gender to the one I was born is not an issue.”
Justine Knapp et mirror.co.uk