Man to sue over sex-change op
By GREG ANSLEY
CANBERRA - A Melbourne man who regrets becoming a woman has launched legal action against the surgeons and medical centre that gave him a sex-change operation.
A County Court judge is considering whether to extend a six-year limit on litigation to allow British-born Alan Finch to sue Monash Medical Centre's gender dysphoria clinic over the removal of his testicles and penis and the construction of an artificial vagina in 1988.
Finch, now an anti-sex change activist who took his campaign public on national television last year, claims that, far from being a man trapped in the wrong body, he had in fact been clinically described as displaying above-average masculinity before the operation.
The neuropsychological report made as part of the process to determine his suitability for a sex change found he did not display female gender identity but instead escaped into fantasy. The findings were not made known to Finch until eight years after he became a woman.
Finch, who runs a support group called the Gender Identity Awareness Association, claims he was misdiagnosed. He has had his hormone-induced breasts removed and again lives as a man, although without a penis.
In May, the Monash clinic came under attack for its decision to begin hormonal treatment on a 13-year-old girl identified only as "Alex" in preparation for a sex-change operation she can have only after she turns 18.
The treatment was allowed by a Melbourne court after expert evidence.
The clinic has been conducting sex-change operations since 1975 on patients assessed as true transsexuals and after hormone treatment lasting between 18 months and two years.
Finch's organisation estimates that 5000 patients have been referred to the clinic since it opened, with referrals continuing at the rate of two or three a week.
Of these, the group estimates that 4000 were approved for a sex-change operation, although most did not complete the treatment.
Only about 500 to 600 had changed sex surgically, with about 30 patients a year still completing the process.
Finch underwent the operation at the age of 21 because of what he now describes as an identity crisis. But he told ABC TV's Australian Story last year that the results had been disastrous, leading him into an illegal marriage, another failed relationship with a man, and finally a relationship with a woman who had urged him to change back to a male.
"Anatomically, I was never a woman," he said. "[The operation] is just rearranging flesh, but the tissue that's used is still male tissue."
International research indicates that up to 20 per cent of sex-change patients regret the operation.
"After discovering that the removal of their sexual organs did nothing to address their gender confusion these patients now have no way back to their former selves," Finch's website says.
"Faced with the prospect of living an isolated and lonely life on the outskirts of society without any real possibility of marriage and family, too many have found suicide their only remaining option."
A 2001 report by the Victorian Psychiatrist's Office reportedly expressed some concerns at the Monash Centre's procedures, and a confidential review was ordered last November.
This week Melbourne County Court Judge Michael McInerney reserved his judgement on an application by Finch to extend the six-year limit to sue for negligence in wrongfully diagnosing him as a person born a male but from an early age exhibiting a female identity.
Or is this an alternate means of Shylock getting his pound of flesh?