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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > September 2017 > Can a person choose their gender?

Can a person choose their gender?

The government is proposing to remove the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria before someone is able to apply for gender recognition. But can you choose your gender?

YES Growing up, when I tried to imagine myself as a woman, I could see nothing—and that made me suicidal. However, I would see flickers of a man, the man I eventually became… and that, I knew, was iniquitous; sinful.

I eventually became Stephen in 1975. Yet I was still and would remain a woman in law. When my (now) wife gave birth to our children, I was a stranger to them. I could not register as their father, nor adopt them, as the law said we were a lesbian couple and same-sex marriage did not then exist. I was an outlaw. The Gender Recognition Act changed all that, and by 2006, I had been made a professor, received an OBE, had married my wife, and adopted our children. The unbelievable had happened, and the sky had not fallen down.

In 1977, I had not had gender reassignment surgery, but was taking testosterone, so my wife met a standard-issue short, slight, trans man with a full beard. When our relationship showed signs of becoming intimate, I was certain that when she saw the catastrophe of my body, she would shun me. But then, one morning, she told me that she had suddenly understood it—the “it” being transsexuality. “Clearly,” she said, “Some women, a tiny proportion, are born with penises, and a similarly small group of men are born with vaginas.” And that was that.

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In Prospect’s September issue: Emily Andrews, Andrew Brown and Tom Clark assess what the reign of King Charles might look like. Andrews profiles Charles and questions whether he will be able to keep his opinions to himself. Andrew Brown look at the coronation—the world is a very different place now from when the last one took place. Tom Clark explains the results of our poll, conducted by ICM, into people’s view on Charles taking the throne—it turns out fewer people than ever before want the heir to become our monarch. Elsewhere in the issue Nick Cohen details his battle with the bottle and shows that Britain has a problem with drink that it doesn’t want to talk about, and Toni Morrison Also in this issue: Toni Morrison on America’s stubborn race divide, Brian Klaas on how Europe should deal with Trump and Jessica Abrahams explains everything you need to know about fourth wave feminism