Declaring my own gender made me the woman I am today

I read in “Stoking a culture war? No, Nicola Sturgeon, this is about balancing conflicting rights” (Comment) the argument against using self-identified gender as the basis for issuing gender recognition certificates in the UK. I read with interest as this is exactly how mine was issued, here in Ireland in 2022.

I remember arriving at the notary with my family and the solemnity of signing that declaration – that I am a woman. I remember weeping when it arrived, tears of relief, that there I was, a female, recognised by the state. It made me proud that my country, for all its faults, treated me with a dignity that many would say I didn’t deserve. That certificate allowed me to live without the need to constantly explain and out myself. It meant I could interview for a job, get an apartment, travel internationally and live without risking exclusion, discrimination or my safety. Had I waited for “a diagnosis”, I would be at the mercy of a three-year wait list – not unlike the UK. Being transgender is not a pathology and should not be treated as such.

The author frames this process of self-identification as a risk to women. I suggest that it is a lifeline to women. A group of women subjected to discrimination, abuse and indignity throughout their lives. The Irish and Scottish parliaments both correctly recognise that the status quo denies the rights, and wellbeing, of transgender people. Society at large, and Westminster, would do well to do the same.
Dr Dearbhla Doherty

How to solve NHS crisis

Robert Ford is quite right to argue that “the NHS crisis is an existential risk” for the Tory government (News analysis). When the Royal College of Emergency Medicine calculates that 500 people are dying every week through “extreme service delays”, their failure to get a grip on the crisis poses an acute existential risk to anyone in urgent need of treatment.

GP Phil Whitaker, writing in his capacity as medical editor of the New Statesman, puts forward eminently practical measures to address the front- and back-door problems facing our hospitals. First, an exit strategy must be devised for patients to be discharged as soon as is clinically expedient; hospital bed costs are triple those of care facilities. Second, using the 111 facility to triage admissions ends up referring inappropriate numbers to hospital A&E departments. His research indicates that, after amassing sufficient clinicians over the course of one week, 90% of 111 category-three and 75% of more acute category-two ambulance callouts could be managed in primary care.

In treating the queues both into and out of hospitals, by expanding rather than cutting back on community provision, he argues that we could go a long way towards addressing the crisis facing our public health service.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Living alone is not always a choice

It is not always a privilege to be single and not always a choice. Emma John (“Being single has a lot going for it, but 10k a year seems too high a price to pay for the privilege”, Comment) overlooks those of us who are widowed or divorced and living alone. Heating, cooking, rent and the TV licence are not the only issues. Fuel costs can be added because the car has only one person in it. So few hotels have single rooms that a single supplement is almost inevitable. Supermarkets make multi- and larger packs cheaper.

The allowances that give financial advantage to married couples were surely implemented at a time when most couples had only one wage earner – a man, who was supporting a stay-at-home wife. Now, most dual households have two incomes (even then, not always providing enough) and are therefore not so much in need of the reduction. It is time for these rules to reflect the changing nature of society and stop discriminating against those of us who live alone through necessity.
Mary Massey
Wilmslow, Cheshire

Schoolboy error

While I bow to William Keegan’s greater first-hand knowledge of the 1964 general election (“Wilson won after 13 wasted Tory years. Keir can, too”, Business), it is my memory as a then-nine-year-old that Harold Wilson’s more common campaign slogan was not “13 wasted years” but “13 years of Tory misrule”. I dutifully copied this slogan when standing for Labour in the Form 1A mock election in 1966. Unlike the great Mr Wilson, however, I lost, polling just one vote in an electorate of 32 pupils. Even my best friend voted Conservative. Such is politics…
Howard Rose

The trouble with damp

The article “How black mould in my council flat left me coughing up blood” (News) illustrates the dire condition of much of our housing stock. The government’s own figures show more than 900,000 homes affected by some form of dampness and more than half of these have condensation and mould. This requires concerted action and funding from government. Latest figures show that in England more than 600,000 occupied rented homes have a problem with dampness (177,000 in the social rented sector – housing associations and councils). Damp homes are also cold homes.

Tenants can be trapped in unhealthy housing because of a lack of local council environmental health officers to enforce the law and lack of public funding and housing lawyers to enable them to take their own legal action. Properly resourced and with political will and organisation, local council EHOs, who do know about dampness, could help reduce demands on the NHS as the result of cold and damp homes.
Dr Stephen Battersby
Surbiton, London

Rooting out abusive officers

Your article “‘It’s systemic’: female police report catalogue of abuse by male officers” (News) presents a police service now seriously infected with abusive attitudes and behaviour. In 2005, the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) published a formal investigation report, The Police Service in England and Wales. One part highlighted a new psychological vetting procedure for police applicants called SEARCH (Selection Entrance Assessment for Recruiting Constables Holistically), which measured a clutch of key competencies including “respect for diversity”. At the time, SEARCH had been applied nationally to about half of the past year’s applicants. A colleague and I from the investigation team had observed and participated in its development over several days and were unexpectedly impressed. After the report, I was responsible for monitoring compliance with its 125 recommendations and found that over the next two years there were no reported cases of discrimination (racism, sexism, homophobia, etc) among officers recruited after 2005, only among those recruited before the new system. In 2007, scrutiny ceased when the CRE was succeeded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which had other priorities.

I suspect that if SEARCH had continued to be applied as rigorously, many bigoted applicants would never have been recruited and some victims of police violence might be alive today.
Philip Pavey
Epsom, Surrey

Gallic flair

Nigel Slater writes: “Coarsely grate the potatoes using a matchstick size setting, as if you are making celeriac remoulade” (“Eats roots and beans”, Observer Food Monthly). Oui, monsieur.
Paul Romney
Baltimore, Maryland