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The legal rights of transsexuals will loom large in the courts after applications for judicial review were granted in two separate actions. In one, a 30-year-old man is seeking judicial review of Gloucestershire Health Authority's refusal to provide NHS funding for gender reassignment surgery; in the other, a 26-year-old man is challenging the right of the Ministry of Defence to sack members of the armed forces who have had sex change operations.
Leave for an action over Gloucestershire Health Authority's stance was granted by Mr Justice Tucker. Counsel Stephanie Harrison, on behalf of the man seeking the operation, said it was a "test case" which raised important issues over the rights of health authorities to refuse NHS funding for such treatment.
She said the case involved a woman living a "nightmare" in a man's body.
The applicant has filed affidavits describing the "shame and revulsion" of having to endure life as a man.
When the case is fully heard, the authority will be accused of adopting an irrational and unreasonable blanket policy of refusing sex change operations. It will be claimed the policy breaches the 1976 Sex Discrimination Act and European provisions on equal treatment.
Since 1992, the applicant has undergone NHS treatment, including hormone therapy, electrolysis and speech therapy, and has lived as a woman since 1993. However, when a consultant psychiatrist last year applied to the health authority for funding of the full sex change operation, he was told that because of financial constraints the authority had a policy of not funding surgery for gender identity problems.
It is claimed that continuing treatment would be more cost-effective than stopping it and that the health authority's stance amounts to "inhuman and degrading treatment" contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the other pending case, a transsexual sacked by the RAF has won the right to launch a challenge to his dismissal.
The man is seeking to overturn an MoD ruling that servicemen and women who undergo sex change operations will lose their jobs. He has been granted leave to seek judicial review of the MoD's policy by Mr Justice Buxton.