James, a deeply feeling man who began his working life as an auxiliary psychiatric nurse, shakes his head.
Many of the younger people who present at gender clinics have a history of mental health issues such as self-harming, social anxiety, eating disorders and so on. They see transitioning as their panacea.’
In addition, James says that the proportion of people attending gender clinics who are on the autistic spectrum is approximately six times higher than the general population.
‘The activist line is, 'Oh that’s because they’re trans so if they weren’t discriminated against and could just be themselves and transition they wouldn’t have mental health issues.’ That’s far too simplistic. I wanted to try to find the truth.’
In November 2015, James submitted his first proposed Masters Research title, 'An examination of the experiences of people who have undergone reverse gender reassignment surgery’, which was accepted.
'I had some people contacting me who said, 'Yes we’ve reversed our gender reassignment, but we’re so traumatised we don’t want to talk about it.’ It made me realise how very important the research is.
'Then a group of young women in the U.S. contacted me. They’d transitioned from female to male, had double mastectomies, then re-transitioned back to female.
'They’d stopped the hormone treatment that had been suppressing their menstrual cycles, but didn’t want reconstructive surgery to rebuild their breasts.
'I wanted to include them in my research, particularly as some of the women said they thought their original decision to transition to male had come from social and political pressure, not for psychological reasons.’
He submitted a revised title in October 2016: 'An examination of the experience of people who have undergone Gender Reassignment Procedure and/or have reversed a gender transition.’
James accepted the research might not be 'politically correct’, but felt it was important.
The next month the university rejected his proposal on the basis that 'the posting of unpleasant material on blogs or social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the University’.
'All I wanted to do with my research was listen to what people were saying and report it,’ James says.
'Society is changing so rapidly that a lot of people feel uncertain of their place in it and they’re looking for something. The fact is, the idea of trans identities is now being brought into the classroom and is all over the internet.
'I really think it’s good people who have transitioned have rights and they’re legally recognised in their gender. People fought for years for that and it’s very important.
'Some people need to transition and benefit from it. It’s a complex field, which is why we need to be able to have a healthy discussion about it and not feel afraid to do so.
This has all become a kind of Kafkaesque weird tangle. Somebody needs to call it out.’