East Sussex pensioner to have sex change op

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Media captionRuth Rose, from Newhaven, started living as a woman six years ago

A 78-year-old from East Sussex is set to become the oldest person to have a sex change operation on the NHS.

Ruth Rose, from Newhaven, has spent most of her life as James, a former RAF navigator, and said she has dreamed of being female since she was a child.

Ms Rose has been living as a woman for about three years, and has changed her name by deed poll.

She said her ex-wife and children had not reacted well to the news and it had been difficult for her family.

She said: "They are critical of it and would rather it hadn't happened. It concerns them.

"Naturally children like to feel that they have a dad and he's still there - well I'm still there, but it's not dad any more."

A spokeswoman from East Sussex Downs and Weald Primary Care Trust said gender reassignment surgery would only be considered after "completion of a long and robust process of diagnosis and assessments involving psychiatrists and other clinicians".

She added: "As in the case of all operations, this procedure is to meet clinical needs and would be carried out only if the patient is deemed fit enough.

Image caption James Rose worked as an engineer and RAF navigator

"We cannot and would not want to discriminate on grounds of age."

Ms Rose said the surgeons told her it was not a difficult operation, and she would heal very quickly.

"I've converted myself over to living as a female completely, and what it [the surgery] is going to do is to remove a few awkward bits and allow me to develop something of a different shape which is more in keeping with the person I am."

She hopes to have the operation at Charing Cross Hospital in London in October 2013, when she will be 80 years old.

She said: "The operation is purely a tidying up arrangement. The true work is what I've done already. I have taken my life into a female gender completely."

Ms Rose said that jobs and responsibilities meant that she had not even considered gender reassignment until she was in her 40s.

"It posed a lot of problems before I was able to say: 'Yes this is definitely it' to a point where there is no going back.

"I have had no negative reactions, no-one being dismissive," she said.

In 2009, the NHS in England conducted 154 sex change operations and Ms Rose said hers will cost about £2,000.

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