Documentary reveals how Highland doctor offered hope to transgender group
Get the Ross-shire Journal sent to your inbox every week and swipe through an exact replica of the day's newspaper
The untold story of a road trip by a group of transgender people seeking help from a sympathetic doctor in Inverness in the 1970s is set to be revealed in a film documentary.
Inverness or Bust will highlight an important chapter in the UK’s LGBT history by retracing the long journey made 45 years ago.
The venture is being developed by UK non-profit award-winning film project My Genderation which has launched a £50,000 crowdfunding campaign for the documentary.
The production team will take a trip down memory lane with some of the original members of the group, now aged in their 70s, who will share their remarkable stories and reflect on the journey to meet Dr Martin Whittet, the physician superintendent of what was then Craig Dunain Mental Hospital.
The group, numbering about 12, came from different parts of the UK and travelled to the Highlands in two cars.
Dr Whittet was the only doctor willing to talk to them about medical treatment but he faced a huge amount of opposition within the hospital.
Stephen Whittle, one of the group members from the Manchester area, reflects in a trailer for the project: “He treated us like ordinary people.”
Carol Steele, another of the original group from south-west England, observes at the time of the journey the word transgender had not been coined and also recalls the stigma and prejudices: “My father turned round to my mother and said perverts like that should be locked in the loony bin and the keys thrown away.”
Another group member, Nemo, describes being given aversion therapy which involved being strapped down on a stretcher and having electrodes attached.
The film will also reflect on how far the transgender community has come, what has changed and what still needs to change.
My Genderation has produced more than 100 films, including My Trans Story for Channel 4 and New Genderation for the BBC.
Co-founder Fox Fisher said preserving transgender history was more important than ever as the stories were rarely told and kept.
“This year marks 45 years since that faithful journey, and the original members of the group are mostly 70-plus with some of them having already passed away,” Fox said.
“We want to honour their memory and by taking the trip once again, allowing different generations of transgender people to connect and share their stories.”
Fox’s partner Icelandic-born Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir – otherwise known as Owl – is a director and executive producer for the project and explained that the group of people who made the journey 45 years ago had met each other through various networks.
“They were really desperate to find a doctor to help them,” Ugla said.
“It was just a trip. They were not sure whether it would come to anything but they hoped he would speak to them.
“It was all very secret. A lot of people were not even ‘out’ at the time.
“Dr Whittet was known in the area as being quite forward-thinking and the head of a mental hospital.
“He was one of those doctors who really pressed for change.”
Anyone wanting to donate to the project can do so here