Dr Peter Walker said in the year leading up to his retirement he approached every plastic surgeon in New Zealand, asking if they were interested in adopting the specialism.
“It is a very complex surgery and no one wanted to take it up,” says Walker, who, in his mid-70s, continues to lobby the government for his replacement.
“People didn’t have the time, or the inclination, I don’t know. But it is fascinating surgery and fascinating patients – work that truly changes lives.”
The New Zealand government funds three male-to-female surgeries and one male-to-female every two years.
Since Walker’s retirement, the waiting list for state-funded surgery has risen to more than 70, and members of the trans community say they are “desperate” and “frustrated” by the situation.
Among 5 million people. So an incidence of under 1 in a million. Around and about the same as the incidence of being struck dead by lightning in any one year.
Of course, human rights are human rights, not affected by incidence at all. The odds of being wrongly convicted of murder and then executed are rather lower than that but executing an innocent would still be the most terrible violation of said human rights. But incidence does give us at least the first inklings of how important a problem actually is.
The wish to be sculpted into a simulacrum of another sex seems to be pretty rare.