How my wife changed people’s lives

Physiotherapist Terry Reed OBE was a leading transgender activist in the UK, writes husband Bernard Reed OBE

Terry and Bernard Reed
Terry and Bernard Reed, who were made OBEs in 2010 in recognition of their services to GIRES

My wife died of metastatic breast cancer at our home on 20 June 2021, aged 80. A year on, I reflect on the influence she had and her enduring legacy.

Terry was the physiotherapy student of outstanding merit at Queen Mary’s Hospital in London, graduating in 1961. She went on to obtain a first-class honours degree in history, served for 22 years as a magistrate, and for 18 years as a Samaritan volunteer. 

We had four children – one was brutally harassed at work for being transgender. We helped her to win a landmark sex discrimination case in 1997. This spurred us on, with a group of transgender activists, to establish the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) to prevent others suffering as our daughter had.

Our daughter’s experience made Terry a passionate activist. She co-authored articles on gender identity in peer-reviewed journals, including The Lancet and the International Journal of Transgenderism. The Lancet quoted her on its front cover:

‘The only valid route to understanding a person’s gender identity is to listen to them. Whatever our scientific understandings, the needs of transgender people should be met on the basis of universally recognised human rights.’

Terry had many influential roles. She was a member of the parliamentary forum on gender identity, served on a Royal College of Psychiatrists committee that wrote guidelines for treating gender dysphoria, and she was on the NHS England clinical reference group that developed the specifications for gender identity services for adults. She also contributed to prison guidance for caring for detained transgender people.

We were both members of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) and spoke at conferences internationally. I recall another mother of a young transgender woman saying:

Terry gave the most heart-breaking and inspiring speech we have ever listened to.

Terry’s legacy is one of kindness, helping gender diverse people both directly and indirectly. She endeavoured to empower individuals to discover their authentic voice, and our charity continues her aim to substantially improve the environment in which gender diverse people live. 

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