A FORMER RAF navigator from Denton is set to become the oldest person to have a sex change operation on the NHS.
Ruth Rose, 78, from St Martin’s Crescent, spent most of her life as James and said she had always dreamed of becoming a woman since she was a child.
She explained she hoped her feelings would go away when she got married and had children, but they never did.
Ms Rose said: “You have responsibilities. You can’t just give up and say: ‘Sorry I’m going to become a woman’.
“Life has responsibilities of jobs, family and all the rest of it.”
It wasn’t until she got divorced in 2003 that she realised her dream of living life as a woman could come true.
She said: “It was only then I could consider what I could do with the rest of my life.”
Ms Rose has spent the past three years living life as a woman and changed her name by deed poll.
She explained she had needed very little work from the NHS until just recently when she had one knee and two hip replacements.
She was almost wheelchair bound with rheumatoid arthritis but is now completely cured and back on her feet again.
Ms Rose has been featured across the media this week, where questions were asked about whether it was right that the NHS was paying for her treatment.
She will be 80 when she has the operation at Charing Cross Hospital in October 2013.
Ms Rose said: “Naturally when you’re on Radio 5 Live there are people ringing you up saying why are you spending the NHS’s money?
“I am very empathetic with that point of view. The gender clinic has a budget. If they want to spend their budget in my direction, they will.
“The NHS has spent very little money on me during my life time, apart from my knees and hips.”
She said her sex change operation would cost around £2,000, disputing the figure that had been published elsewhere in the media of £13,500.
Ms Rose added: “Everybody that knows me has been very, very supportive.”
A spokesperson for NHS Sussex said: “Gender re-assignment surgery is considered only after completion of a long and robust process of diagnosis and assessments involving psychiatrists and other clinicians - and after living several years as a woman/man.
“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.
“We cannot and would not want to discriminate on grounds of age.”
The experience of so many journalists showing an interest in her story, has left Ms Rose baffled.
She added: “There are four million transgender people in the world.
“Why the media should think I’m a special one of those beats me completely.”
In 2009, the NHS in England conducted 154 sex change operations.