The scarlet lipstick was the first thing that stood out. It continues to baffle Teresa Steele today.
‘I was transfixed by it because it seemed newly applied,’ she explains.
‘You know when you have bright red lipstick with a very clearly defined edge? It doesn’t last. It has to be reapplied. This lipstick looked as if it had just been done.
‘With the rest of the heavy make-up — and there was a lot of eye make-up, too — and the blonde wig, my first thought was that this was a patient who had got lost. It was about 6.30pm, so I remember thinking specifically that it was a patient leaving, on their way to a night out.’
This was not a patient. The person who had knocked on the door and simultaneously entered the hospital treatment room where Teresa had been undergoing pre-operation assessments, including intimate swabs, was a nurse — but not a nurse who had anything to do with Teresa’s care.
‘The whole situation was just peculiar, most unnatural. The nurse who was already in the room with me indicated that the room was occupied. There was a brief exchange.
‘I don’t know what exactly was said, but instead of just backing out or saying “Oh, sorry”, as you’d expect, the person lingered and made eye contact, which again I found odd and disconcerting.
‘As soon as he had started to speak, though, it had confirmed my first thoughts — that it was a man.’
Actually, the nurse was a trans woman, but already at this early point in our interview — an interview about how potentially dangerous it can be when trans rights clash with women’s rights in a hospital setting — we get into trouble with language.
‘I won’t say “she”,’ insists Teresa, when we get into the inevitable tangle about pronouns.
‘I won’t buy into this language. Obviously if I were speaking to this person directly, I would observe courtesy by using their chosen name. But in certain contexts, I reserve the right to call him a man, because he is a man.
‘I believe — and I know it is now seen as controversial, but it is biological fact — that even if a man has surgery (and the majority do not; they keep their penises) it does not make them a woman.
‘One of the reasons this issue has become so contentious is that people are totally confused by the language of gender ideology and are afraid to just state facts they already know.’
We shall return to Teresa’s views on this, but to go back to less controversial ground for a moment, the indisputable facts of this complex, but important, story are as follows.
Former solicitor Teresa this week claimed she almost died when the private hospital involved in her care, The Princess Grace Hospital in London, cancelled an essential operation because, after the incident with the nurse entering her room, she had demanded same-sex care — a right enshrined by law. ‘I am interested in the law in this area,’ she stresses.
The hospital originally accused Teresa of discrimination against the nurse — although it has since apologised for this, admitting that what happened was a breach of her privacy.
Yet as a ‘punishment’ for her gender-critical views — or, as Teresa puts it, “my disbelief in gender ideology” — she faced the ultimate cancellation when her operation was scrapped last October.
‘Which is a huge deal in a hospital,’ she points out. ‘Two leading surgeons, and their teams, were stood down. It was done at such a late stage that another team — of robotic experts, in a different location — turned up, only to be turned away.
‘A high-dependency ward space, robotic suite and open-surgery suite were left lying empty. I dread to think of the costs involved.’
The non-financial costs could have been incalculable, too.