Well I wasn’t going to write anything today. I wasn’t going to discuss myself or my journey really. However, I saw this on my facebook and decided that my power is in sharing my story. Today I went and talked to a cosmetic surgeon about having a double mastectomy, or top surgery. Not every trans person wants medication interventions such as hormone therapy or surgery, and not every trans person wants the same intervention. But for me, my breasts have been a part of my dysphoria since I hit puberty (though I may not have been able to articulate that until much more recently). I developed early and fast and was a big chested teenager. My chest attracted attention most places I went. On a fancy dress night out for my 21st birthday I dressed as Wallace from Wallace and Gromit (yes cords and slippers too!) and despite wearing nothing revealing I was groped multiple times in a university club. **I do not in any way suggest that the clothing of a person invites abuse or makes it acceptable** I have been followed whilst walking home and had to hide in a 24hr Macdonalds. I have had men shout lewd and disgusting comments as I run. I have received unwanted sexual messages from male colleagues. I hated my chest and, for all those years, I hated it because of the attention it drew.
When I began to find words to describe my gender, when I found the confidence to begin to bind my chest, I realised it wasn’t the attention I hated. But the object of the attention. I hate my chest. I have had thoughts of harming myself, I have fantasised about removing them myself, and now here I am with the possibility of making that a reality.
The problem is this though. In the UK, as in most other countries, it is not as easy as saying “HEY, I don’t identify with the gender doctors assigned me at birth” and getting the intervention you want. No. You have to go to a GP and cross your fingers that they will take you seriously and refer you to a gender clinic. Then, you are put on a waiting list. My local GIC (Gender Identity Clinic) now has a waiting list of 4 years…4 YEARS….for an initial appointment. Tell me, what other medical condition would you be expected to wait that long to see a health professional? None. So there I am, on the waiting list….(I requested to be referred elsewhere with a shorter waiting list in the end)…and finally I have an initial appointment. This. Is. Terrifying. As a trans person, you are expected to go to this appointment, be asked probing and personal questions about topics such as sex, masturbation, genitals, body image, mental health, self harming, child hood trauma etc etc etc…and then it is once again a moment of cross your fingers and hope the Doctor agrees with you that you are suffering from Gender Dysphoria. Luckily for me, the doctor diagnosed me. I know one trans guy who had the doctor at his first appointment tell him that he wasn’t displaying the signs of transsexualism. (What even are they??).
So now, I’m waiting for a second appointment. Because as a trans person you need 2 qualified doctors to agree with what you know to be true (you are trans) and then you can start interventions. For me, this will be surgery. Top surgery. I wont be able to have hormones for other health reasons. But not I am in limbo, waiting for my second appointment to see whether the NHS will offer me the surgery I need. It is not a “cosmetic” procedure. For many trans people these surgeries are necessary. Unfortunately the waiting lists are long, the hoops to jump through are extensive, and many don’t make it to the goal. If I am not trans enough, I will not get help. If I had cancer, and the same process was implemented, there would be uproar, petitions, government lobbying….Have you ever seen a petition about trans healthcare services? I doubt it. We are expected to get on with it, to wait or seek private options.
And that brings me back to today. I went to see a private cosmetic surgeon about top surgery because I cannot be sure that the NHS will offer me the surgery. Because I am non binary and I might not be trans enough. Because the waiting lists are literally life threatening…because we are invisible and our fight is not seen.
REMEBER: Your silence contributes to someone else’s struggle. Speak, so we can all be free. Love so we can all be liberated. The moment is now. We need YOU.