Lower Surgery Frustrations

“You should be thankful the NHS pay for these surgeries”

“Is it even really necessary surgery?”

“Can’t you just get on with your life?”

Phrases I’ve sadly had to hear while venting to those close to me regarding an issue I have been silently suffering through for some time, until now.

See below letter, I (and many others) received on 13th April 2017 (essentially a year ago)

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I’ve highlighted certain areas such as the lines “we hope this will only be for a short period” and “will be resolved rapidly” – lines which give false hope to someone in my situation.

I have chosen to stay relevantly quiet regarding lower surgery and where I stand with this, however due to these delays I feel a need to vent why this is such a life hindering issue and a failure of care by the NHS.

The choice of lower surgery I am opting for requires three stages as follows;

Stage one = 8-10 weeks recovery

(3 months + later – if no complications/date availability)

Stage two = 6-8 weeks recovery

(3 months + later- if no complications/date availability)

Stage three = 6 weeks recovery

So realistically this surgery will take approximately 1 year+ to complete.

On top of this, I had to delay my initial consultation due to final year of University. Some of you may had seen me exploring London with my dear friend Adam in December 2015 during my Christmas break, this was for my first lower surgery consultation.  During this consultation I was told I needed laser hair removal for the skin graft, after a three month referral wait I got my first session of ten. (One session every three months)

Now again in February 2017 you may have seen myself and Jamie exploring London, for my second consultation, to see how my laser hair removal was progressing. During this appointment I got the go ahead for surgery! (success after around a year of laser hair removal and a six month delay for my initial consultation!)

Only for me to get this letter detailed above. Devastated is not the word, nearly 4 years into my medical transition at this point I had hoped stage one would be on the cards in 2017)

Initially I was hopeful with the positive language used, however now I am beginning to feel like transgender surgeries don’t seem to matter on the NHS (The clinic have also currently stopped all top surgery referrals due to a separate issue, thankfully I’m well past that stage- so I ask, what are they really doing for us?*)

You may ask how not having this surgery affects my life on a daily basis?

Imagine waking every morning and feeling deeply disconnected with one part of your body, feeling different, unattractive and essentially a lesser human being. Now these are all personal issues  (affecting my mental health), but also ones that affect how I go about my day-to-day life.

Male changing rooms? = Scary. A sea of sausages where I’m reminded  1) I don’t have one and 2) why I have to change like I’m a Mormon trying to protect my modesty. Is this due to the fear of being different.. am I scared I’ll be mocked? Beaten up? Raped? Probably all of the above, a fear of the unknown and not an easy issue to live with.

Do I op to simply not use male changes rooms? Funnily enough I want to swim, go to the gym etc like any other normal human being. Why should I deny myself this just because of one medical issue?

Toliets? = Again scary. Aside from the above fears when sitting to pee. Does it sound different to a cis male peeing? Will someone notice? What will happen? This also affects where I can pee. Everyone knows when alcohol is consumed ya’ll gotta pee frequently (break the seal and that) sadly bars and clubs always seem to always have long queues for the cubicles, broken locks and awkward, talkative male toilet attendants. Making my eagerness to attend many of Belfast’s nightlife venues, limited. Due to Kremlin’s gender neutral toilets and an LGBT friendly place where when someone advises to ‘skip the cubicles queue, use the urinals’ (no way!) I can openly reply “I can’t do that I’m transgender” this is the one place I’m happy to go to. However this can create a divide between me and my straight friends who don’t wish to attend Kremlin, every time we go out. Shout out to Alex who doesn’t seem to mind this (too much!) long as he has alcohol.

Never mind the lack of a bulge when swimming, in boxers and my general confidence, it’s safe to say I honestly need this surgery and currently it seems there no hope of a date coming soon.

Once the services finally resume I’ll be added to a waiting list to get a date, and then have to arrange sick leave with work and sort when suits with friends/family to help me recover etc. the whole situation just adds additional stress onto an already necessary yet stressful operation to go through.

So for anyone out there who’s wondering why sometimes I seem distant, agitated, down or a bit off – this is one of the reasons why. After 6 years of transitioning I had hoped I would be further on in my transition, I’m frustrated I have no control over this major area of my life and my patience is wearing thin.

If anyone’s reading this and knows of a law aspect, healthcare aspect or any way to help resolve this stoppage of referrals do get in touch. However, if not, please be patient, understanding and also celebrate with me when you finally do see those stage 1 check-in’s on social media.

Thanks for listening to my venting, it’s greatly appreciated.

Harry

* Although I am truly appreciative that I am privileged enough to live in a country where these operations are covered, I still feel as I am experiencing this and it affects me personally I can vent about this issue. Don’t get me wrong I understand the NHS is under great stress I just feel that no other minority group needing surgery would be left so neglected by the NHS, making me feel that transgender people are seen as second class in the system. Generally contingency planning would be put into place and issues resolved without it affecting patients in such a detrimental way.

 

 

 

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4 Years on Testosterone (with Photos!)

4 Years on Testosterone (with Photos!)

It’s April 2017 and do you know what that marks? This month I reach the point of 4 Years on Testosterone.

So for this blog post I thought I’d take a look back on how these years have developed me into the man I am today. So here’s a quick overview on my progress (with pictures to keep it interesting!) and how it’s shaped me:

Teenage/School Years (2004-2011)

This was a very confusing time for me, high school can be a hard time for anyone, not only did I not relate to my peers but also my own body and emotions. I didn’t have the vocabulary for what I was feeling and ultimately I felt lost.  During this time period I came out as ‘lesbian’ thinking this was the label I was seeking, from this I ended up getting abuse, becoming homeless and feeling more lost than ever before. My grades were failing and with school being school, I believed I was doomed.

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The Realisation (2011-2012)

After spending time in a homeless shelter and then building myself a place to call ‘home’ along with joining a local college. I finally had the freedom to explore my thoughts in a safe environment. And from this I realised (and accepted!) that the issue was my gender and the relationship I had with my own body. Around April 2012 I made the conscious decision to go to my GP and ask for a referral to the Gender Identity Services in Northern Ireland. Little did I know it would then be another year until I could start the HRT process.

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The Wait (2012-2013)

Some of you may or may not know Northern Ireland still views Gender Dysphoria as a Mental Health issue therefore using the Mental Health services. I wasn’t prepared for the 6 month wait to even access an appointment nor the 6 months of psychological assessments to get a prescription for hormones. Honestly, I can say this was the worst part and made me suicidal, I’d spent my entire life hiding who I was and I’d finally said it out loud, I wanted and needed action THEN but was told to wait. Having something out of your mental control then be out of your physical control can only be described as frustrating.

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The Beginning (2013)

In April 2013 I got the go ahead for Testosterone – I quit my job knowing they’d see differences (despite passing as male even though pre-t in that position), I graduated from college that June and then in July I made the move from small town life to the big city of Belfast. This was to give me a fresh start, throw away any of my past and begin again. From there I started a new job, University along with making new friends as ‘Harry’ and began feeling more confident in myself. However I went ‘stealth’ and didn’t disclose my Trans status to anyone I met, hiding from my past ultimately because I was ashamed of this part of me.

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April 2013- April 2014

1 year on T! I’d made it – the first year was more about mental changes than physical but one major physical factor that came with this first year was Top Surgery. In March 2014 I had my pre-op consultation and in April I flew over to Brighton, UK to have Double Incision Top Surgery with Dr Andrew Yelland. Nothing can explain the joy I felt waking up after that operation, to know that I didn’t have to wear a tight, restrictive Binder ever again and after healing could enjoy a more free life. Although slightly distressed by two massive scars across my chest these brought me a new lease of life. After this surgery I religiously looked after my scars, shout out to Adam Moore for washing my hair to aviod any stretching and thanks to my housemates in general who helped with living until I healed. Along with this I applied bio oil and tried to aid recovery as best I could meaning that today my scars are barely visible. This year I also started Placement Year and entering the world as a working professional.

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April 2014-March 2015

2 years on T! – Another year, another disappointment in lack of facial hair. Annoyingly when following others Transitions I wasn’t aware Transguys in America generally have a higher dosage of Testosterone so by this stage I thought I’d be sporting a sexy beard but this was truly not the case. Throughout this year  I began exploring myself more in regards to who I was now the world was seeing me as male. I had kept up being stealth to this point but it still made me think that my gender identity (or journey) was a nasty secret I had to hide. Also within this year I discovered there were more guys like me in the UK and Ireland when I got introduced to online support groups and now I wonder how I ever managed to get through it all without them. On top of this throughout this year I ended a long term relationship which had been less than supportive to me as a person yet I held onto it, fearing that was simply the best ‘love’ I could get.

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April 2015- March 2016

3 years on T! – Finally we can see facial hair (well it’s a start!) I call this the year of development, I realised I didn’t need a relationship to make me happy – only I could do that, I didn’t need another person to tell me I’m a nice person because I am. Great mental improvement happened this year and made me come to terms that my trans history wasn’t shameful but something I could share. At the beginning of 2016 I started talking to my mother again (although this relationship is still tedious), I began writing for a local LGBT magazine in July 2015 which made me come to terms with my life more (I even posed in just my jocks!) and generally things seemed to be improving for auld Harry.

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[Photo Credit to: Brad McClenaghan]

April 2016-March 2017

This was the stretch of 3 Years to almost 4 Years and what a stretch it’s been! So where do I even begin? From attending a Trans Training Residential which resulted in me not only coming to terms with myself and telling ALL my friends in a blog post that I am a transgender man but also finding my other (better looking) half, Jamie O’Herlihy. A transgender woman herself, who teaches me everyday being trans isn’t a downfall in regards to dating, you’re lovable regardless of that. We went ‘public’ and started a YouTube Channel/Facebook page not realising the result it would have. From guiding people questioning their own identity/sexual orientation and educating people to even showing others life is still worth living –  feedback alone shows just by putting our lives on social media we’re helping others. I even made my television debut throughout this year! Admittedly the tacky newspapers/magazines weren’t the best way about it but the work we’re doing from them – LGBT magazine articles, blog posts, videos, replying to every message we get – we’ve started to see we really are helping. I also graduated in this year, started a full time job, my beards slowly but surely growing in and I’ve progressed with the steps to reach bottom surgery.

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April 2017 and 4 years on T!

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[Photo Credit to: Jamie O’Herlihy]

I’M 4 YEARS ON TESTORONE ON THE 29TH OF APRIL THIS YEAR EVERYONE BE EXCITED FOR ME.

Honestly, I’m not that braggy I’m more humbled that the confused, lonely teen at the beginning of this post became the man you see below. Self progression is an incredible thing and the power to turn your own life around can never be underestimated. Thanks to anyone who’s simply read or been a part of this journey, you’ve also made me the man I am today.

 

 

 

Sexism: My Perspective

Sexism: My Perspective

You may say ‘reverse sexism doesn’t exist’ but recently I was in a discussion which really hit home where I am in regards to my transition, and made me think about how I now sit in the world in relation to my gender identity.

Whilst having a mild debate my argument was dismissed using the wording “Actually I don’t need you to mansplain”, despite me never bringing gender into the discussion.

This lead me to googling the correct definition of this phrase; Mansplain: To explain to someone typically a woman in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing.

This definition gives me the imagery of a Neanderthal man, who is more concerned about ‘grabbing girls by the pussy’ and how fast they can down a can of beer. Which, contrary to this person’s belief, I can safely say I am not due to a number of reasons:

  1. My Transition: The person in question knew that I am a trans man, and yet they didn’t take into consideration that this means I have experienced sexism from both sides.  I’ve been both a girl who should ‘know her place’ and a man who apparently ‘hasn’t faced the struggles of a woman so can’t talk’ (Note: from people that didn’t know my gender history) This history means I would never use my position of appearing cis-male to somehow dominate a conversation, or look down on women due to their gender. Yes, there are some transmen who adopt all male privileges and will forget their past, but honestly my life has been a tough journey and it still shapes me to this day so confidence and arrogance are not qualities in my nature. Plus, there are privileges on both ends of the gender spectrum so it’s all a matter of perception.
  2. I’m Ready to Have my Ego Knocked to be an Ally: On numerous occasions I have been asked if I’m not into girls (either gay or asexual) because I refuse to join in with the ‘male banter’ that degrades women in a sexual manner. I actually convinced a colleague in an old workplace I was related to the girl he was saying how much he’d like to ‘stick it in her’ just to get him to stop.  I’ve questioned taxi drivers on ‘women drivers pfft’ comments, essentially anything that degrades a woman’s ability due to her gender I WILL and HAVE questioned.
  3.  I Don’t Walk the Average Male Life Walk: How I picture it, someone who ‘mansplains’ hasn’t a care regarding his identity, he is a ‘jack the lad’ type and saunters on this earth without a care in the world. I on the other hand, still do not yet feel 100% male. Dating for me was a nightmare (thankfully now I’m with a beautiful and understanding girl)  and using male public bathrooms currently is an anxiety ridden experience of limited cubicles and broken locks. Not to mention adjusting outfits that show off my ‘hips’ or are too snug around the crotch, stretching to try and look as tall and broad as my cis-male friends or simply not having the male strength I should have been born with. All these insecurities mean that AS IF I am going to look down on someone due to being female. When women are strong, ambitious and brave figures, and I’ve my own issues anyone could look down on me for.

This list could go on but what is more concerning is this one word made me realise people can so easily erase my identity of being from the LGBT community and therefore being an accepting, understanding person. They lumped me in with generic cis men who haven’t faced any gender struggles and it left me feeling somewhat – empty.

This is a feeling I had during my stealth* years and one of the main reasons why I decided to ‘come out’ and reveal my trans status. So having someone from my own community (this person was from the trans community although not on a stereotypical binary transition**) making me feel the discomforts I felt during this time period and why I revoked my cis male passing privileges just seemed rather cruel and uncomfortable. Though this specific trans group seems rather notorious for chipping at peoples insecurities, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Which honestly is sad since as a community we should learn to support each other and think before we speak, rather than be angry at those who have adopted binary norms so meet their own self identity and therefore attack them for making this honest decision.

However, what I want to use this blog post to point out most is that fact that dismissive gendered phrases like ‘mansplain’ needs to be thrown out with phrases similar to ‘like a girl’ or those that refer to a woman being only capable of making food. Unless, a person is openly being like a male chauvinistic pig then fine, work away, but if they are simply a man and making a point, consider what they are saying before displaying sexism towards them.

As much as we are fighting to show the LGBT rainbow is made up of a wide spectrum of people, not just camp men and butch lesbians, society in general are exactly the same. We need to not place the same limitations on others as we don’t want on ourselves and realise that as humans, male, female, or otherwise, people come in all shapes, forms and opinions and therefore gender and behaviour can no longer be linked so easily together. Women are no longer seen and not heard, while men are no longer self entitled beings and this needs to be acknowledged by all people.

Your comment of linking my gender to my discussion is only adding to societies issue which feeds the differences between male and female rather than saying we all are simply human.

Over and out.

Harry

*Stealth = Living as if you were born male and hiding your trans identity therefore adopting cis passing privileges

**Stereotypical binary transition = binary refers to the two end of the spectrums; male or female. So a typical binary transition would be male to female or female to male. However, trans is an umbrella term meaning anyone who does not relate to their assigned at birth gender, and this person is a member of that spectrum.