“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)
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.
* 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.