I’m not too terrible with a sword, but as an author, I mostly try to do those things with my words. My second YA novel is an LGBTQ story about love and music and belonging, and figuring out how to use your voice. And I’m currently working on two titles with transgender protagonists. I talk openly about my experiences as a queer, genderfluid transmasculine guy, wherever and whenever I get the chance. I try to boost other voices struggling to be heard. I teach young people, providing safe, creative spaces for them to express their whole selves. My inbox is always open and my couch is always there for those who need it.
If you need me, I will fight for you. Always.
But right now, I’m staring down an enemy I can’t escape, because that enemy is me. My own body.
I’ve never, ever been comfortable in my own skin. I’d shy away from social situations because I didn’t fit; even around my friends I’d have constant imposter syndrome feels – they couldn’t possibly like me, I didn’t belong, this wasn’t me. Sports were a nightmare. Beaches gave me anxiety attacks. Photographs and mirrors made me physically recoil. Pretty much anything which drew my attention to my body was uncomfortable.
Some of that melted away with the discovery of the words genderfluid and transmasculine. More, with finding a community of people just like me. More still with every step of social transitioning – finding a name and clothes and a place in life that fit. It’s like shrugging off mismatched, ill-fitting armour and replacing it with something made for me. It’s not heavy. It doesn’t pinch. I can breathe.
But some of it’s still there. I didn’t see how deeply uncomfortable I’d been until I tried on my first binder, and I looked nervously into a mirror, and I saw myself. The real me. The me – as clichéd as it sounds – of all my dreams and stories.
Within 10 minutes I’d taken and shared my first selfies in decades, burst into tears, and sent a small, terrified message to my best friend. ‘What if…what if I want surgery?’
I’ve been binding every day from that moment. Honestly, it sucks. It restricts your ribcage, affecting how deeply you can breathe and how freely you can move. It’s hot and sticky even in British summer weather. And it doesn’t compress as much as I’d like. There are risks of injury and screwing up your back and chest. But those moments of confidence, of feeling real are worth it.
Not binding makes me feel physically sick. I don’t want to look at myself or feel my weight and shape as I move, or see how people’s reactions to me subtly change. Often, though, the dysphoria is strong. Binding isn’t enough, even if it were safe. And it turns out I do want surgery. Need surgery. I’m tired of feeling gross and wrong and uncomfortable. I’m tired of fighting this battle, and I want my energy for bigger things.
I’m on a waiting list with the NHS, but still an estimated 19 months away from even a first appointment at the Gender Identity Clinic, with spaced-out assessments and more waiting after that. There’s also the chance that as a nonbinary transperson I’d be refused the treatment path I need, and I’d be back to square one after 2+ years of waiting. And I honestly don’t think I can survive that long.
By going private, I could be done with the assessments and surgery in as little as 9months, and I could pick who I see, minimising the risk of being rejected for treatment as a nonbinary guy.
There’s another part to most codes of chivalry: a knight should despise pecuniary reward. And I feel like – as a guy in a relatively comfortable, privileged position – I should be able to uphold that. But I can’t do this alone. I need your help.
The costs of private appointments at a gender clinic (necessary for a referral to a surgeon) top surgery (double mastectomy), and travel/accommodation costs for surgery are estimated at around £10,000.
I’m saving everything I can, but authors don’t tend to make a lot of money, and other on-going health issues makes working more than I already do impossible.
It’s a lot to ask, I know, and I don’t have much to offer in return except undying gratitude and the promise of my sword should you need one in your corner. Anything at all that you can give – pennies, spreading the word – helps. You being here helps. I’m really glad I’m not alone. Thank you for reading.
*If donations exceed the cost of treatment, I’ll donate the remainder to Mermaids, an organisation which supports transgender youth
- Leigh Bardugo
- Caroline Thompson
- Elizabeth Psyck
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