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Opinion

Transition surgery: Affirmation in a time of uncertainty

While COVID-19 ravages the globe, I lie in my hospital bed – for reasons you might least expect.

I am transgender, and decided to have an affirmation procedure, finally being able to afford it after years of planning, bureaucratic gymnastics, and budgeting.

I have undergone one of the most important milestones of my life, in some of the most uncertain circumstances, especially regarding public health.

What I am certain of is that I have made the right decision for myself.

However, many are currently unable to, and not only due to the expense.

The Australian government has just indefinitely postponed elective surgeries, including affirmation surgeries.

‘Defining myself on my own terms’

I had prepared for that dreaded cancellation message – and packed an overnight bag for the psychiatric hospital.

These surgeries, which many transgender people require to treat dysphoria and other illnesses, are literally lifesaving.

Those who have had procedures postponed are in an incredibly difficult headspace, and I feel their grief viscerally.

My reconstructive affirmation procedure removed breast tissue and masculinised the contour of my body, treating dysphoria and sculpting me an expensive torso.

This is commonly known as ‘top surgery’, which many transmasculine and gender diverse people undergo.

The language we use is imperative to accurate representation of transgender and gender diverse people.

Older terms like ‘sex change’ and ‘gender reassignment surgery’ have been denounced as inaccurate and even offensive, giving way to more informed terminology such as ‘affirmation surgery’.

It is also important to understand that not all transgender and gender diverse people experience dysphoria and not all of us will undergo surgeries, or decide to take hormones for that matter.

We have the right to express ourselves on our own terms.

Photo: Isobel Dew.

My decision to undergo transition was simply about defining myself on my own terms; everyone, transgender or not, should do this.

For me, this included surgery, hormone treatment, and less monumental decisions like updating my wardrobe and getting connected with my community.

‘Language and visibility are not enough’

When I woke up from surgery, I first noticed pain.

Since then, I have felt serene, without dysphoria.

I am free of it, as far as I know.

This process has been, and continues to be, integral to my wellbeing and I look forward to publicly funded procedures for those who need them.

However, this is not the only important factor in transgender wellbeing.

With Transgender Day of Visibility approaching on 31 March, language and visibility are not enough to support people who are unfairly marginalised, even within the LGBTQIA+ community itself.

We have been dehumanised by regressive politics and ravenous journalists, and treated unjustly in public life and at the mercy of the law.

I have the luxury of living in my family home, with my parents taking care of me.

The community crowdfunded my recovery expenses when my previous workplace would not afford me paid leave.

While I have since been made redundant, I am blessed to rest and envision my ideal career.

I get to join in on the quarantine livestreams, and have already finished Season 1 of Everything’s Gonna Be Okay by Josh Thomas, creator of Please Like Me.

I could get used to the house husband life… minus the husband.

I have been affirmed in an uncertain time, and for that I am grateful.

If you are needing support, including with gender issues or coping during the pandemic, please refer to our list of Australian services and resources.

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