Delays in gender affirming surgeries - Matthew's story
“My confidence has disappeared”: the reality of dealing with delays to gender affirming surgeries
Posted on 19 July 2023
With many trans men facing unspecified waiting times for gender affirming surgeries, our client, who we have called Matthew, explains the physical, emotional and mental suffering the delays have caused.
“After a decade of constant fighting to get provision to surgically transition, including funding my own top surgery, I was finally given Stage 1 metoidioplasty surgery in August 2020. I was led to believe that I would be given Stage 2, which would include hysterectomy and oophorectomy, around a year later (I was told that stages should be three to six months apart, but the delay was to be expected because of current lack of trans healthcare on the NHS).
“A year later, I came to understand through anecdotal information on Facebook, that St Peters’ contract had expired in April 2020 and there was no provision for any lower surgery in the UK. This was absolutely devastating for my mental health. Scant information or updates were given to affected patients, and I feared that provision might never be restored, and I might be stuck with an incomplete surgery indefinitely.
“Despite my many emails to healthcare providers, I was passed around between them and never given a clear answer. I asked repeatedly for mental healthcare to help me through this situation that has destroyed my mental health but was told that there was no provision for this and instead repeatedly directed to The Samaritans. I accessed my own mental healthcare privately, which has cost me thousands of pounds and is ongoing.
“When lower surgery provision was restored, I was then told that I must now have hysterectomy and oophorectomy as a separate operation from Stage 2. No matter how much I questioned this and stated that I had not consented to it, I was told that I couldn’t have Stage 2 of my procedure unless I first had this separate operation, which I have now had, having been given no choice in the matter.
“I have now been living for three years with an incomplete penis reconstruction. This continues to have vast negative impact on my mental health. My confidence has disappeared, I haven’t been able to socialise like I used to, travel, or gain new employment. I find it hard to trust people now. I have been hugely affected by stress which has resulted in other knock-on health issues such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, hair loss and suicidal ideation.
“I am also suffering physical discomfort from the incomplete surgery, notably constant irritation, chapped skin and loss of sensation on the tip of my penis from the skin graft being exposed for much longer than it should be. If I had known at the time of consenting to Stage 1 surgery that this would be the outcome, I would have waited until a later date to commence my lower surgery, as I understand that this is now being done as a single stage in Chelsea and Westminster hospital, but only for those who have not yet had any stages.
“The knowledge that one operation is now possible, compared to the four operations I am now forced to have over the course of three years and counting, has completely devastated me, and I am having to have regular therapy to cope with this. Aside from the physical strain of four procedures versus three or even one, each procedure sees me having to fund travel and accommodation in London and months off work to recuperate, resulting in major loss of earnings as well as physical, emotional and mental suffering. All of this, in the current climate of widespread hostility and transphobia in the UK, is unbearable.”