My experience of life as a transman is one of horrific wait times and uneducated peers. This is my story so far.
My name is Sam Henderson and earlier this month I finally turned 18 years old. I’m born and bred Scottish, which means my ‘trans experience’ is different to most I have read about. I came out to my friends a little over five years ago, and to my family just this past year. I am currently pre-everything, which sucks big time. This means that my transition has only just begun. This summer will be two years since I changed my name legally. It cost me £50 (approx. $66) to have a new birth certificate printed and my records officially changed. I decided to change my name before coming out because I wanted to apply for university under my chosen name. This also gave my family more time to adjust to my name, which to me is more important than pronouns, which has made it easier now that I am out. I applied for university as male, even my accommodation application was sent away as male. This was a big step for me because officially I am male – at least according to my university.
I am on the waiting list to be seen at a specialist Gender Identity Clinic (GIC). I’ve been on this waiting list for nearly two years. I praise the National Health Service (NHS), and I feel so blessed that I do not have to pay for healthcare, as I have multiple conditions that need treating. However, I struggle with the fact that, had I been able to afford private healthcare, I could be celebrating two years on testosterone by now. The law in the UK states that for private transition, you must be over 16 years old, but for NHS treatment you have to be 18. I managed to get on the waiting list in time so that after turning 18, I would only have to wait a few more months to get an initial appointment. I am expected to get an appointment in June this year. The reason that wait times are so long is because gender clinics are so understaffed and their services are getting more and more needed, which I guess is a good thing.
This seemingly everlasting wait is so difficult to cope with. But I have to focus on my future. One day I will be able to get my testosterone prescription and I will be able to have top surgery. I am so lucky that these treatments will be covered by the NHS and I will not have to pay for either of them for the rest of my life. This does not mean that I have no considered going private. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think about it often – if not every day. But I know that I cannot afford it and I will have to wait my turn. But I see content so often online about transmen (and transwomen) who seem to fly through the process. They get their desired treatments and start to see results so quickly that sometimes I am overcome with jealousy. I guess this is something that a lot of trans* people experience. I want to be as far ahead as everyone else – but I know one day I will get there. And to be honest, its pretty exciting having something like that to look forward to.
One of the most striking parts of my transition so far has been the adopted role of educator that has been forced upon me. Now, I’d like to get it on record that I loved educating people about issues they haven’t come across in life. I think its something that most people within the queer community learn to live with. We are constantly asked questions about every aspect of our lives, and eventually we just know how to answer them. For example, I had a friend that I was talking to one day about her ex-boyfriends. She told me that she was stood up by the guy who was sitting across from us. She then proceeded to tell me that she was glad of it because he was so short, and she doesn’t normally ‘go for’ short guys. I told her that I was short for a guy (5”7 to be exact) and I was so surprised at the shock on her face when I explained I wouldn’t get much taller – if any taller at all. I found myself explaining that, although I will effectively be going through puberty.2, I have stopped growing and no amount of T will help that. I have also found myself explaining this as basic as binding to my cisgender friends. This blows my mind because I have been binding for so long that I have forgotten that most people are unfamiliar with the practice!
The conclusion here is simply that not every trans story is the same. The US mainstream story seems to go that after coming out, trans people see specialists (subject to their state’s requirements) and get treatment comparatively quickly. A lot of trans people in the US use crowd-funding to support their transition, which is something I luckily do not have to do. Instead, I face years and years of waiting around, unable to progress any further until I’m at the top of the list. And that’s okay. We are unique, our stories are unique, and I thank you for taking the time to read this brief outline of mine.