Quite a hellish timeBy Ben
PHOTOGRAPH by Sharon Kilgannon, Alonglines.com
I just followed the given NHS pathway back then; fifteen years ago now. I hadn’t really thought about the lower surgery. I just knew that I wanted to get rid of my chest.
A lot of guys missed having a penis. I never really felt like that. I just thought, “Get rid of these disgusting things and if you don’t, I’ll cut them off myself”. It wasn’t a very common operation back then; I had to wait six years between starting the hormones and having the actual chest surgery. That
was quite a hellish time, because I was getting the facial hair, the voice was dropping, I was getting the body hair, I’d changed my name and people were reading me as a guy, but I was still having to strap the chest down. It was just very, very uncomfortable and restricted me, both physically and mentally, in everything I did.
One of the nurses told me when you first start on hormones you become ten times more horny than most cisgendered guys. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but that’s the way I felt. I did get very angry and had a lot of pent up aggression when I first went onto the testosterone. It was fantastic once I got into my long-term relationship though, being so horny, it was amazing. I didn’t realise quite how big the mood swings would be though. I wish someone had told me that. A year or so after that, I started looking into having the radial artery forearm flap phalloplasty surgery. I had the first operation, here in the UK, in 2008. I’ve had a lot of problems, both with the surgery and infections. I didn’t feel things were explained or done properly.
I now always say to anyone who’s planning on having the phalloplasty surgery; do as much research as you can. The best thing to do is talk to people who’ve actually had it done already. I’ve had fourteen operations now, over the last five years, and as I said, it’s still not finished. It takes an overwhelmingly massive toll on you, and on all those closest to you; not only your physical health, but equally on your mental health too. It’s caused a lot of extremely bad depression and resentment. I feel like my life’s being held back.
This is Ben's testimony in Chapter Five (Surgery, hormones, waiting, National Health Service, going private, legalities) of the ground-breaking Brighton Trans*formed book. Note that Ben is an actor and is shown here in his role as Tommy Gnosis in Hedwig & The Angry Inch (New Venture Theatre).
To read more intimate, heart-breaking and heart-warming stories from transgender people, click here.
This page was amended on 18/12/2014