My experience as a young trans person in Ireland

While Luke shares the struggle facing many trans people in Ireland today, he also celebrates the support and resilience he has witnessed.

Written by Luke O'Brien


Now that we are in pride month I hope that members of the LGBTI+ community and allies get time to enjoy the colourful festivities. Pride is in place to celebrate love, life and resilience. In my opinion, pride is a powerful way of saying that everyone should be able to be themselves unapologetically. As a trans man, I’m writing this article to all LGBTI+ allies about the issues facing transgender people as I see them. In particular, struggles to access adequate healthcare.

People trying to access the National Gender Services in Ireland are subject to extremely long wait times. I personally waited over 3 years to get my first appointment. I have waited almost 6 months for a follow-up appointment and this is not unusual.

According to a recent freedom of information request, the National Gender Services only has the capacity to see about 120 patients a year. There are over 850 people currently on waiting lists, showing demand for the service has soared.

Due to these wait times, it is no wonder that people try to access transgender healthcare via the private route. I am part of a transgender support group, one member of that group accessed transgender healthcare via the NHS because the waits were shorter at the time. He had to foot the bill for flights, accommodation and prescriptions without any assistance.

The right to healthcare at home

Transgender people often go into debt accessing the hormones they need. Due to shockingly long waits in the public system and the astronomically high prices of the private system some transgender people feel forced to self medicate. This is done mainly by buying hormones online, or from other transgender people for self-administration.

A transition is something that nobody should be forced to go through without the oversight of medical professionals. This system where people wait years for an appointment with the National Gender Services doesn’t just need to be improved, it needs to be abolished.

Cisgender people can go through HRT and be prescribed oestrogen or testosterone without rigorous psychiatric evaluations and reams of administration. It is time for transgender adults to be able to discuss their dysphoria with their doctor and get the healthcare that they need from their GP under and informed consent model without all the gatekeeping.

According to a 2013 study by TENI 81% of trans people considered suicide before their transition this fell to 4% after beginning transition. The evidence tells us that transgender healthcare isn’t just life-enhancing in an awful lot of cases it is life-saving. It is really important that more people are aware of this.

Many transgender people need surgeries to relieve their gender dysphoria. These surgeries can cost thousands without even considering travel expenses and time off work needed for postoperative recovery. These are all costs that transgender people are forced to incur without any assistance.

To make matters worse there are only two private surgeons offering top surgery in Ireland for a cost of over 10,000 euro. In Ireland. Hysterectomies/ovariectomies are available on the public system, but require rigorous referrals so people find themselves having to travel to other European countries.

I recently had to undergo surgery for an open wound. Surgery can be daunting as well as both mentally and physically draining. I was lucky to have the support of my friends and family. While in the operating room I wondered how I would feel having to go through this in a different country miles away from friends and family. This is currently the reality for transgender people in Ireland and from my perspective its quite a daunting reality.

After my surgery, I had some complications which can occur with any surgery. My continuous aftercare with my surgeon was vital to my recovery. I fear for other transgender people and probably myself who will have to go through surgeries without such rigorous aftercare. According to an Irish Examiner article, some doctors will refuse to treat complications that occur in these cases.

Pride should highlight the reality for LGBTI+ youth in Ireland

I have painted a rather grim picture of reality for transgender people in Ireland today. A reality that the trans community and its allies know too well. It’s important to underline what needs to change but it’s also important to celebrate the support and resilience of the LGBTI+ community and its allies.

It is now more socially acceptable to come out as trans. Before I turned 16 I had never heard the word transgender. Now I’m in a group for transgender people facilitated by trans people and allies, there are various support groups around the country that people can avail of to make their transition a little bit smoother.

Workplaces and schools are working to become more inclusive and most importantly, organisations such as TENI and spunout are giving transgender young people in Ireland platforms to increase awareness and empathetic understanding among our peers and other members of society.

I hope you all have a happy pride.

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