en English

In this episode of the GenderGP podcast Fionn Collins (he/him), a trans man working for the student union at Technological University Dublin, talks to Marianne about having a second top surgery, following unsatisfactory results from the first. He shares his advice and feedback for anyone considering top surgery for themselves, and candidly discusses what he wished he’d known beforehand.

If you have been affected by any of the topics discussed in our podcast, and would like to get in touch, please contact us via the Help Centre. You can also contact us on social media where you will find us at @GenderGP on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

We are always happy to accept ideas for future shows, so if there is something in particular you would like us to discuss, or a specific guest you would love to hear from, let us know. Your feedback is really important to us. If you could take a minute or two to leave us a review and rating for the podcast on your favourite podcast app, it will help others to discover us.

 

Links:

GenderGP Podcast – Top surgery for trans guys

GenderGP Podcast – Top Surgery: what to ask, with Ioannis Ntanos

Gay Ireland News – Irish trans activist opens up about life-changing journey abroad for top surgery

Follow Fionn on Twitter: @urnofionn

 

We can provide top surgery referrals

 

The GenderGP Podcast

Top Surgery: Getting it right

 

Hello, this is Dr. Helen. Webberley welcome to our Gender GP Podcast, where we will be discussing some of the issues affecting the trans and nonbinary community in the world today, together with my co-host Marianne Oakes, a trans woman herself, and our head of therapy.

 

Marianne Oakes:
Good Afternoon and welcome to the Gender GP podcast. Today I’ve got Fionn with me, who is somebody that Helen Webberley had spotted on Twitter and had been talking about top surgery I’m assuming, but I’m not going to make any presumptions here. So I’m going to hand over to Fionn just to introduce themselves and just tell us a little bit about their journey and how they ended up having top surgery. Over to Fionn.

Fionn Collins:
Hiya my name is Fionn, I’m 24. I’m from Dublin, Ireland. And yeah, so I recently just had revision top surgery in Poland with Dr. Lembas in February, obviously during COVID times. But yeah, I had my first kind of top surgery in September, 2019, but I’m out as FTM or a trans man, whatever, I’m pretty chill and my pronouns are he him since 2017. So I’ve had not only one, but I’ve had two top surgeries. Yeah, I suppose we can get a little bit into it if you’d like.

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah. So, interestingly enough you, you made the point that I’ve seen that you went to Poland and it was in COVID times. So I’m assuming that that in and of itself posed some difficulties.

Fionn Collins:
It was definitely difficult enough, you know, to you’re traveling to get like surgery abroad in itself. It’s already difficult. It was extremely, extremely hard because of COVID and I’m not sure you’re aware, but in Ireland we’re currently on our longest lockdown it’s level five. So that means, you know, like no, un- essential travel, you know, not allowed to pass five kilometers, you know, everything like that. So it is quite difficult and we have to get for Poland, they have a requirement to have a negative COVID test. So obviously before you have to get your negative COVID test and you fly, and then you have negative COVID test when you get surgery. And then before you come home again, you need another one. So you already need three negative COVID tests. And the thing is, it’s extremely difficult to get them publicly. You have to go privately as well, because if you get public, when you need symptoms. They are not going to let anybody fly with symptoms. So you’ve got a weird kind of loophole there. Or if you just have to go private, which is a hundred euro per COVID test, then on top of that as well, you’ve got, you know, the masks and maintaining social distancing, and you want to do all that on the flight. But again, during COVID times, you’d think there’d be social distancing, but unfortunately there wasn’t on the flight, so I was even more terrified because there’s no social distancing on my flight. And then trying to kind of isolate the two weeks before. And then when you’re there isolating then coming home and isolating, you know, it was pretty, pretty tough process. I mean, when I had my first surgery in September, 2019 in London, like tree days after surgery, I could go to the shop if I wanted to, but I was literally stuck for a good month and a half just [inaudible]. My friend, Noah helped and I’m grateful for it, but it was really difficult because it was just the two of us then as well, they are grateful that we didn’t fight each other, but, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s tough. It’s tough going on your mental health. And it was kind of grateful that I could, a I got the all clear of all the negative tests as well.

Marianne Oakes:
Basically. It just added another layer of complexity. And actually I’m just, as you were talking and all I could think about was as if undergoing surgery, isn’t psychologically tough enough, to add all that insecurity. I mean, what if you had tested positive and –

Fionn Collins:
I would’ve lost my deposit. I would have been in Poland for then a week and a half nearly, two weeks just sitting there, like there would have been nothing I could do, just sitting there going we should should be getting surgery, but instead I’m sitting there eating, I don’t even know pierogi what they eat in Poland, which is like a Polish kind of like dumpling. Let me sit there just eating those for two weeks.

Marianne Oakes:
I was going to ask, because I don’t want to ignore the fact that you’ve had two sessions, the top surgery, what’s the situation there.

Fionn Collins:
It’s a bit of a rare situation. You’ve probably heard of lads, big non binary people or whoever who wants to get top surgery, get in kind of like a little revision. It’s actually quite common. So maybe they have like a little bit of skin they want off or they see an area they just wanted to like slightly fix it. And I’ve heard of some people getting revisions, but for me, I needed a whole new surgery again, because my first surgeon, I won’t name them, but they’re a surgeon in London in 2019 and basically left some breast tissue and a lot of skin leftover. So now my chest was quite large beforehand. I couldn’t tell you the size because I don’t know, but he did take off altogether two kg off my chest. And when I went to, to get surgery with Dr. Lembas in Poland, he took another kg because there was that much, another kg yeah. So my chest altogether was three, like three kg off my chest, but he still had to take another kg off, which was very disappointing because, you know, I had anticipated the surgery for as long as I could remember, even when I was younger, when I didn’t understand that I was trans, I knew that I was uncomfortable with my chest and then waiting for so long to finally get it and to not be happy with the results, it was, it actually took a very big toll on my mental health, because I was like, oh I did fundraisers. I told everybody, I work at a student’s union as well, so like everybody was anticipating my kind of return to see the results. And I just wasn’t happy, you know? And it was very disappointing for me because I had, like I said I had waited for so long, but now I can kind of say, I am a lot happier with my results since the extra kind of kg of breast tissue and skin has been taken off. And for people who were wondering how I knew breast tissue and Dr. Lembas requires an ultrasound beforehand, they could see, I see my breast tissue in my chest. So

Marianne Oakes:
I’m assuming then you, you hadn’t had a, an ultrasound before the first chest surgery.

Fionn Collins:
No I did not, no.

New Speaker:
Do you know? The question that comes into my mind is how did you choose the surgeon the first time?

Fionn Collins:
Again, in the trans community, in the transmasculine community? Anyway, it’s like the surgeon is well-known in the community. So not only did, you know, popularity kind of sparked my interest because, you know, if he’s amazing results, I had a lot of friends who’d had gone to this surgeon. They trusted him. And I trust, I trust my friends. People are always saying, oh, do you blame your friends for like referring you? And no, I don’t blame them. Everyone’s bodies are different as well, like size wise and you know, whatever, like, you know, it is what it is and I’ve accepted that. So I’m at the other end. And then when it came to this surgeon, Lembas again a friend of mine who actually went with me, Noah. He went to Lembas and recommended him that way. Because again, I’d seen the results of guys who had a lot larger chests, and he was the only kind of one who would help, you know, I emailed a few different ones, but he was the one who got back to me again, the quickest, I kind of thought it was brilliant.

Marianne Oakes:
The first surgeon you had seen results, and, you know, there are lots of people that have had good results from that surgeon, but whatever happened, something went wrong for you.

Fionn Collins:
So, the surgeon had told me because I was a bit larger, that he couldn’t do the results the way I would prefer. But then he said he would. And then he said, actually, I can do it. And then after he blamed my weight and said, it was because I was a larger guy, and I spoke out about this online, and since I’ve spoken out, I’ve had about, I want to say about 40, 50 people who’ve had top surgery with the surgeon and has said, you know, he said similar things to me, it was my own fault because I was fat and I was overweight and I was extremely hurt because I, I’m not only am I Type 1 diabetic, so like I was active and like regular [inaudible] and stuff, and I wanted to lose weight. Well, I’d lost 50 KG. And then to be told it was my fault cause I was fat I was, you know, and I, I still quit that because that took a toll on my mental health for awhile. And I was like, what’s going on? Like, am I, am I even though I’ve lost all this weight, but then to find out when I got the ultrasound for Lembas, it wasn’t only skin weight, the surgeon had left breast tissue, I didn’t feel so, I didn’t feel so bad anymore.

Marianne Oakes:
At the risk of just challenging you a little bit. I hope you don’t mind, but I’m kind of wondering if the surgeon had said to you originally, look, you’re still, you know, a few kilograms overweight, would you say right, I’ll go away and lose that? I mean, it wasn’t, it wasn’t that you felt you were overweight, but if he’d had said we can get a better outcome, If the conversation had said, if you drop a few more kilograms, your, your outcome’s going to be better. Is it that you weren’t given the choice? Or, did he just kind of want to get you in and do the surgery, I suppose?

Fionn Collins:
Well I suppose I felt in the time I was so pressed because the surgeon had only a very short wait list and he was private and I was excited. I could have been even huger and he could have said that to me, and I would have still said yes, because I did feel a little bit of pressure if I’m going to be honest. But at the same time he told me he could do it. And he told me he could, there might be a little bit, or when I mean a little bit, I wasn’t thinking one kg of extra. I mean, that’s a lot when someone says a little bit, you can think of maybe like a hundred, 200 grams, maybe a little bit of skin, but no, like a kg. I was appalled, to be honest. It’s not only bigger guys who’ve had kind of this issue, like I’ve seen people now since I’ve spoken out, you know, I’ve kind of platformed this, and a lot of people have come to me who are even smaller, I’m giving you ear bunnies here, but smaller and who’ve said, like they’re unhappy and they’ve had similar kind of issues, you know? And then some comments were made as well. But you know, regarding weight, I can’t, I can’t, it’s all, you know, he said, she said at this point, as well isn’t it.

Marianne Oakes:
The truth of the matter is you went out to Poland and got what you needed anyway without –

Fionn Collins:
Yeah. I should have went to Poland in the first place. I wish I copped on, but I didn’t, you know, it was a bit, I think our community is so, you know, like we just want what we want to see ourselves in the mirror, you know? So when we, when someone says to us, I can give you that you believe them well, I do well, I was definitely going to believe that. I mean, I trusted my surgeons,

Marianne Oakes:
I mean, you know, you’re not going to go into surgery if you’re not trusting the surgeon, hey, that’s the truth.

Fionn Collins:
Yeah, exactly. And you said it. Yeah. I mean, it is what it is and I’m extremely happy now. I think I don’t regret it, you know, but my chest is so big beforehand. I don’t regret the first surgery because I didn’t have to bind for like two years, you know?

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah, yeah. It kind of got you so far. It just wasn’t completed that.

Fionn Collins:
Exactly. Yeah, exactly. I mean, I’m quite vocal about what happened. So I mean, yeah,

Marianne Oakes:
I think it’s interesting what you say, you know, the the community, we, we do tend to pressure doctors as well. I think we also have to take some responsibility that, you know, we see at Gender GP people “you give me my hormones I need them now”, you know, because we do get into that desperate state, but managing expectations shouldn’t ever be compromised. And I think that’s why I’ve asked that question, I suppose. To kind of move things forward then, what was the different experience you got from the, the surgeon in Poland?

Fionn Collins:
So I got great, you know, obviously like healthcare wise in Poland, it’s completely different to in Ireland. So in Ireland, like you have to wait, there’s no surgeon here. So, and then like healthcare wise, like I said, I need this, I got it. I need more pain relief, you know, bloods, anything, you know, they were so amazing in regards to like aftercare as well there was brilliant Emails, I could email the surgeon on his work email, but he also gave me his personal email and was like, anything you need, you know, whatever. I had a seroma after I developed one again, just how my body healed. I just developed a seroma and he drained it for me, nobody in Ireland when I came home, obviously with a seroma, the thing is, it’s a build of flu. You need to have a drained.

And when I came home, I had no aftercare. Like I had to go to A&E four times and I was refused twice just because I was trans. And I said, well, I was with someone, had a double mastectomy and they were a woman. And they were like, oh, well, if they’re out of here, it’s fine. I was refused. You know? And then I had a lovely doctor helped me out then in my local kind of hospital. And she said, you know, I’m going to do it. She’s like, oh, it’s not fair. I’m going to do it. But she was told not to. And then she got approval from someone else who said, please just help this guy, you know? And in Poland it was so simple. I got drained like that, two seconds, fine. They were like, yeah, let’s do it. Whereas here I was going through three weeks of trying to get it done once.

Marianne Oakes:
Yes.

Fionn Collins:
I cannot fathom that. And my surgeon couldn’t fathom that, it went to a point where my surgeon actually sent me the needle list and said, if you can buy needles, do it yourself, he was like, this needs to be done. I was so terrified. That’s something I don’t want to do. And no, no trans person should, you know, have to go through that where they have to do stuff like that. And when I told them, of course in A&E I’ll do it myself, then, you know, of course they don’t want to be liable, but the treatment there is absolutely amazing. I’m grateful to my surgeon because if it wasn’t for him fixing the revision, don’t know where I would be actually.

New Speaker:
No. So what you’re saying is the first surgery, it wasn’t what you wanted. It wasn’t the completed job. There were aftercare issues. And even when you went to the hospitals in Ireland, you know, being trans was reinforced that actually you’re not going to get help here.

Fionn Collins:
Yeah. Basically. The aftercare in the, when I got my first surgery know, that was good as well. Like they were always available, but like, I haven’t seen that surgeon since I was like a month post-op and I haven’t heard anything. And that was it. Whereas I’ve heard other people in the UK have had like six weeks post-op six months when they’ve had continuous where I haven’t you know? And I’m like, if they’re concerned, but also I don’t want to speak to the surgeon now because I’m, I’m sorted from Poland, the guys there are amazing. And they keep nearly every week getting emails and stuff.

New Speaker:
Basically what you’re saying is that the service you got, couldn’t be more different. Now that’s the truth. I have to say, because this is my prejudice here, but I hear a lot about Poland and they’ve got some LGBTQ plus issues over there and there’s been a lot said. So I think there’s part of me thinking, going into Poland as a trans woman would be quite terrifying. I don’t know how it was for you, but –

Fionn Collins:
Definitely I would say it’s, especially because in Ireland it’s been hyped up a lot because funny enough the surgeon said to me that the highest number of surgeries he does like, he’s a plastic surgeon, like he does like, you know, nose, jobs, He does like everything. He said the highest number is actually, uh, transmasculine people from Ireland. And the second is like transmasculine people from England, are his highest number of top surgery. And I just thought that was amazing, but the word is going around, you know, like everyone’s nervous. Like, don’t know what to do when we go to Poland, but it’s in Warsaw, as sorry, as you mentioned that I’ve been told it’s not as bad because Warsaw is like the capital. It’s like, you go into Dublin right now. Obviously it’s going to, you’re going to have some issues, but I mean, I didn’t have any, I’m not going to lie to you.

I got like looks now and then, but everyone just came out of lockdown and Poland. And so everyone was focusing on themselves, you know, they were all like, running to shops, running McDonald’s. Cause it was that week that they all came out. So no one was batting an eyelid, but I have to say, because my hair has kind of dyed a little bit blonde and a bit longer. That’s not a style they have there in Warsaw. So I did get few looks in regards to my hair, which I think is okay, but um, like I see loads of people here like this and Dublin, but I don’t think bleach Blond tips are a thing in Warsaw, maybe now there will be since I’ve been there, maybe I’ve started a fashion trend, but definitely, definitely getting looks for that. You know, but my style is I got a few looks as well, you know, but it’s very much, you know, over there, tracksuits, you know? So I would say if anyone is a bit nervous, you know, just kind of where your, where a tracksuit wear a hoodie, you know, like you definitely won’t be different then because that’s like, you know, jeans as well is like their style. I agree. It is nerve wracking to be the idea of Poland and stuff, but I just kind of went in with like a cautious mindset we’ll say, you shouldn’t have to, but definitely if you’re nervous, that’s maybe a tip.

Marianne Oakes:
Like I say, that’s my prejudice. And I think from what you’re saying, there actually, you weren’t being stared at because you are trans, you’re just being –

Fionn Collins:
For my style.

New Speaker:
You’re like an Irish guy on tour.

Fionn Collins:
Yeah. And it’s like, they just came out of lockdown as well. And they’re like, what is he doing? And also it was snowing. So you have to understand, it was like really snowy. And then they just see this bleach blonde, young fellow. And I’m quite short as well. And they’re like, who is he? Why is he here? And I’m in jeans in the snow when they’re all like in their coats, I’m just there in a jumper. And they were like, what’s going on? So maybe there’s other reasons I was being stared at, I think you’re right.

Marianne Oakes:
If there was anybody else thinking of going out to Poland, What would your advice be to them?

Fionn Collins:
Do it, get on the waiting list a hundred percent. No, I think Dr. Lembas is amazing and he will be, he will be sometimes he can be blunt with you as well. After, you know, my previous experience, I prefer honesty. Well, he didn’t necessarily do it in like a way that hurt my feelings. He said, look, listen, here’s what you’re going to do. I, I give him concerns. You know, I said, I had a lot of extra tissue on the, under my arms, basically. That was my main problem was under my arms. And he said, yeah, like I’ll have to go far back. And like, I didn’t mind because again, I trusted my surgeon and he, well, he actually, where he drew on is exactly where they were, whereas my previous surgeon where he drew one didn’t necessarily happen. So I was grateful and he was honest. He was like, like he asked me about my nipple placement. He’s like, do you like your nipple placement? And I was like, no, I was like, what do you think? And he’s like, well, if you want them higher, I can do them higher. Like, so there was a bit of leeway there. He’s like, if you want them higher, we can do it. So like, he was kind of willing to listen, which was nice because I mean, as a trans person, it’s very hard to get someone to listen to you, I find these days.

Marianne Oakes:
One of the things I’ve learned recently is just how much choice you can have with top surgery. I would imagine it was quite limited for yourself the second time around whether that damage would have been cause. When we’ve spoken to a surgeon before now they’ve said that one of the biggest problems they face is that the person going in, in front of them doesn’t actually know what they want. They just want top surgery as if top surgery means the same to everybody. And I just kind of wonder what you’ve learned. Let’s just say we were starting again. Do you think you would go in there and be able to talk more about what you actually wanted?

Fionn Collins:
I could, because again, my personality, as you can tell is quite bubbly, quite loud and I’m very honest. Like if the surgeon says to me, I can’t do that, you know, like I’m going to be like, well then no. Well, I also am very, I’m able to compromise too. So when he was giving me the idea of, you know, I didn’t really care so much then, the first time I went in about scars like straight wise, as long as they weren’t like u like w, kind of u shaped. That was my main concern. I don’t, I don’t care. I didn’t care. But now looking back, I think for me, the further back, the more tissue you can get away, under your arms. And I would have wished, like, I knew that going in the first time, I wouldn’t say I regret, but just something I wish I was informed about.

And my scars are fairly straight now. Because again, wherever your kind of your, your chest lies, they follow the incision. And then if it’s, if it’s curved then your scars will be curved. But, I was grateful, I suppose, I did have surgery before because it made them straighter. But that wasn’t something I was concerned about anymore because when people go in they’re just like, I was just like, just give it, just fix it. Just whatever, you know, one thing I wish I knew beforehand is just edit the scarring. If it goes under your armpit a little bit further they can get more, I would prefer that, you know, but yeah, I’m happy. I mean, he also like made my nipples a little smaller. He’s like, you want them smaller? And I was like, I don’t think too much about my nipples to be honest. And he’s like, I’ll make them smaller if you want. And he did. And like, I’m delighted again, I took his advice cause they actually do look a lot better.

Marianne Oakes:
It’s got to be a collaboration between surgeon and patient about actually what the realistic outcomes are. I think it would take a strong, I mean, you said about it can be a bit blunt?

Fionn Collins:
It wasn’t even that much of a language buyer he’s English is quite good, but like, even when he was saying that he would, he would say something and then go, is this okay, how I’m saying it? Like, he was very cautious of me as a person, very respectful as well, like he let me go into the room, you know, like undress, whatever, and come in, and he was very like, oh, am I okay? Like, you know, I appreciate the little things from a surgeon like that. You know what I mean? My previous surgeon did do the whole like go to another room stuff as well. But like, I think language for trans people is a big, is a big thing.

Marianne Oakes:
I think anybody going for any surgery, certainly when we’re talking trans people, it isn’t just about trusting the surgeon. Do we feel heard by the surgeon? Do you know what I mean? Is this a two way conversation? Are they telling me what’s best for me? Are they asking me, what do I think would be best and telling me what they can do? I think some people will just think there’s the money, just do the surgery, but actually it’s important that the surgeon actually takes charge of that situation said, well, actually, let’s just sit down. When you come round from that surgery that you’ve got the best that you could be. I don’t, I’m not sure that always happens.

Fionn Collins:
I would agree with you actually. I don’t think it always happens. I think a lot of people, like I said, when I went into my first surgery know, I knew again, vaguely what I wanted, but like I went in and I was like, I want my scars as straight as possible. And he said, look, listen, because your chest is so big. They’re not going to be as straight as possible. You know? And I was like, content with that. You know, we had a conversation, but then, going to leave, I didn’t know there’d be that much skin and there’d be that much tissue. Like, I didn’t agree with that. You know? And that was something I think the surgeon should have taken accountability for. Well, I do understand, you know, for example, me agreeing to the scars, not being so straight. Whereas when I went into my new doctor, we had a consultation and the consultation was an hour nearly like, you know, we talked for a very long time in depth, what I wanted and what you needed.

And I think a lot of people kind of worry sometimes like, oh, I don’t wanna bother the surgeon too much. Oh, he’s just going to do his job. No, if I’m paying him money, he could listen to me for an hour, for a slot for an hour. I’m going to ask him about his day while I’m at, you know, like I’m very, that’s probably just my personality, but like I want my time. And I think we, I think people regardless if they’re trans or not, any surgeon use their time, ask this tiniest questions, like I asked them about the stitching and all, I have no idea about stitches boy, we just know if he knew, basically like I want to know everything and whatever I’m then again, because I’m a diabetic, Type 1 diabetic, I was extremely concerned. I was like, are you going to put me on insulin?

Do I bring my own, like, stuff like that. You know? So I think it is very important that people have an idea, you know? And I know, again, some people it’s worrying cause you trust your surgeon, but challenge your surgeon. I think that’s something you need to do in a consultation, is challenge them to see if they know their stuff. Do your research online, ask in trans groups and Facebook groups is that was something that I did as well. But challenge them definitely. And if you’re scared to challenge them, bring someone with you who, you know, will challenge the surgeon as well.

Marianne Oakes:
I get the sense and I wouldn’t want to generalize, but a lot of surgeons, I think don’t value as, as a paying customer, which is what we are. And I think you just said it right there. I’m paying my money. Now I’m going to get my hours worth out of you. Yeah. I think it’s really important. Again, if you’re going to a surgeon, there are some signs there aren’t there that something might not be right. And if I’m not being listened to, they’re trying to get me out the office. There’s lots of little signs and if you’re not comfortable, then don’t sign up for them, I would say.

Fionn Collins:
I wish I knew that myself for the first time, because now looking back, I’m like feeling, what were you doing? That there was, there was signs. But again, I went in and I was like, this guy is giving me what I want on a plate in three months time. You know what I mean? Whereas other waiting lists are like two years. So I was, in my head, I was like, I’m taking this. Of course, I’m going to take it. But I wish if I stood back and I said, look, listen, the financial kind of stuff didn’t play into it, I took loans out, I mean my surgery and all that costs me 8,500 euro, which is like £7,500, I think. But something around around that, you know, and for Lembas it costs me altogether, everything included, accommodation, you know, consultation medication. I paid for the flights over. I paid for the flights back. I paid for all the food over there. For the two weeks back I paid in this included 700 euro worth of COVID test, which is seven COVID tests for me and my friend and it cost me 6,000 Euro, maybe a little bit more 6,500 Euro, which is like £5,700 I think. So I wish I knew, you know, but now again, the financial aspect is I am now in debt with about 15 grand for two surgeries when I wish I just knew, you know, if I went into the, into the consultation the first time and I knew those signs, I would’ve said, nope, off you go. I would’ve saved me, you know, the money. But I mean, people say you can’t put a price and happiness, but God, It can remind me for a very long time after. I am grateful the way, you know, and I’m grateful that I’m here speaking to you, to you, and I’m grateful that they can like an air this experience for future people.

Marianne Oakes:
Do you feel you’ve got the outcome you wanted now? I think that would be the –

Fionn Collins:
Yes, a hundred percent.

New Speaker:
You know, because ultimately you have paid twice as much or slightly more than twice, but you’d have been happy paying out the 7,000 euros the first time and have it right the first time.

Fionn Collins:
I would’ve preferred. And I think, you know, there’s many people who were worried, you know, I think like we spoke about earlier, people are always concerned in regards to like, Poland being, you know, very anti LGBT and like the language barrier. But like the thing is the only place when I went there for my experience was the language barrier is in like shops. Like, you know, like when you’re buying your food, but they’ve got like self scanners and stuff, you know, it’s not like you can’t like, you can go to McDonald’s order your big Mac, you know, anything you might have to do is Google translate, what number 54 means, you know, because when they shout it out, you know, but in regards to like, Lembas, brilliant English, you know, and his like administer staff, like they speak pretty good English as well. And if there’s anything kind of, he’s concerned about, if you want to voice your concerns to the receptionist, he’ll go out with his, speak to them in Polish and then translate to you. What’s going on. Well, I have to say, like you were saying, I wish I just paid the like 6,500 euro ish around that I had the first time. And then I would have been a lot happier and I would have been, well, I’m happy now, but I mean, it would have been not as in like this amount of stress I’ve had to go through for the past, like two years.

New Speaker:
What was the wait time in Poland? Because you’ve mentioned it two or three times about London only been three months. What was the way when you went to Poland?

Fionn Collins:
It was about a year and a half when I got on at first, but now it might be a bit longer. It could be nearly two years now, but I would say people are probably listening to this and they’re like, oh I’m not waiting that long. But listen from somebody who’s done it, please do wait if you’re considering going there, because it saves a lot of money. It saves a lot of money, a lot of pain and hurt I have gone through to be myself. You know, I wish I just went the first time and I would have, I would have, it’s worth it in the end, you know? And I know a lot of people have a lot of dysphoria or like they might be uncomfortable or like, I don’t know, but they’re not happy. Well, I mean, financially and in the longterm, you will benefit from it as well. And I think it gives time to save, you know, it took me a lot of time, like that year to save up as well and you know, kind of sit with it. What I really wanted in myself and also this time when I was waiting was also during COVID. So it was, I had a lot of time to think.

Marianne Oakes:
Yeah. The other side of this is as well, you know, we’ve got to value ourselves, haven’t we and rushing because somebody, it came into my mind about restaurants, do you go to the restaurant you’ve got to queue a bit, or do you go to the restaurant that you can get straight in? Because there’s a, probably a reason why you can get straight in one because the food’s not as good. I don’t want to compare surgery to a restaurant but the principle’s the same, isn’t it? Is there a reason why some’s probably more accessible, but you know, there’s not going to be the same care, they’re not going to be the same thought or it could also be that they’re not as busy because they don’t give as good a service. There’s a lot of things.

Fionn Collins:
Yeah. Well, I mean the results will tell you, no, I mean, you’re, you’re right. Like in regards to do you go to the fast food restaurant that has like two people in the queue or do you go on like, you know, you get your food in and out and you’re hungry 20 minutes later, or do you go to the bigger kind of restaurant that’s gonna, you know, cost maybe a little bit more, or maybe a little bit less, depending, but then you’re full for like the next like eight hours, you know.

New Speaker:
Yes, yeah.

Fionn Collins:
That’s the way I suppose we don’t, again, we don’t want to be comparing it to restaurants. But, I mean, like, you know, I think people would relate to food a bit more.

New Speaker:
The principles of business are the same though, aren’t they, and the things that we would look at and the service that we get and the outcome that we get, it’s really important. I think anything that we’re going to do, you’re going to live the rest of your life with it.

Fionn Collins:
Exactly. And I, and, and I am aware that people are like, this means so much. I mean, it meant so much to me. And I was so devastated. Like I understand people’s pain because I’ve been there, I’ve literally sat through it and I’ve waited and I waited and I waited because again, like in Ireland getting the healthcare, like we go through like a really like psychiatric model and, you know, the wait list to just be seen for hormones is four years. So, and then like, nevermind, waiting for surgery on top of that, it could be already like five, six years in the game before you even think about it. So I understand people are like, yeah, I’ll just go [inaudible]. I’ll just, I’ll go get it. You know? And I get that. I understand, because I was the same. I was there and I was waiting and I was excited.

And then I was just worse on the other end of it, you know? And that’s not something, you’ve had a big surgery. It’s life-changing it meant literally my whole world, all my savings, I had three jobs. I’ll be honest with you. I had three jobs. I didn’t see friends for months saving up for my first surgery in London in 2019. I didn’t have a relationship. I didn’t have anything. I didn’t like, I literally, my friends and my family were like, where are you? What are you doing? I literally went from one job to the other, to the other. And I saved up and then it was just so disappointing and I was devastated. But if I knew I could do half of that job, I could take just two jobs and like, see my family, see my friends. It would have meant a lot more to me to spend like half the price and gotten the results that I would’ve wanted. And that’s something I would give advice to people is just, you know, do your research and think about it in the long-term how it’ll do, because I was affected for like the whole of like 2019. I was in a bad place. That’s why [inaudible]. And now I’m just in probably the best place I’ve ever been. You know, with the support is amazing.

Marianne Oakes:
Because the three months wait, time was attractive. But the two years after that were no better than what you’d had before.

Fionn Collins:
They were worse. I’m gonna be brutally honest. Anyone who knows me will know, I’m very honest because they were worse because I was so depressed because I had hyped it up so much and then to get the results, because everyone was hyping this surgeon up, everyone was like, oh my God, the results are amazing, amazing. And I’m sitting there like, was it just me? And then you feel targeted because you’re like, is it only me was only mine ?Because no one was speaking out, and now I’m grateful that when I spoke out there, I got like 50 people coming to me. Like I felt so alone. I was so down on it’s so nice to see that someone else and it wasn’t just me. I mean, you feel isolated, now you’ve got COVID on top of it and you feel extremely isolated.

It’s nice to speak out. You know, it’s nice to be heard, you know, and it’s nice to tell and talk to other people. Like I said, if anyone’s listening, just wait, get on the list as soon as possible, and save because it’s so worth it. Because when you get like botched, I would say botched because like, I fully believe you’re botching, you can botch results, has a worse effect on you because I hyped it up. My results were, I knew straight away after seeing them that they weren’t great. And then people were coming up to me like, oh, how did it go? And I’m there like, great. You know? And I wasn’t happy, so.

Marianne Oakes:
Interestingly enough, you’ve been a regretter, haven’t you? You know, and when people talk about regrets, surgery, regrets, you’ve been that person, haven’t you, would that be fair to say?

Fionn Collins:
In some way, you know what, I don’t regret getting to surgery. Like I said, because it really did help me not bind, you know, for a long time. And I learned a lot about myself, you know, during the time. And that is something I’m grateful for, that I’ve learned a lot about myself. And I know where I stand in life. I know to now challenge people, you know, I learned a lot. But, I mean, something I regret is spending that much money because that is a big thing. You know, people like I said to you earlier, people don’t talk about money but, it was a bit of, a bit of a financial difficulty I was in after it was really tough, really tough. So I regret not challenging the surgeon.

Marianne Oakes:
Yes, yes. The only reason I say regret, you know, it’s such a loaded word that isn’t it? But you know they talk about trans regret and a lot of the trans regret isn’t that they are trans and transition it’s that they didn’t get the right care they needed, that they didn’t get the right surgery, didn’t get the right surgeon, it happens a lot with trans women with lower surgery that they just want a vagina and they’re going to, but actually it’s such an intimate part of your body. And, you know, so actually searching out the surgeon. And I think the advice you’re giving is really important. And it’s important that actually you did speak out, this isn’t an attack on a particular surgeon. It’s actually saying to the trans community: value yourself.

Fionn Collins:
Exactly. Yeah. You value yourself and body, your opinions and your views. If you know what you want, and the surgeon says, I can’t give that to you. Well, tell them, I’ll go somewhere else. Don’t just go, oh, well, he’s offering me this, and really you don’t even need to go with this surgeon. You know? I mean, you have to value what you think. And again, you’re going to have to like, you know, compromise on certain things. But I mean like, you know, if that’s like how straight your scar is going to be, I mean, you’re going to have to consider that. Well, if it’s like, you’re going to be left with a kg skin and tissue, because you’re, it’s your fault because you’re big. Nah, that’s not for me. And like my surgeon in Poland turned around to me and goes, you look pretty good. And I explained the situation with the surgeon and he goes, no you’re fine. You know, so it was not right.

Marianne Oakes:
So yeah. I mean, I think it’s great that you’ve spoken out and I think it’s great that hopefully people will come listen to this podcast and and learn a lot from it because actually it, it just isn’t spoken about enough where was there to go for research. And a bit, like you say, how many of the people that are eulogizing about their surgeon, whoever it was when actually they’re slightly disappointed, they just didn’t want to admit that it wasn’t what they wanted.

New Speaker:
Yeah, exactly. And people don’t want to admit it because they’re scared. And all of these people who I’ve been speaking to are scared and that’s the truth because they don’t want to challenge, you know? And they also don’t want to show their results. That’s a big thing I figured out. They don’t want to show their results because they’re insecure and they don’t like the results. But I was obviously lucky enough to, like, I had a gofundme and I raised more money. I’m like, I have loans and whatever. I’m grateful to be having a job now working for a students union. I’m like, I’m grateful that I have this. And I know a lot of people aren’t, so they’ll just put up, they’ve taken a few loans and they just put up with the results, you know? And they’re not happy, but they don’t want to post them because they’re scared of how they look.

Fionn Collins:
Well, I’m grateful now that I’ve had the surgery, I don’t care about the previous results. I’ll show them, someone wants to see them. I’ll be like, yeah, this was my surgeon. And this is my results because people need to be, they need to be aware, you know, like to challenge, you know, everyone in the community is aware we have to flight healthcare here. I mean, it’s something that we’re all in, we’re all aware of it. I’m like, I know it’s another thing, but it’s just a little bit of a tip, you know, just keep going, keep fighting, you know.

Marianne Oakes:
Actually people like you speaking out is going to be the best education for anybody. It’s if nothing else, people listening to this may just ask a few more questions and maybe have a better chance of having a good outcome, whoever they go to. I mean, that’s what the ultimate goal is. We don’t want to have fewer surgeons doing this. We want to have everybody understanding what the point of the exercise is and that, that, that by others, as the patient challenging the surgeon, then hopefully there’s a better chance of a better outcome.

Fionn Collins:
Yeah, no, I agree. And like, I think one thing I would say is like, in regards to your research, besides challenging surgeons, ask people in trans groups, you can ask me, I mean, I’m quite an open book. Like I’ll tell someone my exact experience and I’ll tell them whatever. I’m like, like just look up online. I mean, we’ve all learned that coronavirus, online is a blessing and a curse, but it’s great for research, you know, asking people, ask the people who’ve gone through it, you know, ask the people who’ve been there and seen it firsthand. And I wouldn’t just ask one person and get an answer, right? I would ask a variety [inaudible] people, annoy people, pull up a million posts if you have to. I mean, it’s your surgery at the end of the day. I mean, heck anybody else, excuse the language. But heck anybody else who thinks he’s like, oh, you’ve only gotten one answer. No, go for it. Ask everybody.

New Speaker:
The reality is you could ask, has anybody regretted using this surgeon, people are very quick to put positive information out there. Not necessarily the negative. I’m saying that, you know, I go online and I see lots written about Gender GP really, really positive, but also really, really negative. But we learn, you know, one of the things I would like to think is we learn by, you know, if somebody did have a negative experience, how can we repair that? If people never said anything, then we’d never be able to improve the service.

Fionn Collins:
Exactly. That’s, that’s the key thing. I think it’s all about criticism. And I think whoever is on the opposite end needs to look at the criticism and realize, you know, this is, if someone gives you a critique, you take it and you say, thank you, and you kind of better yourself. And that’s the best thing you can do. And all in all life. I mean, if someone’s going to say something like that, to me, I’ll take the critique on and try and better myself. So I think surgeons need to do the same.

New Speaker:
Well, it’s been, it’s been lovely speaking with you today and thank you for coming along. And you know, I’m confident that people are gonna listen to this and they’re going to learn because that’s, that’s what it’s all about. Educating people. Let’s make sure fewer people have regrets about the surgeons, or the money that they spent and didn’t get the outcome they wanted. So thank you for being a vocal, a testament to that.

Fionn Collins:
Thank you so much.

New Speaker:
I just want to say, enjoy the rest of your day, but yeah.

Fionn Collins:
I will, and yourself.

 

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