On Monday night’s episode of Big Brother, 18-year-old Hallie revealed that she doesn’t want to wait five years on an NHS waiting list for her ‘designer vagina’.
Honestly, I thought, ‘I was exactly the same, hun’.
This isn’t just about a ‘designer vagina’ though (thanks Gemma Collins for the stunning terminology). For some trans people, it’s about being in a body that matches who you are and relieving gender dysphoria.
Often surgery can be the way of achieving this, but there are long waits on the NHS for it and accessing it through private healthcare is very expensive. That’s why conversations like these on a nation-wide show like Big Brother can be so important.
For me, gender dysphoria was a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It occurred whenever I experienced my body by touch, feel or sight in a way that I felt was ultimately male.
Imagine having foreign body parts on you that don’t feel like they belong to you or that you have no mental connection with.
I came out at 22 – so a bit after Hallie, who said she started hormone replacement therapy at 16 – and began medically transitioning straight away with hormones and facial-feminising botox and fillers.
I was ready to look and feel like the girl I was and this allowed me to move through the world as any other woman.
I’m now 27 and I just finished my medical transition this year – and oh my god, I love it. To no longer be ‘transitioning’ and now be ‘transitioned’ is such a gift.
I did it all through private healthcare and it has been exactly as expensive as Hallie has said – around £50,000 in total. I’m extremely fortunate that going through the private route was open to me because it allowed me to transition on my own timeline and take the steps that felt right for me at the right time.
For many trans people, this is not their reality. Even for Hallie, the 18-year-old is already conscious about the extortionate costs of transitioning.
‘I’ve been on [HRT] since 16, stopped for a few months because I couldn’t afford it anymore privately and then the NHS were taking really long,’ she said. ‘So I decided to go back to private before I came in here because I couldn’t go without my blocker.’
She even said that she’d use the Big Brother prize money to pay her mum back for all the treatment she’s bought for her so far.
Unfortunately, trans people sometimes need to rely on crowdfunding, parents’ help and yes, even reality TV prize money to cobble together enough cash so they can afford these major, life-changing and life-saving surgeries.
It’s so important to see stories like Hallie’s on our screens – where girls like me have been able to transition with the support of their parents – but my heart goes out to her hearing her struggles with her body and how that stops her from exploring her sexuality in romantic settings.
She said: ‘I’ve never had a boyfriend, I’ve never had sex, I’ve never done anything sexual with anyone because I’m just not comfortable in my body.’
I’ve been on my own journey with this.
In fact, my podcast, How Not To Get A Boyfriend (available on all streaming platforms!) documents the trials and triumphs of how I’ve dated at all stages of my transition and how it has changed at each stage.
There are guys who reject you when they find out you’re trans, of course, but most of the time, no one cares. You are the woman they saw on your dating profile, who they fancy.
It isn’t taboo or weird to date trans people and it happens so much. In fact, I never struggle to find a date. I try to show on my podcast how normal – but fabulous – it is to look for love as a trans woman.
My transness and my body has nothing to do with anyone except for me, including the person I am dating. Trans people deserve and already have love, sex and romance too.
I’m so glad to be seeing these conversations on huge shows like Big Brother – with past trans and genderfluid winners like Nadia Almada and Courtney Act – but we don’t have time to waste.
We need to properly fund trans healthcare in this country so that living as yourself doesn’t rely on winning a reality TV competition, but is something that is open and accessible to everyone.
Hallie, keep being iconic and keep having these conversations.
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