Stomping the Binary, Top surgery and all Things Bodies

Personally I was excited to get an interview with Paddy as I’ve known them since uni. But, also because they have so much good stuff to say, share and educate people on, it only felt right for this issue of bodies. 

I chatted with Paddy way back at the beginning of the year but wanted to keep this interview for this issue in particular – so timings will be different and now they are a fully qualified massage therapist. 

Paddy also wanted to caveat they don’t know everything about trans healthcare – but this is based on their experience, so it’s from their perspective. 

U: Hey Paddy thanks so much for joining us for an interview. Now obvs I know you from uni, but for the sake of our readers can you give us a little intro into you?

I’m Paddy and I’m 27, I’m non binary. I use they/them pronouns. I live in London and I work in advertising as an art director and on the side I’m training to be a massage therapist. 

Rectangular Tiled graphic in grey, purple and teal with the words ‘every’ and ‘body’ inside each tile, they are repeated six across and three down

U: So aside from making ads in the daytime, you’re a big trans activist. Do you want to tell us a bit more about that?

Being trans you kind of automatically become an activist when you come out. You have to have a lot of conversations with people about what things mean and how they can support you in the right way, things like pronouns and making sure they know what’s important to you and matters to you. 

My activism, if you can call it that, has happened mostly through that. But also I’ve been to every kind of protest or trans pride event there’s been. I’m also part of trans masc groups in my community. I’ve created friends groups to help give support for other trans and non binary people. I’ve done a few panel talks if that counts? 

U: That 100% counts! 

I hosted the first panel of all trans people in the advertising industry. I set up a  pride network there and we did loads of things for LGBT history month. 

U: You featured in a Vice UK short video, that’s pretty epic, how did that come about? 

One of my best mates works for Vice and she came up with content ideas that featured queer and trans people – it might have been for Pride month. 

She asked me if I would talk about my experience and there were a few of us featured. So yeah I did it and it was cool. 

U: You’re constantly posting educational and informative content about trans, nonbinary rights. Which we’re 100% HERE FOR. How have you found sharing content like this has helped you personally? 

A lot, actually. 

Because when I share stuff I want it to be right. So if anything, it makes me read into stuff more than I normally would. And just because I don’t want to put stuff out there that then isn’t actually right.

I feel like it makes me more clued up about what’s going on, but also, it’s just in general has helped my confidence.  Especially since having top surgery, I waited a really long time to post any pictures of my chest or anything. 

But now I feel more confident to do that. 

Like the other day I posted something about top surgery appointment waiting times. And I posted a picture of me and my top off, which I wouldn’t have done but I felt like it was okay to do that. I had something to say. 

It’s just having more confidence and it’s actually helped me have conversations about my transness with people that I don’t talk to that often. Which is helpful because there’s people, like my cousins, that I don’t really talk to often or like friends I haven’t talked to in a really long time, and I can kind of tell them I’m trans without having to ring them up and tell them I’m trans. They kind of understand me and what I’m going through, without having to talk to them that regularly which is helpful.

U: What other trans creators inspire you and could inspire our readers? 

People that I look at, and did look at a lot when I was figuring stuff out, were people like the first person I saw who had top surgery on Instagram. They are called Tragik. They’re creative director from LA and they I don’t even know if they identify as non binary, but they’ve had top surgery. 

And so I saw that and that was really cool. And then people like Chella Man, obviously, you know, like trans women as well. Munroe,  just to be super confident and well versed in stuff. It makes me want to be more well versed. 

There’s also Kenny Ethan Jones. I know him from my panels.

U: He made a film right?

Yeah, with Charlie Craggs, it’s sick. She’s just an absolute legend. And I love that she just like doesn’t give a fuck about what anyone thinks, it’s great. 

But to be honest I’ve got a really close group of non binary masc friends. We kind of like look to each other for our good vibes.

U: Friends and community I think is super important. Plus having that on your feed as well. I went through a phase where I was like, I’m just gonna remove anything that’s either stuff that made me feel sad where it was like, really skinny people and I can’t deal with this. But I also like that with negative stuff too, tif someone posts something negative, I’m like, you’re gone. I just need positive things on my feed. Thank you and goodnight. 

Do you know who Chella Man is? He’s an American influencer, artist, activist who is trans masc, has had top surgery and has this incredible body. 

There was a time when I actually had to unfollow him,  because even though everything he posts is super wholesome and brilliant – and he’s doing amazing- I found that I started comparing my body to his, and he’s six foot tall, really long limbed. 

And then you start thinking, well, if I take T (testosterone), then I’ll look like that. Things like that are quite dangerous, but then I think it’s the same thing for women. It’s like ‘Oh, you shouldn’t follow these people because it’s just rubbish’, but it’s about finding the balance of taking in the right content, but also not comparing yourself to it. 

Especially when you’re trans because you can’t convince yourself that it’s cool if I had top surgery, I’m gonna look like that. You’ve got to remember that everyone has their own thing still.

U: You speak about privately funding your medical transition. How do you feel trans healthcare within the NHS could improve to help other people, like you, get the support they need?

So firstly, there’s the gender recognition Act, the GRA. There was a big consultation last year and I feel like they ignored everything people said, when they asked everyone what they wanted, and what they thought would happen. 

As far as I’m aware, they just kept postponing what they were going to do. And I don’t think they’ve even released it yet, or what their plans are. 

But basically they need to fund gender clinics to help open more, so people don’t have to wait for like two years for an appointment.

They could also educate the existing staff to be more inclusive. So for example, if I went to the GP for any random thing, they’re not going to dead name me and call me a girl.  

Things like that and things like for instance, I went to give blood the other week. And they were like, are you on any medication? I was like, yeah, I’m on testosterone, and they’re like, ‘Oh, we need to check this’. And then the head nurse came in like, ‘why are you on testosterone?’ And I said, because I’m transitioning, it’s a hormone placement. 

She said, ‘why?’.  I had to explain that I’m transitioning and she said, ‘oh, female to male’, I explained, well, no… But then she called someone and was on the phone to them about me when I was sitting in the room and was misgendering me, and being like, ‘yeah, she’s having a sex change’. I was like, ah, fucking hell!

So things like that, that’s just a general experience with them, but I’m not sure if giving blood is part of the NHS, I’m sure it is. But just things like that with how people interact with you, when it’s not even about your transness. You’re a normal person, going to the doctor or going to give blood, that would be really nice to be treated that way. Just to be included. 

There’s a trans clinic called ‘Clinic Q’, which is trying now to get more funding because it’s basically run as a charity at the minute, but it’s part of the NHS. 

They do act as a sexual health clinic, they also do cervical screenings for people who are trans and who don’t want to go to their GP and be misgendered.

Basically, they need more support, and more funding, and they need to be trusted that they can do more than just be a sexual health clinic. 

What else? I mean just the whole gender clinic situation is a mess. It takes so long to get an appointment. Even then it’s like getting treatment,  you have to jump through so many hoops to get the treatment that you need. It’s not very fair.

U: Yeah, that’s a long old process! 

And then, you know, people are forced to go private, because it’s not seen as life saving care, when it is.

U: Yeah. Especially when you have to consider everything else to do with it, like mental health as well. That for me means it is life saving, if you’re going to be able to help someone with their mental state. 

I also really struggle with people just assuming genders. I don’t know if you find this, but it happens at work. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done it myself.

I do things that I’ve told other people not to do, which is classic. It’s just a habit. 

Recently, my work has asked people for their pronouns, and their signatures, which is really good. 

But I was working on this side project and it was an LGBT project, for LGBT history month. The people who were doing the project from the agency were misgendering the cast who we’d cast specifically because they were trans.  I was there like, ‘they don’t use those pronouns’. We’re on a shoot and they’re misgendering them. But I mean, it’s easy to do but it’s just basic shit sometimes.  

U: How did you first find out about trans healthcare?

I saw that Tragik person on Instagram and saw that they had top surgery. I thought, oh my god, I wonder if that’s something I can do?!

And at the time, I was dating someone who was super queer. They’re a bit older than me and they had dated people before who were non binary.  So we talked about it a lot. Then I actually went to that Clinic Q, because they offer counselling as well, but they didn’t really have much information apart from you need to go to the GP and get referred to a gender clinic. 

So I went to the GP. She’d never heard the word non binary and asked me what it was. I literally printed out a pack of information for GPs on trans. 

I was worried that she wouldn’t know about it, which she didn’t. And then I offered her all this, I literally went with a pack and was like if don’t know about this, then here’s loads of resources.  You’re my GP…

And she said, ‘it’s fine I’ll read up on it and I’ll refer you’. But then it’s two to three years before you even get anything.

U: Wow, that’s such a long time. 

By then I’d already organised my top surgery before then. I didn’t want to wait so I started googling. You look to Google, Instagram and forums because you’re just trying to find out what other people have done.  You then end up googling different gender clinics, finding out the process and calling up surgeons, and finding what do I need to get surgery.

I ended up flying to Scotland for a day to a gender clinic, because the waiting time for the gender clinic in Scotland is only two weeks – whereas the waiting time for gender clinic in London was like six months. 

U: I’m honestly so shocked. 

Even all that was over the course of a year. That was such a whirlwind tour! 

U: It would be great if the NHS could sort themselves out so people don’t have to go through all that. 

If you’ve fucked your leg you go to the GP. They go, ‘right, you’re fortunate we’re going to refer you to a bone specialist’ and you go to the hospital for x-rays. A week later, two weeks later, you go do it. It’s a very simple process. 

Because that’s in place, it doesn’t take that long, even though there’s millions of people who have fucked legs. 

I think, realistically now, being trans and non binary is so much more talked about because of social media, because of people like Munroe, and just the general like education of it has got better. More and more people are coming out because they’re like, ‘oh, this is an option for me’. 

U: I know you talked about forums, instagram, and google, but any recos for books,  websites, or even people who have helped with your transition for people who are looking to do similar or learn more? 

The gender clinics put a lot of information out, which is helpful. 

Gender Gap is my gender clinic, which is actually an online gender clinic. They like to talk to you which is really helpful. There’s also London Trans Clinic, which has a really good Instagram and they have ambassadors basically front it as well so they kind of break stuff down a bit more, in a more digestible way.

There’s a FTM thread on Reddit, I was looking at, even though being non binary, you kind of just have to look at as if you’re transitioning to male. 

There’s stories of non binary people that have had to say that they are guys. They want to transition to male, just in order to just get stuff or top surgery – and that’s private as well. Because it’s quite relatively new for people to be understood as non binary. 

U: How can people get involved and help with the Reform The Gender Recognition Act? 

I mean, sign petitions, write to your MP, and go to Pride, go to protests. Share stuff, share information on it, so that it’s not just trans people asking for it. Because allies sometimes have louder voices and more privilege. 

U: Final question – what is one thing you wish you knew / had growing up that would have made your non-binary journey a bit smoother? 

It would have been great to know that non binary people existed. I think I said this in the Vice thing, but it’s true, to know that you don’t have to be one or the other. And you don’t have to choose one thing and forget everything else. It’s like you can kind of exist in your own way, without having to conform to society’s gender roles. 

Also I wish I knew to trust myself, trust what I feel is right.

I always felt like I should have a chest but I don’t know how to do that. So yeah, trusting yourself and trusting your decisions. 

Well that was all my questions. As ever Pads, thanks for chatting with me. It was nice personally to catch up, but also to learn more so we can share it with our readers. 


Paddy Paddison

They / Them | Every Body | Linktree

Black and white portrait photo of Paddy from head to midriff. They have bleached short hair and wear a silver chain necklace and white tank top. They have different tattoos across their bare arms. The background is plain, looks like a photobooth. A light source comes from above them.

Interviewed by Lucy Everett

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