‘Top to bottom’ and Falling in Love With Our Bodies

We caught up with Finlay after what feels like a lifetime since our last interview, to chat all things surgery, bodies and writing his memoir ‘Top to Bottom’. 

Hey Finlay, thanks for chatting with us again! 

For the sake of our newer readers can you give us a short intro into who you are? 

Hello, it is wonderful to connect with you again, and to be reminded of our earlier collaboration, how we have both grown since then!

Hello to new readers, my name is Finlay Games, I am a transgender gay man and a Youtuber, blogger, speaker, author, and life coach. Drawing from my lived experiences, I provide information and support on topics of gender, sexuality, addiction, and mental health. My first book, ‘Top to Bottom’ a Memoir and Personal Guide Through Phalloplasty’ has recently been published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Since we last spoke in issue 1 (woah that was so long ago) what have you been up to? 

A lot has happened! When we last spoke, I was in the early days of becoming self-employed. I was exploring ways to make the LGBTQ support and awareness work that I do, my full-time career, and support myself financially in the process. I have done a lot of experimenting and growing and I am pleased to say that it is all finally starting to come together!

That’s awesome, so glad to hear it’s coming together. 

One of the most exciting developments is that I submitted a manuscript proposal to Jessica Kingsley Publishers for my phalloplasty memoir, and it was accepted! I have been busy writing and then marketing that, but I will tell you more about that in a moment. 

The arrival of the Covid pandemic of course complicated things, but as with anything in life, there is always good with the bad. The increase of online working created new ideas and opportunities for me. For example, I have been able to do far more public speaking, to a wider range of companies and places, that I never would have reached in person. 

Sharing my story and raising awareness at online speaking events is now becoming a central part of the work I do. 

I also graduated from The Open University, achieving a first-class BA Hons degree majoring in psychology. 

Congrats, you certainly have been busy! 

Inspired by new ways of working online, I decided to use my degree to launch a new service, offering life coaching sessions for trans people. I take a hybrid approach to my sessions, mixing mentoring with life coaching. This means that I can use my own experiences to help others with coming out as transgender, negotiating the gender transition process, and making decisions around surgical options.

I still write blogs regularly for my website and create videos on my YouTube channel, and these remain my free resources for the community. It is important to me that people can access the information and support they need without money being a barrier. For this reason, I have developed a sliding scale approach to all my other services. I use donations and memberships, through my Ko-fi page, to help support this approach.

The icing on the cake in all these wonderful developments is that my gorgeous partner Chris proposed to me last Christmas. It was a beautiful proposal and of course, I said yes.  We have just moved back to Devon and are currently looking at some rural locations for a wedding in a year or two. 

Oh yes I did see that on your instagram. Congratulations, how exciting, there’s lots of good stuff happening then. 

Our latest issue is about bodies. When you hear the word bodies what does that mean to you? 

I have a lot to say about bodies. When I hear the word bodies now, I smile because the first thing that comes up is a deep sense of feeling at home. The joy and comfort of having a body that reflects the truth of who I am is a gift that I am grateful for every single day.

Bodies are the way we experience ourselves, the world, and others around us. In this way, they are a fundamental part of being in this world. If we are not at home in our bodies, we are then cut off from everything around us and have no safe inner world to retreat to. 

I spent far too many years living in a body that as much as I tried to love, did not reflect the truth of who I am.

There was so much pain and darkness inside it, that it was never a safe retreat. I walked through the world feeling drowned by this heavy mirage that I could never shake off. My only option for years was to try to escape my body, by misusing alcohol and drugs.

Completing my gender transition, which for me meant both top and bottom surgery, has brought remarkable freedom to my body. A sense of lightness, space, and comfort that I once could not have imagined. 

Simple everyday things that once caused distress, now give me so much body euphoria. The rush of joy seeing my naked body when I wake. The feel of my t-shirt on my flat chest. The feel of my partner’s hand on my chest. Being intimate with my partner. All these simple things now overwhelm me with so much joy I can barely breathe. 

Talking of bodies, we heard you have a new book coming out called ‘’Top to Bottom a Memoir & Personal Guide Through Phalloplasty.’ Do you want to tell us more about that? 

I would love to! ‘Top to Bottom’ is a profound and pioneering memoir. It is the first of its kind to dedicate an entire book to the surgical and emotional process of phalloplasty from a single trans masculine perspective.

My memoir has been an idea and a project in the making since 2015 when I first started my phalloplasty journey. I was shocked by the lack of information about lower surgery, which made it difficult to make decisions when I first began exploring options. There was also a great deal of negativity and misinformation surrounding the process at the time. Therefore, I decided to document my journey, so that I might support others having the same struggles.

My mission was to create the kind of content that I wished I’d had access to.

Yeah we’ve heard that from the community about the lack of resources, so it’s great that your book is going to help those who might be struggling to locate trustworthy, honest and accurate resources. 

Initially, I planned to include my phalloplasty experience as part of my larger transgender memoir. However, the further into my journey I travelled, the more I realised that my phalloplasty experience needed a book of its own. Phalloplasty is an intense and profound journey, which changed me in many unexpected ways. There simply was not enough room in a broader memoir to do the journey justice. Therefore, I turned my lower surgery experience into a book of its own.

By dedicating an entire book to the process, I have been able to dive deeply into this multi-layered experience. My memoir covers the entire process in intimate detail. It reflects deeply on my decision-making process, the surgical stages, and the experience of exploring my new body and discovering myself to be gay.

What was it like writing a book about your experience and personal life? 

I am somewhat used to sharing openly about my personal life. I have always shared in very frank ways on my YouTube channel and blog, it is what I am known for. 

However, writing a book about my intimate personal life feels entirely different. To know that this book is available to the wider public, to be read by anyone, feels like a scary thought at times.

However, I spent a long time reflecting on all this and deciding if it was something I could manage. I knew how vital first-hand accounts of this surgery are and how much they are lacking. This is what motivated me to write so personally, because I know how much this will be valued by those that need it.

Writing this memoir was also a healing process. Going through gender transition is an exhausting process, especially when it requires multiple stages of surgery. Sorting through this experience in my mind as I wrote, helped me to process all I have been through. I also had many new insights into the profound and positive effects that gender transition has had on my life. 

I can only imagine it was quite a rollercoaster of emotions, but it sounds like it’s all been worth it. 

What did you find to be the hardest element when writing your memoir?

The hardest thing about writing a memoir is including details of other people in the book, and doing so in respectful ways. Especially because of the intimate nature. I had to balance staying true to my story and intentions, whilst also protecting others as much as possible. This was a difficult balance. 

In the end, I changed everyone’s names, not only to protect them but also to give myself a sense of distance, turning the real people I knew into characters. This helped me to be more objective in taking care of those characters as I wrote.

Editing is also a difficult part of the process, deciding what to cut and what to keep. As they say, you have to ‘murder your darlings’ and this is never easy. My publisher was of great support during this and understood how important it was that I stayed as true to my story as possible.

What would you like people to take away from reading it? 

I believe that my memoir has the potential to make a huge difference to trans people and their loved ones, and to help allies and those who support us to better understand what we go through. 

For trans people. I would like them to feel more informed and reassured after reading ‘Top to Bottom’. Making decisions about lower surgery is painfully difficult because there are so many options and so much to consider. It can also be an incredibly frightening, frustrating, and lonely journey. Being able to follow someone else’s journey can be of help in working through decisions and preparing for the journey ahead. Most importantly, I hope that people take away the knowledge that despite how tough the lower surgery journey is, the end result can profoundly change our lives for the better.

‘Top to Bottom’ will also be an incredible resource for those supporting trans people through lower surgery. My memoir will help them to know what to expect and how best to support trans people through this process.

Any tips for our fellow queer writers out there looking to write their own book? 

Yes, if you are thinking about writing your own book, do it! I grew up in the ’80s and 90’s where queerness was not visible, in society or in literature. 

We have to be able to see ourselves to find ourselves. I didn’t see myself anywhere, which is why I was confused about my identity and in pain for so many years.

We need as many queer stories as we can, fiction, memoirs, factual pieces, so that LGBTQ people are represented. We are diverse and we need diverse stories to highlight this. There are many ways to identify, many ways to be attracted, many types of LGBTQ people, and when we see ourselves in books, in characters, in stories, we feel seen, included, and of course, accepted. 

Publishers now often want to see that you have some visibility in the community. Start by blogging, to increase your visibility. Make sure to connect with other writers and share other writers’ work. Look out for writing competitions, calls for manuscripts, approach publishers directly, and most importantly, never give up!

Where can people buy your book? 

‘Top to Bottom’ is available in all major bookstores on the high street or online:

WaterstonesBookshop.org | Amazon | Directly from the publisher

I am also selling signed copies in my shop on Ko-fi : https://ko-fi.com/s/8593b0e5d3

As always, thanks so much for chatting with us Finlay. I’m excited to read your memoir. Thanks so much for sharing your updates with us and, even more so, your story for everyone to see. I’m sure you’re going to help lots of trans people, and allies, by sharing your experiences, so thank you.

Finlay Games

He / Him | Website

Interviewed by Lucy EverettIllustrations by Priyanka Khurana

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