‘I used to be a woman’

Kirone McCaffrey, 27, used to be a woman.  He underwent a series of female to male gender re-assignment surgeries between 2012 and 2015. He lives in Dagenham, Essex and talks exclusively to Healthista about the process of becoming a man

Theresa May was applauded  at the Pink News Awards last month, vowing to change laws because being transgender is ‘not an illness’. She promised to ‘streamline and de-medicalise’ the process of changing gender, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria. She intends to make changes to the Gender Recognition Act to reflect updated modern attitudes towards transgender. ‘We are pressing ahead with inclusive relationships and sex education in English schools, making sure that LGBT issues are taught well’, she said. ‘We’re determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying.’

Kirone McCaffrey, 27, knew he was in the wrong body from the young age of four. Despite being certain of his want to change, doctors didn’t believe him. He tells his story exclusively to Healthista.

‘I used to be a woman’ – Kirone McCaffrey’s story

‘I think someone’s put you up to this.’

The words cut like a knife. As if going to the doctor in search of answers didn’t take enough courage, now the doctor was telling me she didn’t believe what I’d known about myself all these years.

At the time I was 19, but I’d known I was transgendered since the age of four. Simply put, I just didn’t feel right. It was hard growing up in the wrong body. I was picked on and bullied in school because I was different. I didn’t dress the way people wanted or thought I should. I wasn’t ‘normal’.

Kirone, age 19, when he started to come out.

Kirone, age 19, when he started to come out.

Since I got no help from the GP, the harsh reality quickly hit that I was going to have to do everything on my own. It wasn’t easy. I work as a stocker, dealing with companies’ orders from 12:30-8:30pm every day in a warehouse, so I had to spend my mornings on the phone and Internet, finding out anything I possibly could about gender reassignment.

Eventually, I had gathered enough information and found a private gender therapist. We met and he confirmed what I already knew: I was transgendered. He gave me a business card, and I made an appointment at the London Gender Clinic to start my transition.

I legally deed-polled my name in 2009. Kiri was gone. I was Kirone now.

I had wanted to tell my mum for a long time, but she had made comments in the past about TV programs that made me wary to come out. I would have gone through the transition much earlier, but I was scared what my family would think. In the end, I only had to worry about my mum because she was the only one speaking to me at the time.

 I would have gone through the transition much earlier, but I was scared what my family would think.

I was still 19 when I finally told her. She didn’t know what to say.  She cried.

It was even harder because she had just had a stroke, so her memory was a bit off. My transition came as a bit of a shock, but she eventually came around.

I started taking, Sustanon 250 and then eventually Nebido, which are injections of the male hormone testosterone. After just a few days of these, my voice started cracking. After 17 weeks, I had facial hair coming in, my voice had lowered, and I had more body hair. My physical appearance and overall body shape was changing. But once I started growing body hair, I finally started to feel like a man.

Kirone about 8 months into hormone therapy

Kirone about 8 months into hormone therapy

Except for one thing.

My breasts revolted me. I had been wearing a chest binder for about two years, but it was getting to be too much. It would compress my chest so tightly that it made it hard to move and it was extremely hot to the point I nearly passed out. It made work a nightmare. It was even ripping into my skin at one point because we couldn’t get the right size. Eventually, throughout the summer, I started wearing looser tops so I didn’t have to wear my binder, but my confidence was waning. I was living as a man, but my body was still a woman’s.

I was living as a man, but my body was still a woman’s.

My then-girlfriend made me a promise. She was going to help me pay for breast removal surgery for my 23rd birthday. We scrimped and saved and put money aside, and eventually we had enough ­– £4000 to be exact. I had my surgery with Dr. Miles Berry on Sept 24, 2012, two days before my birthday. It took six weeks to recover; he had removed my breasts and reduced the size of my nipples. It was painful, but when it was all said and done I was happy with the results.

Before and after, transgender, by healthista.com

Time went on and I felt better, but still not great. Things with my girlfriend didn’t work out, but we are still friends. The hormones got to be too expensive ­– £110 for the blood tests, £120 consultation and about £100 for a couple months’ supply.  So I started getting them on the NHS because by then I had moved and found a new GP who was actually helpful and worked with me. Everything was going relatively smoothly and then the body dysphormia hit which made me constantly worry about my appearance. I became paranoid. I would only wear loose jeans and trousers and would only go to the toilet in my own home. I needed to proceed with my transition and get a man’s genitals.

The next part the transition was the hardest. Phalloplasty, or the construction of a penis, is done in three stages. I got funded by Charing Cross Hospital, as phalloplasty can cost up to £50,000, and had the first surgery in April 2014, the second in August 2014 and the final in April 2015. In the procedures, doctors took a skin graft from my forearm to make my penis. The blood vessels and nerves are reconnected so I can have sensation and urinate through it.

It was a long and painful process. Nothing like the doctors said it would be. ‘You’ll be back in work after two weeks,’ they said. Well, I just started back to work three weeks ago—11 weeks after surgery. They don’t tell you how hard it is to do simple things like move around or find a way to sit comfortably. They gave me the painkiller Tramadol, but it didn’t take the pain away. My stitches came out after three days and got infected. My arm was in a sling from the skin graft, and was actually more painful than my groin. I couldn’t get up on my own so I had to have help. It was a nightmare, but I got through it.

I really started to feel like a man when I could pee standing up.

I guess you could say I really started to feel like a man when I could pee standing up. It made life a lot easier because that confidence poured over into my work and social life.

Now that it’s all said and done, I feel more content with my life. Along with my newfound confidence, my sex life has improved a hell of a lot. My only regret about the entire process is that I never froze my eggs so I can start a family one day.

But, not everyone has stuck by me. Friends who I thought were pretty close outcast me when they found out I was becoming a man. It makes things hard because you feel like you can’t trust anyone. I only have a tight handful of friends now, but it’s not something I miss. Because having as many friends as I did before my transition, you couldn’t really know who your true friends are. Now I do.

I finally feel like a man. It’s been a long, drawn-out process, but everything from the body hair to the bulked up body to the surgeries have made me feel like I am finally who I am supposed to be.

Kirone McCaffrey is 27 and lives in Dagenham Essex.

Miles Berry, transgender, by healthista.comDr. Miles Berry performed Kirone’s chest surgery. Visit cosmeticsurgery-partners.co.uk for more information. 

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