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Nan Mthembu

Gender affirming care





I'm a 26 y/o non-binary person currently raising money for my top surgery. I was born in South Africa, grew up in Yorkshire but live in London, working as a model and event manager. My chest dysphoria has persisted and had such a cumulative impact on my mental health over the years. I spent years hiding my chest and experiencing a distressing level of dissociation associated with my body. Since I grew up in a strict African household, it took me a very long time to come to terms with my gender identity and truly understand what I was experiencing. My parents dismissed my early dysphoria as growing pains and typical teenage insecurity. The anxiety around my chest and gender presentation became worse and worse until I moved to London and learnt more about gender fluidity and gender dysphoria as a legitimate mental health concern. When I was 21, I started using they/them pronouns and a couple of years later started wearing a binder. This was very affirming for me and allowed me to settle into a stronger sense of self and identity.

Now with a more secure idea of who I am and how I want to express, it's clear that top surgery is the path for me. Taking off my binder is a devasting and sobering experience. It reminds me I'm nowhere near where I'd like to be and makes me feel as though I'm putting on and taking off my confidence and identity as if it's a costume. As a fashion lover and model, I'm sick of feeling uncomfortable in certain cuts and always having to accommodate my binder or having no choice but to hide myself or cope with the crippling anxiety and discomfort of my chest dysphoria. Desperate for the permanent peace and freedom, I chose to start fundraising for top surgery 2 years ago. I've been running various events and fundraising pushes through my project Attack The Wick to raise money for my own surgery but for the care of other QTBIPOC individuals in the same position as me. I've been on the NHS waiting list for over 2 years and I have not progressed in any way. For many people the waiting list is futile and private is the only option. This also means as a low income freelancer and part timer, it's been impossible to raise the funds needed to access the care I need privately.

Fundraising over these last couple of years has been such a special experience, allowing me to connect with and provide safer spaces for the QTBIPOC community in London. I've never felt more at home. Despite this, it has truly been an emotionally and physically demanding task to juggle with my other commitments. I'm determined to push on as I know the surgery will have an indescribable impact on my life and I hope the community will support me in this fight.

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