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Kai Isaiah Jamal
courtesy of Instagram/@kai_isaiah_jamal

What top surgery means to me

And why I’ve enlisted the help of my community to get it

Some mornings I’ll turn the light off before I jump into the shower, but some mornings – more than I probably would like to admit – I won’t even be able to take a shower. Some days I’ll throw some clothes on and leave the house, some days it’ll take me a few hours and some days I’ll have a mini breakdown in my bedroom because my chest isn’t looking as flat as I’d like it to be. Some days I won’t get out of bed, I won’t be able to see anyone, I won’t even be able to go into work because some days it is all too much.

When for the past three years you have been waiting for something so life-changing as top surgery, it’s hard to think about what it will feel like the day I will wake and these two daily reminders of my struggles that sit heavy on my chest are gone. I try to imagine the ten seconds after my surgery. I have jotted down the start of poems about it and never finished them – because how could you write about one’s first real breath as one’s real self?

Now, however, that day is coming and I’m pretty sure I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve smiled at the thought of what we have called Topless 2K19. Myself and my friend Naeem Davies – co-founder of BBZ, curator, mentor, chosen queer Dad and all round blessing – are raising money to medically transition privately. The NHS waiting lists for trans folk are just too long for us, not to mention the impact a healthcare system that often isn’t trained in dealing with trans identity and its narratives, blackness and urgency does to your mental health. Waiting lists can be anything from 2-4 years, in some cases more.

Crowdfunding has become a more popular way for trans people to access private health care and fund their wellbeing. For me, it felt right; there’s something both healing and empowering about not having to explain my transition, identity, sexuality to people in real life that eliminates the emotional labour of trying to source funding. Instead, we gave the information we wished to share online, and are able to just watch and be humbled by the generosity of our community, the allies that stick by us. In a semi-social media influenced society (I say 'semi' because I was a teen before I was introduced to any social media), online platforms can provide safe spaces for initial explorations into parts of our identities that we never explored before. Online expression becomes another way of coming out, and my crowdfunder was one in which I felt accepted and safe. By crowdfunding we have been able to reach masc presenting folk from all over who have heard our stories and resonated with who we are and what we do and plug one another with the hope that we can all continue to support each others’ journeys.

In order to fund our surgeries, we have also decided to host a fundraiser event – but this is also to show people different ways of how to affirm and love your friends, while also trying to create a platform and momentum of funding for transmasculine presenting and GNC folk of colour. Imagine trans character Max’s 80s fundraiser prom in The L Word, but much more inclusive, a hella lot more black centred and a bit more on brand for us as collectives.

So this Valentine’s weekend, as an alternative to all the cis-het love stories that populate our timelines or news feeds, people can come thru and know, feel and experience love in all its forms at our event, ‘SHOW LUV’. Presented by the incredibly pioneering collectives Pxssy Palace and BBZ, the party will have music, an art raffle, spotlight some of the most talented artists in our community, and boast a QTIPOC Speed Social run by Feeld* (Feeld is a queer dating app) for anyone to have quickfire ‘dating’ or just a friendly kiki in a safe and relaxed space. There will also be a Sober Space that will be open for people to chill with some floating vibes away from the main room.

We are not the first and we won’t be the last to fundraise in these ways. LGBTQIA+ communities have and will always play a vital part in being one of or the only support system in many queer people’s lives and the way in which the queer scene help build each other up is an example of both revolutionary love and the ability to reimagine what it means to be a family. Us as a community understand the importance of affirming one another. In January, Brighton hosted the first regular fundraising event for trans people in the UK, while last year Pxssy Palace ran a fundraiser called ‘Kuchenga’s Pussy Pot’ in which they took over the downstairs of a club to fundraise over 1.9K to give back to a wonderful trans woman in the QTIPOC community. Likewise, with any extra money we raise from our fundraiser, we want to help others, creating a social space for trans masc folk of colour, where we can share resources, physical – I will be able to pass binders, tape, clothing etc on – or otherwise.

As a whole, it is nothing but an honour to know that in two weeks from now, I will be surrounded by my friends at an event full of so much joy and love, an event by us, for us. I think for many queer folk it is inherent that we are forced to accept that many things will not be handed to us. That we must work for everything we need. We need to make our spaces, platforms and talents accessible for those like us that need it, so often we have to work for free, make no profits and tirelessly spend hours putting our all into something, usually with no help from non-queer folk, organisations and platforms. We have a mutual understanding of how it feels to be isolated or Othered so we need to actively learn and show the ways that we can create safety.

After this surgery I know that my mental state will shift, and maybe in a way that I haven’t yet thought about. The way I will be able to navigate the world will be a lot easier in many ways. Being able to wear certain clothes without the worry of the outline of my binder creating a ridge, having the freedom to show off my very recently mastered (literally a month or so) swimming ability, to be able to have my partners hands on my torso without the looming fear and anxiety that comes with it, the way my heart rate increases, so much so she’ll see it desperately pumping through my chest. Taking my first warm beachy holiday in over seven years, knowing that I can freely lay beneath the sun. The moment I’m most looking forward to this year though, is those moments where the room is filled with only myself and my new, ever-growing self-love. Like a man, turning the bathroom light on, getting into the shower and being able to look down and see a silhouette that for me, epitomises freedom.

PXSSY PALACE x BBZ Presents: SHOW LUV on February 16th 2019