News (World)

Transgender teen attempts self-mastectomy before pool party

sad teen with rainbow flag

Facing a long wait for top surgery through New Zealand’s public health care system, a transgender teenager desperate to transition attempted a life-threatening mastectomy on himself.

The 18-year-old went to a hospital emergency room after “attempting a partial left mastectomy at home,” according to the New Zealand Medical Journal.

The unnamed teen had a background of gender dysphoria and was taking testosterone, but he faced a possibly yearlong wait for the procedure in the country’s public health system.

A lack of funds for private gender-affirming care combined with the “significant psychological stress of having breasts at an upcoming pool party, pushed him to try the surgery himself,” according to the Journal.

The trans teen prepared for the procedure by watching a how-to video on YouTube, planning ways to control the pain and bleeding, and marking out the incisions to make around his left breast.

Several hours into the home surgery, he began to worry about nerve damage and sought medical attention.

In the hospital, the teen underwent a mental health assessment before surgeons completed the left mastectomy, as well as a “symmetrizing” mastectomy on the right breast.

Doctors noted deep cuts around his entire left breast. He was reportedly released the following day.

According to a post-op report a month later, healthcare providers noted the teen’s improved mood and self-esteem.

“He reported improvement in self-esteem and self-confidence and his ability to complete schoolwork, and was looking forward to enrolling at university,” the report shared.

The report described the incident as an “act of desperation” over the “unmet need” of top surgery in New Zealand.

The teen “had been considering gender-affirming surgery for years,” the report said. “A lack of access to gender-affirming surgery led to this act of desperation.”

According to an earlier mental health assessment, doctors said the patient didn’t have any previous psychiatric diagnoses and wasn’t suicidal.

Transgender psychology expert Associate Professor Damien Riggs told Australia’s North West Star that both New Zealand and Australia have serious limitations when it comes to gender-affirming surgeries.

“While both counties have social healthcare, only some of the cost is covered, most of it isn’t,” Riggs said.

Wait times for mastectomies in the public health system are increasingly long, while private procedures can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

According to the New Zealand not-for-profit Gender Minorities Aotearoa, the wait time for bottom surgery in the public health system is 10 to 12 years.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

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