Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the context and background to the Transitioning in Ireland podcast?
My name is Lorcan NicGiollaBhain and I’m a singer-songwriter/actor currently living in Dublin. I was born in Saudi Arabia and lived there for most of my childhood but moved to Dublin with my family when I was 13. When I’m not podcasting I spend my time writing, recording and creating content for my instagram and performing original material and covers at open mics around Dublin. I started medically transitioning in August 2018 when I moved back from a year of living in Spain and I decided to share my journey and experience by creating the podcast. I really hoped to create a podcast that could be used as a resource of information for other people who are in the middle of transitioning or considering transitioning and not sure what exactly it entails.
You set out making it as a ten-episode series. Do you feel the journey is complete? What did you learn from the process?
When I originally set out to create podcast, I wasn’t envisioning having a co-host, which has really changed the dynamic and I think made it a much more enjoyable podcast to listen to. I think the podcast can definitely continue, as there really are so few spaces where you get to hear trans women speaking candidly and openly about their lives. Creating the podcast has taught me a lot about my boundaries in terms of what I’m willing to share. There was an initial pressure I put on myself to be as open and honest as possible at all times, and now I realise it’s ok to hold some things back.
What are the main challenges for the trans community here at the moment? What are the greatest misunderstandings?
The greatest challenge I would say is the insane wait times that trans people face when dealing with the public sector and the HSE. The initial step for most trans people when transitioning is getting HRT therapy and if you try and go through the public sector you can be waiting up for three years. This to me is akin to making people suffering from depression wait up to three years to receive anti-depressants. It is dangerous. According to TENI‘s website, statistically 78 percent of trans people contemplate suicide and 40 percent attempt suicide and HRT can be a really effective way to alleviate trans people’s dysphoria and help with their depression. Part of the reason for the long wait times is the fact that there are only three doctors in Ireland that trans people are allowed to see to get prescribed HRT. I think a big misunderstanding is that the changes trans people are going through are purely cosmetic or surface level, but really we undergo these procedures so we can feel more at home and present in our bodies.
You have explored topics such as name choices, dysphoria, HRT and aesthetics and created a wonderful and honest resource for people. Are there any aspects of transitioning you find contentious, problematic or something you had to grapple and change your opinion about?
Something I had to personally grapple with was the idea of feminine beauty standards and figuring out if some of the procedures I’m undergoing are truly what I want as a woman or are influenced by societal pressures. I think about the removal of my beard which is a very lengthy, expensive and painful process where I receive electrolysis treatment for up to two years. My beard is something that causes me a lot of discomfort and embarrassment, it’s something that I feel really “clocks me” (a term our community uses to express when someone is able to spot that your trans) and I cannot wait for the day when it is totally gone. However, sometimes I feel like why am I conforming so much to this very heteronormative and binary idea of what it is to be a woman and why is it so important for me to “pass” (a term our community uses when someone is able to blend in and not be clocked as Trans) and I feel very conflicted about it. At the end of the day though, I just have to do what I believe is going to make me happy and enable me to feel confident and present in my body.
What did you find to be the most difficult part of the transitioning process?
The greatest challenge I faced during my transition was dealing with the doctor I had to see to get prescribed HRT medication. I was very unhappy with the way the he treated me. HRT therapy for trans women typically consists of oestrogen patches and testosterone blockers – which can be taken in a pill form or as a shot. My doctor only gave me testosterone blockers in shot form because he told me the effects were reversible and after three months we could decide whether I wanted to continue and take oestrogen. He told me statistically the amount of people who transition and regret it is alarmingly high so we needed to make sure it was the right decision for me. This statistic is untrue, there is a very small amount of trans people who regret transitioning, and often it’s because transitioning can make it harder for you to find a job, find housing and can lead to problems with family members who don’t accept your trans identity.
I went through a very serious bout of depression during this three-month period and I think being given a treatment plan where my hormones were blocked and not balanced out with anything contributed to it. When I went back to the doctor after three months, I did not reveal that I had been feeling low as I was afraid he would not prescribe me the oestrogen medication I knew I wanted and needed. When he finally prescribed me oestrogen he gave me such a low dose that within an hour of applying the oestrogen patch, I started to get hot flashes. I looked up online and saw that typically trans people would get 50-100 micrograms of oestrogen when starting HRT therapy and I was being told to cut up 25 microgram patches into quarters so essentially I was taking around six micrograms of oestrogen. I also asked my doctor at my last appointment if I could receive my testosterone blockers in a pill form and he responded that those don’t exist. This is untrue, they do exist in pill form, I believe you cannot purchase them in pharmacies in Ireland however they do in fact exist as I am now taking testosterone blockers in pill form. I decided after this last visit that I was not going to give this doctor anymore of my money for treatment, and am now going through an online GP service, however this is still not really ideal. I have decided to move to England in the Autumn to continue my transition journey and, while the NHS is not perfect, I know that it could not possibly be worse than here!
Which role models and resources have aided and inspired you?
I love Janet Mock who is an amazing author and now director and writer on the brilliant show Pose, which is one of the only shows on TV that is casting trans women to play trans characters. Her book Redefining Realness was a really important book for me on my journey and I really respect her openness and honesty. I also love Indya Moore who is a trans actress and plays Angel in Pose. She’s an amazing actor and model but is also very vocal on social media about really important issues like the violence directed at trans women particularly trans women of colour. This year there have been several cases of trans women of colour being murdered in America and Indya has used her platform to raise awareness about this issue, which sadly is not a new one. A statistic from the Human Rights Campaign shows that over 82 percent of trans women who were murdered in the US were trans women of colour, so it is something that has to be dealt with but unfortunately does not seem to be of any importance to the current US administration.
TENI has been an amazing resource for me as well, they have a helpline that I have called a few times when I’ve needed information regarding transitioning and I found them to be incredibly well informed.
You auditioned for the Voice UK this year. How did it go?
I auditioned for the Voice UK 2020 – there was a preliminary producers audition that I passed and I am now auditioning for the second round of the producers audition, so we will see how that goes. I would love to get on the show to share my experience as a trans woman and highlight some of the difficulties facing trans women in Ireland, so yeah, watch this space!
You mentioned about a podcast with your parents, is that still in the pipeline?
Well I would love to do a podcast with my parents, however I’m not sure they’re too keen on the idea. They’re very private but I think I may be able to wrangle them into an episode or two of Transitioning In Ireland make sure you follow us on Spotify or iTunes to find out if I manage to talk them into it!
Photo: Therese Aherne