TRISH HAMMOND: Great, well I’m really excited because I’m here today with Joelinda. Joelinda is actually from Brisbane and she has got a fantastic story to share. I really wanted to get Joelinda; we’ve been trying to and fro to make sure that we’re both available at the same time. We finally got it together.
JOELINDA: Thank you, how are you going Trish?
TRISH HAMMOND: I’m great and I’m so excited to have you on here today.
JOELINDA: Thank you.
TRISH HAMMOND: Tell us, I know you’ve got an amazing story. Tell us a little bit about you … Where have you come from?
JOELINDA: Yep, so my name’s Joelinda from Brisbane, as you said. I was previously living for 26 years of my life as Joel, who was a very unhappy, overweight male, or female trapped in a male’s body I should say. Back in April of 2015 my asthma specialist suggested that I undergo a gastric sleeve weight loss surgery. I went and had that in May, 2015. I’ve achieved some fantastic results which have allowed me to begin my transition into my new life and being who I’ve always been.
TRISH HAMMOND: Fantastic. May of 2015, that’s not even two years. What weight did you start at, Joelinda?
TRISH HAMMOND: Oh, wow.
JOELINDA: Yeah, just a little bit heavy. I am now currently sitting quite steady at 84 kilos. 95 kilos gone for good.
TRISH HAMMOND: That is amazing. How tall are you?
JOELINDA: I am 179 centimetres tall.
TRISH HAMMOND: That’s around about five foot … Nearly six foot?
JOELINDA: I think five elevenish? Just under six foot.
TRISH HAMMOND: Perfect model height.
TRISH HAMMOND: Alright, so basically you’ve been big all your life. Your asthma doctor suggested that you get a gastric sleeve, so you had your gastric sleeve. You’ve lost almost 100 kilos-
TRISH HAMMOND: And you’re now at about 85 kilos or so?
TRISH HAMMOND: What have you experienced in that … First of all, when you went on your diet, were you still Joel?
JOELINDA: I was still Joel at the start, because although who I am is something I’d always known I knew that my weight was going to put a stop to that. For me, if I was going to do it I was going to do it properly and undergo the relevant surgeries, which I’m gearing up for later in the year. At the size that I was at, at 179 kilos, they weren’t going to put me under anaesthetic for the time needed to do reassignment surgery. It just wasn’t a possibility.
The minute the surgery was suggested to me I was like, “I can do this.” I started telling my family and close friends and gradually let everyone know. Between April and June, while gearing up and recovering from surgery, I told everyone. In June 2015 I started my hormone replacement therapy and by August I’d let everyone know my new name, preferred name to be used. I’ve started living as myself from there.
It was a complete transition for me. To look at photos now I mean not just from the weight loss but from just how I carry myself, present myself, my happiness. Obviously the hair and everything like that … It looks like two completely different people. Which is a nice feeling, actually.
TRISH HAMMOND: I haven’t known you for very long and I met you on one of our Facebook groups. I can immediately I can feel … You’re a confident woman, do you know what I mean? I can feel that in you. You’ve got a great job, we won’t mention what you do, but you’ve got a fantastic job so you’re obviously career oriented as well. Your gastric sleeve surgery was your first step in you becoming you.
JOELINDA: Yeah, absolutely was. It was the catalyst for everything. I look at the changes in my life since then and as you said, I am confident. I am happy. I am comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. It just feels amazing. It feels empowering. The new me that I’ve finally let break free.
TRISH HAMMOND: Yeah, absolutely. Tell me, you’ve lost nearly 100 kilos. I know you’ve had no surgery so far except for your sleeve.
JOELINDA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TRISH HAMMOND: Tell me how that 100 kilos has left your body? I’ve lost 50 kilos myself so I know how that left my body. I can’t even begin to imagine what 100 kilos of fat loss-
JOELINDA: I’m going to … Touch wood as I say this … I think that my age or genetics or something has worked in my favour here. I mean, I do have some loose and puckered skin but given the amount of weight that I’ve lost, I don’t have the excess skin that you would expect me to have. I know that some people with the weight loss they end up with folds or flaps or skin, and as I said touch wood I haven’t ended up with that. There’s obviously some slight puckering and droopiness particularly around the belly button and the lower abdomen, but not anything like I think I expected when I went in?
I did go in expecting, with what I was wanting to lose, to have quite a lot that I would need work on at the end. At this point in time, I think I’ve gotten off quite lightly.
TRISH HAMMOND: Do you reckon that could have … I mean, this is just theorising here, but do you reckon it could have something to do with the fact that you transitioned during that time as well? Like because guys don’t tend to sort of show their weight as much as women, but now because you’re allowed a bit you’re a woman you’re allowed to be a bit softer skin … You’ve come from that so that could have had something to do with it maybe?
JOELINDA: Yeah, well I guess that is true because I mean essentially for all intents and purposes the hormones almost make you re-go through puberty. One of the things they do do transitioning from male to female is soften the skin. They may have played a part and sort of helped make things a little bit easier for me along the way, which I’m certainly not going to complain about.
TRISH HAMMOND: No, that’s great.
Tell me, what’s coming up for you? What do you see as being the next thing? I know how much surgical procedures cost-
JOELINDA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
TRISH HAMMOND: I know how important it is in someone’s life to have these things done that enable them to move forward or be who they are or get to the next phase of life, or whatever it might be. What’s next for you? What’s going to be your very next thing that you’re going to do?
JOELINDA: The very next step for me is I’m currently looking at surgeons in the Brisbane area, so if anyone’s got any recommendations feel free to let me know. I’m looking to go and have breast implants and augmentation done. Unfortunately the hormones didn’t quite work wonders for me in that area. I’ve grown A cup breasts, which is quite nice and obviously validating but not quite the right size to match my frame. I’m hoping to go and have that done. I’m looking for a surgeon now and then I’m going to be getting in as quickly as possible.
Following that I’m hoping to go by the year’s end … I’m seeing a new psychologist tomorrow who is hopefully going to help get the ball rolling on this … To actually go and have the gender affirmation surgery or sex reassignment surgery as it’s more commonly known, to have that done because it’s important for it to be done. I prioritised having the breasts done simply because for me it is a cause of more dysphoria because that area is missing and that’s an area that is visible if you’re not wearing padded bras to make it look the part.
TRISH HAMMOND: Yeah, totally. I know that when I met you, you’re a bit like me like you’re an advocate for surgery in Australia. You’re also … Not that I’m having gender reassignment surgery, but if I was in your position and I was looking at having breasts and gender … It’s not reassignment what’s the proper word?
JOELINDA: Well reassignment-
TRISH HAMMOND: Affirmation? Affirmation.
JOELINDA: That’s the one.
TRISH HAMMOND: So much nicer. I need to just remember that. Gender affirmation. I know for a fact that you’re an advocate for having surgery in Australia, but with your gender reassignment you’re going overseas and that’s exactly … I think that’s exactly the right thing to do.
Can you tell us why you’re choosing to go overseas for your affirmation surgery and your breasts in Australia?
JOELINDA: Yeah, absolutely. The breasts in Australia for me is because it is a more common procedure. We have some fantastic surgeons here in Australia and I am a huge advocate for that. If you’ve got the surgeons here that can do the work that you want and need, use them.
There are fantastic surgeons in Australia for the gender affirmation surgery as well, but given the involvement of the surgery, the delicate area that you’re working with, and how important the result is going to be, I need to use someone that I know others that have used. I have three other transgender friends who have used a surgeon over in Phuket. The reason that he gets such amazing results is because the sheer volume of procedures that he has done. The sheer number of gender affirmation surgeries that he has done, obviously being over in Thailand with all the [inaudible 00:11:07] to Thai lady boys and things like that.
Just for me, I feel more comfortable knowing he’s got that many procedures under his belt. Having been able to see first hand the results that friends of mine have achieved thanks to him.
TRISH HAMMOND: Fantastic. Do you know, I actually didn’t realise that there’s actually even surgeons in Australia that do gender affirmation? I’m sorry, when I say gender reaffirmation I’m talking in the genital area because I know that there’s gender reassignment like face injections and you know you can refine the jaw and the breasts to be a bit more girly. As far as the genital area I didn’t actually know that until now, because I’ve never been able to actually … Not that I’m looking, but when I’ve done research I’ve never been able to “find anyone” that did do that surgery in Australia. That’s interesting in itself.
JOELINDA: Yeah. I think in Australia there’s obviously not as many as you would find for other types of surgeries. Obviously I did look in Australia at first, because that would have been preferable of course.
TRISH HAMMOND: Of course.
JOELINDA: There were few and far between. The options were more sparse and it was looking like I was probably going to end up having to travel interstate anyway to Melbourne or to Perth to have it done. I thought if I’m having to travel anyway, I might has well travel that little bit further and have the comfort of using someone that I’ve actually seen first hand the results of.
TRISH HAMMOND: Okay, that makes so much sense for you. There’s no doubt about that.
With all of this surgery, it’s not cheap. Not everybody can afford to have everything done. If we can have a bit of a chat about the money side of it. I know that it costs money for anyone to do any sort of treatment, but how … I know you’ve got a great job and all that, but for the average person out there, how do you actually … Where do we get the money from? How do you actually say, “Okay right well I’m going to spend this much to get me me again.”
TRISH HAMMOND: Or me for the first time.
JOELINDA: Absolutely. It’s obviously a lot of scrimping and saving and skipping cinema trips to save those extra dollars up. I’m quite lucky in the fact, and it was actually one of my other transgender friends that put me onto this, if you have the letters from two psychologists confirming the need for your affirmation surgery, you can actually apply to the Department of Human Services for early release of Super on compassionate grounds to assist with some of the costs for the surgeries.
I’m obviously not wanting to dip into my Super and madly saving as much as I can, but if it gets to the point where I’m ready to go and book in and I don’t quite have the funds together, I’m very blessed in the fact that I’ve got that option available to me to dip into it. Because if that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be as achievable. It would certainly mean that for lots of people that wouldn’t ever be achievable. I think we’re quite lucky here in Australia compared to other parts of the world where there isn’t that support and option available.
TRISH HAMMOND: Totally. I do understand a lot of people are frightened by the thought that people can access their Super, and I understand that way of thinking as well, “Great, yeah we’ve got to think about tomorrow.” But I also understand the … I am this person … The living in the now and like you just don’t know, you might not even be alive tomorrow.
JOELINDA: Yeah. For me I think as well when you’re talking about the transgender topic and you know that accessing it for this type of surgery you look at the suicide rates among transgender individuals compared to others and it is significantly higher. This surgery, for some people, could be the difference between life and death.
The other thing too is I mean, this is just my circumstance, but I’ve always been someone that’s put extra into their Super right from my first job when I started at 15. The money that I may look to take out is actually money that I wouldn’t have had if I had just been making the normal Super contributions. That’s how I can justify it to myself, because I’m not dipping into what I should have had. It’s just the extra that I’d sort of accrued through my extra contributions.
TRISH HAMMOND: That’s great. That’s so, so good. I totally understand, and I just wanted to touch on this because we’re talking about the suicide rates here for transgenders is higher. For listeners out there … Unless you’ve been in this position of either being depressed or not being happy with yourself or not being you and I relate to you on this level, not as a transgender but having been an overweight person and having lost weight and then when you lose weight or you become who you are it makes you a lot happier. But also I put on a little bit of weight that I lost and I am that person as well who is really sort of mentally affected. My wellbeing is all based on the way that I feel about myself-
TRISH HAMMOND: Whether it’s right or whether it’s wrong or it doesn’t matter. It’s like that for me, so I can relate to you just wanting to be you and who cares what it takes, you’re just going to do it.
JOELINDA: That’s right.
TRISH HAMMOND: Yep, awesome.
Tell us … I can hear you tapping away there. You’re planning on your breast surgery before the end of this year? Is that right?
JOELINDA: Absolutely. As soon as possible. I’m just looking at the different surgeon options they’ve got in the Brisbane area, and going through there. I’m hoping that I can find a surgeon who has work I’m happy with who does payment plans so that I don’t have to dip into what I’ve been saving up for the affirmation surgery. But if the surgeon that I’m comfortable with and that I want to go with doesn’t do that, then I will do so.
I’m hoping as soon as possible. It’s really just a matter of picking who I want to go with, having a few consultations and then saying, “How quickly can you get me in?”
TRISH HAMMOND: Yeah. Make sure you have at least three consultations if you can.
TRISH HAMMOND: I know sometimes you walk in and see your first one and you think, “No, I’m going to go there.” But just do it always. Just for yourself. Good on you.
I’m going to ask you one last thing before we finish up, because I know it’s dinner time and getting late and I really appreciate your time here it’s been so interesting. Boobs this year, gender affirmation you’re thinking next year?
JOELINDA: Gender affirmation if I can sneak it in I’d love to sneak in before the end of this year, but realistically speaking next year is the goal. I’ve set myself a time limit that I want it done on or before my 30th birthday, so October next year it needs to be done by then.
TRISH HAMMOND: Nice. The thing is, I believe in taking the time to heal between surgeries. I know we want it all and we want it all now, but it’s really important to sort of let the body recoup and just take everything one step at a time. Which is really hard sometimes.
JOELINDA: Yeah, absolutely.
TRISH HAMMOND: Great. Well I’m really excited. Are you going to be happy to share your journey with us as you’re having stuff done? Can we talk to you and get the updates and share that with everyone?
JOELINDA: Absolutely. I’ll keep everyone posted and updated along the way when I have anything done with updates and stories and pictures. I’m very much an open book and I’m happy for anyone that wants to come on this journey with me in spirit to do so.
TRISH HAMMOND: Thanks so much Joelinda, it’s been great talking to you today. It’s been absolutely fantastic. I’ve been so looking forward to this.
JOELINDA: Me too, it was really good. Thanks so much Trish.
TRISH HAMMOND: My pleasure. If anyone out there who is having a listen if you want to find out a bit more, if you want to get in contact with Joelinda or if you want to get in contact with us just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put you on to the right connexions.
JOELINDA: Thank you.
TRISH HAMMOND: Bye.