'I've wanted to remove my breasts since I was 12'

By Simone Mitchell of news.com.au

Jack, who grew up in a small town near Shepparton in Victoria, always felt that he was "different". Photo / Supplied
Jack, who grew up in a small town near Shepparton in Victoria, always felt that he was "different". Photo / Supplied

Going to nightclubs is a rite of passage for many 18-year-olds. It's usually a thoroughly carefree experience, but for Jack Clark, it can be a minefield.

Particularly when it comes to using the toilet.

Jack is a transgender man, and switches between using male and female toilets depending on the situation, or as he puts it "how well I'm passing [as a man]".

At a club or a bar he has to choose between the men's toilets where the men "can be bigots who push you around" or the female toilets where the women, who are often drunk, can "freak out" when he enters.

Usually he opts for the disabled toilets, but they are often locked and that involves going to get the key and explaining why he needs to use them.

"Sometimes you'd rather hold it and go to the toilet only three times a day, just at home or at a friend's house," he says.

Jack, who grew up in a small town near Shepparton in Victoria, always felt that he was "different".

"Growing up in a small town being transgender didn't seem an option," he says. "As I grew up, I found myself becoming depressed and more lost and confused within my own body".

After joining the local LGBTIQ group as a lesbian Jack began to feel more comfortable with who he thought he may be, and came out as a transgender male within a few years.

Since a young age he felt that his female body didn't belong to him. He had a particular issue with his developing breasts: "I've wanted them removed since I was 12".

Jack suffers from dysphoria, which is the distress or discomfort that may occur when a person's biological sex and gender identity do not align. It's a very real condition, that eventually lead to Jack suffering depression.

"I suffer from severe dysphoria," he explains.

Jack is a transgender man, and switches between using male and female toilets depending on the situation. Photo / Supplied
Jack is a transgender man, and switches between using male and female toilets depending on the situation. Photo / Supplied

"When you're younger it starts out with confusion, 'why is my body different to the other boys?', but as you get older ... you become quite distressed and depressed. It causes a lot of social anxiety - going out in the street - being this gender for 18 years, it takes a toll. In your head and heart you know which gender you're supposed to be".

"Sometimes it's difficult to get out of bed every day and make an effort to go into the community. You have to prove yourself every day that you're the gender you are."

After extensive consultation with a psychiatrist and gender specialist he has decided to pursue a double mastectomy, as his breasts are the greatest source of his distress.

"It's always felt like my breasts don't belong to me - it's one of the worst things - the thing I am most dysphoric about, especially when I go out," he says.

He currently binds his chest every day with special strapping that he buys online - a habit that is painful and dangerous.

Jack (right) with his brother and baby sister. Photo / Supplied
Jack (right) with his brother and baby sister. Photo / Supplied

"Chest surgery is my next step to becoming the man I've always been on the inside ... the downside is that this surgery is $10,000 roughly including, surgeon and hospital fees etc."

The 18-year-old will struggle to pay this amount so he has set up a gofundme page in the hope that he can crowd-fund the surgery. At the time of writing, $90 had been pledged to help Jack get his "dream surgery" and there were five days left in the campaign.

"Of late my dysphoria has gotten a lot worse than it has been and I realised it's time to reach out and try and get some help and try and fix my mental state a lot quicker," he explains.

When we speak, he is on the way to his job as a teacher's aid at a special education school. His little sister Hollee was born with down syndrome, so that inspired him to pursue this career path.

Jack says his family was relatively supportive when he came out to them.

"[Mum] said she pretty much knew anyway. When I told dad I was bawling my eyes out - he was really, really good - he laughed a bit and said 'why are you crying about it? It's not a big deal'. He tells everyone he's got a son now, so that's great."

Jack and his partner. Photo / Supplied
Jack and his partner. Photo / Supplied

School was a little tougher. "In primary school I was always called 'the dyke' and in high school I did get bullied a bit ... I was pushed around and when I came out as trans I was called 'she man' and 'tranny' ... but really, I don't think I had it too bad ... there are a lot of people in the world who have it a lot worse."

Jack got a lot of support from the Diversity project community group, and it was one of their youth workers who accompanied him to his first appointment with the psychiatrist and surgeon in Melbourne, so he could start his physical transition.

He was so grateful for the support that he got through Diversity that he lead the youth group for a year before moving the 200km down the road to his new home in Melbourne's St Kilda.

"I like St Kilda a lot, it's a very queer community, it's very open minded," he says.

"You're either not getting noticed ... or getting noticed in a good way."

As for the prospect of the double mastectomy, he admits he is a bit anxious.

"It's a pretty major surgery ... there'll be a few weeks off work and I can't lift anything and there are drainage tubes ... but to think that it can become a reality soon ... that makes me excited," he said.

"I think I'll be really relieved to have it done. I'll be a lot happier and a lot more comfortable in my body. I'll be me."

Jack has said on his gofundme page that he would be "extremely grateful for any messages of support" if donating is not an option.

- news.com.au

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