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Sunday 11 October 2015


Raising cash for top surgery: every dollar helps

Posted in: True Stories
By Jacqui Stanford - 13th March 2015

Rather than wait around and hope for surgery under the public system, a trans Aucklander is taking the initiative by working tirelessly to save as much as he can, and appealing to others to chip and help him out.

Jozsef_and_Dany.jpg
Schwarzenberg (Right) with friend Dany.
Jozsef Mess Schwarzenberg ‎is a 26-year-old central Aucklander who works in a call centre. “I’m not living up to my graphic design degree,” he laughs. “Other than that, I just hang around playing guitar.”

Growing up, he always felt uncomfortable in female clothing and anything female associated.

“I remember being really young, like five-years-old, and refusing to wear bikinis at the beach. That whole thing just always made me uncomfortable and I could never figure out why. It wasn’t till fairly late in my 20-somethings that I figured it out.

“Coming out as trans was a bit of a funny process for me, because I never understood that to be trans, you didn’t necessarily want lower surgery, or anything like that. But once I got involved with and met more trans people, and figured that out, I was like ‘ahh, okay!’

“There was an instant switch turning on for me. And after that I basically straight away started the process of transition. Everything just seemed clear straight away.”

Schwarzenberg says one of the best things about transitioning is enjoying yourself as a person. “Your body and the way you look - there’s been so many changes. Actually enjoying looking in the mirror and seeing the progress and being happy with yourself. It doesn’t feel like you’re lying to yourself anymore.”

He hasn’t faced any prejudice or discrimination. “My whole family’s been supportive. I’ve been very lucky like that.” He feels for those who have had the exact opposite experience.

One of the challenges he has had is communicating to people why it’s so important to have access to trans-friendly health care. “Even though a lot of people have been supportive and still love you and respect you as a person, a lot of them don’t really understand why we need to have more health protection.”

Another issue has been cost, which is why he is fundraising for top surgery. He says the Auckland surgeon who used to carry out the surgery under the public system is now solely focusing on breast surgery. “We haven’t been told if there will be a replacement, if it will be funded again, if there will be anything done about it. Apparently it isn’t the funding that has gone away, it’s just the surgeons that have gone away. There’s been no replacement. But you contact other people and they say ‘no there’s just no funding anymore’. So we don’t know what’s going on still.”

Jozsef.jpg
Schwarzenberg had just received his psych approval for surgery when he found out there was no public surgery available.

“So our only option in New Zealand is to either pay very large amounts to go private, or go overseas, which is actually a lot cheaper than New Zealand, include flights and stay.”

Fundraising has been slow. While he has support from friends, and has been working “every living working moment” he can to save, he still has a long way to go.

“I have lots of friends that regularly donate, small amounts even, but everything helps. I’ve got people who donate two dollars every week, and that is fantastic.”

He says the surgery will allow him to feel content with his own body. “It’s hard to express to people the damage that the dysphoria does to a person’s mind.”

He says there are a lot of cases of people who have been so damaged by the dysphoria that try to take surgery into their own hands. “People don’t see how much damage it does to a person’s brain. [Surgery] will be a weight off my shoulders. It’s like getting cured of a disease.”

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Jacqui Stanford - 13th March 2015