Student receives surgery as he continues his gender transition

Thu, 15 Jul 2021 17:39:00 BST
River in clinic after undergoing surgery
River in clinic after undergoing surgery


A GCU student thanked his friends and family after raising funds for three years to undergo life-changing surgery as part of his gender transition.

Fourth year Forensic Investigation student and GCU Students’ Association LGBT+ Liberation Officer River Gowans received top surgery after first applying to the waiting list with an NHS gender clinic in summer 2019.

River spoke candidly about his transitioning journey and how the positive impact the experience has had on him.

He said; “I was fortunate enough to be able to save up a lot of money out of what I’ve got – I set aside usually half of what I take in and live on the bare minimum.

I think the average price for top surgery in the UK is about eight and a half thousand pounds.

I saved up quite a lot of my own then set up a Go Fund Me after my partner finally convinced me.

At first I was far too proud to be taking money from other people especially when they weren’t getting anything in return.”

When donations started appearing on River’s page, he explained how thankful he was to people who showed their support and wanted to help him reach his target.

He said; “I was blown away – and obviously very thankful because every tiny bit made it slightly easier for me to confirm a date for the surgery.”

River talked openly about the process and how he felt after the surgery.

He said; “The full medical title of the surgery is ‘bilateral mastectomy with free nipple grafts’ which basically meant that I got both breasts removed, the nipples were completely taken off and then re-attached.

The nipples are cut down to a more masculine size – also with the type of surgery I got there’s very little chance of regaining feeling in the nipples.

It’s a very small price to pay and I’ve now seen my results, I actually put it up on Instagram the other day, they look fantastic to be honest!”

River added; “The scars are almost perfectly symmetrical – the nipples are definitely in the right place, it’s just a case of waiting for them to heal now that I’ve got the stitches out”

From coming out as transgender in first year just a few years ago, it’s been an intense few years at university for River and he talked about how he feels now at this stage of his transitioning journey.

He said; “I feel fantastic – it might partially be because of the amount of painkillers I’m currently taking but not wearing a binder is amazing.

It’s such a trivial thing but even just being able to feel a shirt on my chest rather than a binder which is so incredibly tight is fantastic.

Just being able to wake up and put on a shirt rather than having to get loads of layers on – or even better being able to walk around shirtless – it just the best feeling.”

It’s one thing to endure a gender transition, but River has also been working on completing his degree – he explained what it’s been like going through this experience as a student at GCU.

He said; “The University and the Students’ Association has been absolutely fantastic.

I think it was the end of first year when I found out who I had to go to for my name to get changed.

As this was in the height of the pandemic my actual legal name change wasn’t going through it was taking ages but the university were able to change it straight away”

He added; “I’m also LGBT+ officer for another year and have been involved with the committee since first year, so I’ve got good ties with the LGBT community as well as charities and other support networks.

All my lecturers have been fantastic, I’ve never once been dead-named since I changed my name.”

River also emphasised how important it is to support those who are raising money for similar surgeries if you can afford to;

“It is so important when you see Go Fund Me pages for Trans people trying to raise money to get surgery – I don’t think cisgender people can truly understand how agonising waiting five or six years for one part of surgery is.

So, even just taking a look and if you can’t donate just share it – maybe someone else can donate.

It’s a very very important surgery and it can be so difficult, there are so many loopholes to go through - so if you see a page share it.

If you’ve got a couple of extra quid to donate it will mean a lot.”

To find out more about how Glasgow Caledonian University is supporting LGBT+ students see our dedicated page.

By Rebecca Meechan

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