Summer in the City, the UK’s largest and longest-running online video festival, returns to ExCel London 9-11 August. Sunday’s Gender Identity panel discussion features YouTuber, musician and trans dude, Jake Edwards. We catch up with them to discuss top surgery, mental health and terminology.

Jake-Edwards

Hi Jake, how was your weekend? Have you been Priding? 

No, I skipped Prides this weekend.

Which ones have you attended this year?

I only did London and Trans Pride in Brighton, but that’s enough sunburn for me.

You go by both ‘he’ and ‘they’ pronouns.

Yeah, either one, I don’t really mind – mix it up.

Do lots of trans people do that?

I think it’s really common these days. Once people realise you don’t have to be restricted to one set of pronouns, they actually quite like using multiple sets.

Describe your trans journey.

Well, to cut a very, very, very, long story short… I started questioning my gender when I moved from an all-girls’ school into a mixed-gender college environment, and slowly came to the realisation that I was a trans man. I was quite comfortable with that for a while but after I started taking testosterone and got more comfortable with my body and self-expression, I realised I enjoyed certain other things and my gender wasn’t exclusive to ‘masculinity’ or ‘maleness’. I got that confidence and started wearing makeup and skirts and going by ‘they’ pronouns. And after I got top surgery I got even more confident with being non-binary.

Where in the world did your top surgery take place?

In Cornwall, maybe just over a year ago.

Do you remember looking down for the first time afterwards?

When I first woke up I just remember still coming off all the drugs, I was clutching a tissue and just crying, really happy crying. When I came around the second time I had a huge bundled up bandage on one side that had been bleeding a bit more – it was just a precaution. I looked down and was like ‘why is there more than there was before? That’s not how this is meant to go.’ Once they’d taken the drains out and I got to look down at just a few dressings, it was incredible, the best feeling in the whole world.

You say your confidence grew after that, did your mental health get better?

I feel like people don’t talk about it, but for a lot of people after top surgery, you go through this period of actually feeling worse. You’re so happy about top surgery, and I was feeling great about that. But now I’d gotten over what to me was my last medical hurdle, I felt like ‘where do I go from here?’ I had nothing to channel depression and negative feelings into. I had to accept learning to deal with that naturally. A couple of weeks after, I was a lot more depressed than I thought I was going to be – I thought top surgery was going to fix everything.

 Is enough being done to help people when they’re feeling like that?

 If we’re talking mental health services within the NHS in general, it’s pretty dire. I’ve realised recently it depends where you live as to what services they can offer you. I know around my area there is almost no access to one-to-one therapy; it’s all occasional group courses and stuff like that. Once you’ve finished any medical things you need with the gender clinic, they just discharge you – they don’t really have the resources to give you the therapy you need.

You’ve explained terms associated with LGBTQ+ in your videos – which ones do you find yourself explaining to people most?

 You’re forever explaining what non-binary means to people outside of the queer community, or what pansexual means – anything other than transgender, gay and bisexual. But even within the community I find myself having to explain the difference between your romantic and sexual orientation. I identify as bisexual but panromantic, almost every time I say that out loud someone’s like ‘oh, so what does that mean?’

What does it mean?

I go by what I call the neo-definitions of bi and pansexual. Bisexual is an attraction to your own and other genders, pansexuality is attraction to people regardless of gender. I’m attracted to people of gender but my romantic feelings don’t really revolve around gender at all – it’s a genderless feeling.

Summer in the City © MidTea

Summer in the City © MidTea

You’re appearing at Summer in the City, which you’ve done before, what are you expecting from it and what can we expect from you?

I’m expecting a nice atmosphere, it is a very queer-friendly space so I always feel very catered to, which I don’t feel normally at large events – especially anything outside of Pride. I’m so excited for the gender panel – it’s the highlight of my whole weekend every year since we first held it. It’s this meeting of the trans community on YouTube, to just sit down, have a natter and feel safe and like we’re heard. Sometimes it can be hard when we’re all sat at home making our own individual videos about the same topic, it’s nice when we get that opportunity to all get together and have a fluid conversation about what’s going on or what we think is important at the moment.

© Mid Tea

© MidTea

Which things in the world right now are good for the trans community, and which things are doing you no favours at all?

Mainstream media really has it out for us right now, it’s terrifying. It makes it really hard to exist as a trans person and not feel scared that somebody has been misinformed before you can really teach them about what being trans means. I’d also say gender clinics are massively underfunded, the waiting lists are now at an all-time high, so that’s really difficult. And the pushback against LGBT education in schools is concerning.

But, at Prides this year I’ve felt the wider queer community really coming out for the trans community. At the Pride in London parade this year I was crying every two minutes because there was so much love for the trans community, and I’ve never experienced that away from Trans Pride. People are becoming more susceptible to learning and there are homemade queer brands catering to our community; there’s a YouTuber called Ty Turner who recently released a clothing brand called Fit To Me, where he’s taken t-shirts and redesigned them to fit transmasculine bodies in a flattering way. Stuff like that is incredible and it’s happening all over the community right now.

Summer in the City’s Gender Identity event takes place 11 August , 12-1pm, Panel Room B

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