'I'm only 19, I'm poor': Trans man gets real about expectations for trans folks to get surgery

In a viral TikTok video, Adonis Zeigler shares why the fixation on gender-reaffirming surgery can be harmful for trans folks.

'I'm only 19, I'm poor': Trans man gets real about expectations for trans folks to get surgery
Image Source: grungepuppi / TikTok

Trigger Warning: Body dysmorphia, transphobia

In a now-viral video, TikTok user Adonis Zeigler explains why the fixation on transitioning places an unfair burden on trans folks. He has had numerous people ask him why he "chose to keep" his breasts instead of undergoing top surgery (a procedure wherein breast tissue is removed). As a young, lower-income individual, he shares, he does not have a choice at all. Furthermore, some individuals simply do not wish to transition. To pressure trans individuals into transitioning is inherently transphobic; it is a means of telling members of the trans community that they are only "acceptable" if they look a certain way. Typically, if they are able to "pass" as cis.


In the video, which has garnered over 4.7 million views since it was first posted, Zeigler discusses why transitioning can be an oppressive expectation. "I didn't [choose to keep my breasts]," he states. "I'm only 19. I'm poor, from a poor family, unemployed, with state insurance. Not every trans masc person gets lucky with privileged parents, supportive networks, or lucrative businesses to get top surgery young. Stop asking unless you're footing the bill." The TikTok user has had a tumultuous journey with regard to his gender appearance in the past.


He first began feeling disconnected from himself at the age of nine. However, it was not until age 12 that he understood the vocabulary to describe his dysphoria. He said in an interview with BuzzFeed, "I fought my father for years to obtain hormones until I was 15. My mother supported me from the jump, but he was against it for a variety of reasons and only let me continue transitioning once he realized how bad I was getting mentally. Not even years of therapy was stopping my self-destructive tendencies and worsening grades." Thankfully, hormone therapy has helped.


Zeigler was initially able to access the treatment through his father, who has insurance through his job. Unfortunately, his dad lost his job when the TikTok user was 17 years old. He has thus not been on hormones since. "I personally don’t have help," he said. "I have been saving since I was able to start working when I was 17 but repeated emergencies such as car repairs and sudden moves have taken what I have earned." Zeigler is but one trans individual who does not currently have the means to transition, which can be a painful process given his dysmorphia. Nonetheless, he urged everyone to consider each individual's experience.


He affirmed, "When it comes to access to gender-affirming surgeries, I really wish people would consider the individual and their circumstances. Aside from financial constraints for those that seek surgery, there are countless situations that make surgery necessary for not just their mental health but oftentimes their survival. 2021 has been a horrid year in trans homicide statistics and I have personal experience where, even binding in a plain work uniform, I've been outed and felt unsafe in my own workplace." He added that "every trans person has their own unique experience."


"Some are fortunate enough to have access to what they need early and that makes me happy that their joy is the mainstream image of trans experiences," Zeigler concluded. "However, a lot of trans folks are not as fortunate and our struggles are not talked about because of that." If you would like to contribute to someone's gender affirmation surgery, GoFundMe's team has a curated list of fundraisers by those who would appreciate the assistance. You can make a donation here.