Paddy Gower Has Issues: Influencer reveals reality of living as a transgender woman in Aotearoa

Sammy has a classic self-deprecating Kiwi sense of humour.

She's the first to make jokes at her own expense.  

"With a lot of the content I do, I almost beat people to the joke in some ways."

That's exactly how the beauty influencer uses social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, to talk about the highly personal details of her life as a transgender woman.

She is incredibly open and frank about her experience, with hundreds of thousands of followers watching her videos every day.

"I definitely don't think people should have to share their journey, it is a very personal medical thing really, like, it's no one's business." 

But Sammy has a reason for sharing online, and with us for this story. 

"My way of being an advocate for being a trans person is by showing my journey because I can't deny that - like this is what's going on, this is what's happening, there's no lies around that." 

"For me, I wanted to spread as much awareness around it and humanise myself as much as possible."

Sammy realised she was transgender in what she calls a 'lightbulb moment' at 15. 

She says it explained the anxiety, anger, and extreme self-consciousness she had felt since she was little. 

Follow Paddy Gower Has Issues on social media:

"I remember going down the Barbie aisle at the Warehouse, and I would be, always so excited.. but like riddled with fear. 

"I couldn't go, 'Oh I love that!' I could never really enjoy something because I was so scared of what people around me would say." 

She also describes the feeling of gender dysphoria as an unfathomable discomfort with her own body when she looked in the mirror. 

"I just felt like an imposter. I felt like an imposter in your own skin...there was no connection with what I was seeing at all." 

"For me, I'm just trying to make my outside mirror who I really feel like I am on the inside."

Sammy began her social and medical transition when she was around 17, by changing her pronouns, name, and starting oestrogen hormones. 

Now 22, she's recently had surgery to create a more feminine shape, which she shared details of online. 

It's also important to her to have gender-affirming genital surgery, which she plans to pay for herself, and hopes to travel overseas for later this year. 

It will likely cost her around $40,000.

She counts herself lucky to have that as an option. 

"I'm definitely ready for that. I do feel it's holding me back in many ways."

"A lot of people.. when you tell them you're trans, immediately put you into a box, like, is she a girl with this, or is she girl with that?

"I mean, I don't go around asking what you've got between your legs!" 

"I'm probably really good at being open and talking about it because for me, I am happy to educate people on it, whether that means sometimes I'm putting my comfort zone a little bit more on the back burner."

Sammy says one day she hopes to move past her surgical transition.

She describes being transgender as one small part of her life.  

"I know how important it is to share my journey online, but it's not who I am, you know, it's just a part of who I am." 

Even with the unwavering support of her family and friends, Sammy acknowledges it's been a difficult year for transgender New Zealanders.  

Despite working in the world of social media, Sammy limits what she reads, because of hateful comments online. 

"For people that sit there and think this is such a fad or a trend, it's like, open your eyes just a little bit more to realise how much someone's taking on just by transitioning, how brave they're being by telling the closest family members that they love. 

"They're putting that relationship at risk. There is so much that goes at risk by doing this, you know?"

Sammy is as outgoing and enthusiastic in person, as you see online. And she's happy. 

"I am so, so happy with where I am. I think I know myself so well. And with that comes a backbone of confidence.

"I'm just really excited for the next chapter."

And you can bet she will share it publicly, in the hopes of helping someone who really needed to see. 

Trans woman Ella feels similarly about the importance of having gender-affirming genital surgery.  

She calls it an absolute priority. 

"It's the part that I hate the most, is my genitalia, it's the most masculine part of me, it just makes me sick sometimes.

"Some days it's easy to deal with. Some days it's impossible.

"The impossible days, I just curl up in bed and forget about life. I cry sometimes. I feel hopeless. I feel like I don't matter." 

Ella knew she was transgender at 16. 

Like Sammy, she's also been using hormones to assist with her medical transition.

"I've grown breasts, my skin's gotten softer, some people say my features have gotten softer as well, I look more feminine, my body hair growth has slowed.

"Feels good, especially when it's your masculine body that's causing you discomfort."

But Ella is in a different position to Sammy when it comes to a surgical transition. She can't afford to pay for it herself. 

Ella is currently on the waitlist to have her gender-affirming genital surgery publicly funded, but she doesn't have any indication of how long that wait could be.   

Only nine people had publicly funded surgery last year, and there are currently more than 400 in the queue. 

"I'm more likely to have to pay for it out of pocket and get it done myself, than I will get it publicly funded at the rate things seem to be going."

Ella said she is lucky to have good support around her, but worries for others who are waiting for surgery. 

"For some transgender people the wait and the mental strain is just too much for them. And I feel like the delay could cost them their lives."

Stream Paddy Gower Has Issues in full on ThreeNow.