'It will be an absolute release' - Transgender Fair City actor discusses mastectomy
AN ACTOR who made history by becoming the first transgender person to star on an Irish TV show has taken a huge step in his transition from a woman to a man – by undergoing a mastectomy.
Brave Jack Murphy (29), underwent surgery last week at a Dublin hospital after a long wait for the procedure to be carried out.
Three years ago Jack – who played Ryan Donnelly in Fair City – had a hysterectomy.
While Jack always knew he was a man despite being born a woman, he never felt like he was “trapped” in a different body.
“It was never like a thing where I felt like I was trapped, because in a way I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” he explains.
“I didn’t feel like there was something wrong with me, but I didn’t feel normal.
“I didn’t feel like all the other kids, I didn’t feel like the way my fellow classmates did in my mixed school. I used to hang around with the girls, but I was a real tomboy.”
Jack, who sported lads’ clothes from his early teens, wore a beautiful red dress for his Debs, in honour of his parents.
“I wanted to give them a last hurrah,” he smiles.
He changed his name legally to Jack when he was aged 24 and was the 97th transgender Irish person to get a passport under his new identity.
“I always wore men’s clothes from when I became an adult. A lot of people would have thought I was lesbian and I kind of identified as a lesbian because I didn’t know what it was to be transgender and I didn’t understand it.
“It took a few years for me to go online, chat to friends, go on YouTube, go on Google and look up what being transgender meant.
“I think I saw it on a documentary and I was like ‘that is exactly what I am’, because when I was identifying as lesbian, I didn’t want to be intimate in a lesbian way.
“I wanted to be a man and have heterosexual intimate relations.
Jack is on Tinder, but emphasises to girls he wants to date that he’s transgender.
“I have on my Tinder profile that I’m a transgender male. I explain that I’m a female transitioning to male."
He said that people would often ask him intimate questions straight away - which he believes crosses a line.
"I’m talking to this person for five seconds and they’re already starting to talk about my genitals and I’m absolutely sick of it, I'd just block the person.
“It shouldn’t all be about sex or about your genitals. A person should like a person for being the person, not what’s in their pants.”
He adds: “If a girl chatted me up in the bar I’d speak for a while and then I’d say ‘I don’t know if you know, but I’m female to male transgender’ and explain.
“It is important to tell people. If it’s on Tinder, maybe 98 per cent of the time they unmatch me.”
Jack started taking testosterone four years ago, which meant that he could start to grow facial and chest hair and also helped deepen his voice.
“I have to take it for the rest of my life. I have good side effects like facial hair.”
He has worn a chest binder for the last several years, but now that has all changed after his operation.
He was accompanied to the hospital by his wonderful mother Francesca, who has stood by him since his life-changing decision.
She slept in a chair by his bed the night before he had surgery, as Jack suffers from anxiety.
All of Jack’s family, his father, sister and three brothers, have also stood by him, as have his friends and other family members.
Unlike the hysterectomy – where he was knocked out for a day or so – Jack’s breast operation went relatively smoothly and after being brought to the theatre at around 1pm was back in his bed in his room after recovery at around 6pm.
“I was kind of hesitant to look down because I didn’t know if I was going to be covered in blood, I didn’t know what way it was going to be,” he says about the aftermath.
“There was nothing there that was gory or anything like that, so I was okay to look at it. I had a peek down and I think I was still a little bit out of it to realise what had just happened.
“Once this binder is off in five weeks’ time, then it will kick in. It will be an absolute release once I’m healed.
“There are a lot of people who’ve gone through this operation. There’s only one surgeon in Ireland at the moment who does that surgery and she’s actually retiring, but there’s someone taking over from her, I hope.”
Jack starred in Fair City for eight episodes in 2017 and there is a possibility his character may come back.
His character Ryan was unveiled to viewers after Laura got Hughie to help him with the Dolphin Hotel.
It also turned out that Jackie had an inkling she knew Ryan from before. Ryan used to be Melissa in his previous life and looked after Jackie and her friend during their alcoholic phase.
Ryan finally had to let her know. “I said ‘yes, you do know me, do you remember Melissa?’,” Jack recalls.
“She goes ‘of course I’m remember Melissa’. I say ‘well I’m Melissa’.”
The last viewers saw of him was when he took a bus to Cork to see his mother, who he hadn’t been in contact with for 10 years.
“I got great feedback from both friends and family when I was on Fair City,” beams Jack.
“There were a few people who hadn’t seen me as Jack and they said they didn’t know it was me and that they were shocked, going ‘my God that was you’, and I’m like ‘yes, that’s me’.
“The feedback I got and everything I got back was positive, I didn’t get any negativity when it came to the whole thing.”
Jack is taking a break from surgery to let his body recover.
“That’s down the road to consider,” he admits. “After chest surgery I’m taking a break, I’m giving my body a break for a while as it’s been through enough trauma.”
He split up with his girlfriend of a year a few months ago, one of several relationships he’s had as a man.
“It was difficult, as I thought that was ‘the one’,” he sighs.
“I would love to settle down with someone,” he says. “And I’d love to do more acting.
“I can’t hold out for Fair City to call me back, but who knows what’s around the corner.”