A 14-year-old in South Australia has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for her trans mother to have gender affirmation surgery.

Leah Ewart, started the campaign on July 11 to fund her mother, Saoirse Ewart’s surgery. Saoirse was born intersex and raised as a boy by her Irish family. Sairose, who identifies as transgender, started her transition process to be fully female some years ago.

The first few days after she started her campaign, Leah raised around $200 before the page was hit with abusive and transphobic messages.

“Things took a bit of a turn with some comments being posted calling intersex and transgender people very offensive names. I had to remove a lot of posts or block people sadly, which means nobody has looked at the campaign for over a week,” Leah told the Star Observer in an email interview.

This early hiccup has not dampened her spirits.

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 “I know that it is a lot to ask total strangers for help when everyone is facing such terrible things right now. But I really need my mummy in my life and I miss seeing her happy and being able to live with her. Knowing she is struggling everyday with hate and violence is hard enough. But not being able to do anything about it is harder still. I am grateful just to have the chance to be heard, I did not think anyone would take the time to listen to a 14 year old kid. It means a lot to know people do care.”

Growing up Leah had noticed that her mother never went out on dates and she used to always hide to get changed. When she finally asked her mother the reason why she was always sad, she had started to cry.

“She told me she could not have a relationship because of her condition and that she hides herself because she never wanted people to laugh at her body and scars again. Then she explained to me that the operation she needs is similar to gender surgery, but way more complex as the doctors would need to remove damaged tissue to fix stuff first, then take tissue from inside her body to rebuild everything,” said Leah.

According to Leah, her mother Saoirse was born in Northern Ireland with a rare form of a genetic condition called Mosaic Chromosomal Disorder. Saoirse moved to Australia in the 1990s with her mother and siblings. Doctors did not understand her mother’s condition and she was raised as a boy despite having XX chromosomes, the GoFundMe campaign says. Years later when her condition was diagnosed, Leah said doctors forced her mother “on to testosterone and performed surgeries to make her look like a boy.”

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 Leah and her brother were born when Saoirse was in her early 20s. In 2018, Saoirse moved with her children to Murray Bridge to be close to her mother. The same year she stopped her testosterone medication and told her family that she had decided to transition to female. However, she was diagnosed with cancer and had to spend the money she had saved up for her surgery on her treatment.

Around the same time, she started facing attacks at the public housing complex she lived in. Their home was targeted with anti-LGBTQI graffiti. Leah moved in with her grandmother to ensure her safety.

“Since moving in with my grandmother for safety reasons things have continued to happen, with the house being vandalized weekly and my mum being unable to leave the house without abuse,” revealed Leah. The last two years have been hard on the family and this year the COVID-19 lockdowns have taken its toll too.

“The impact of COVID-19 has been significant for our family, with my mum being unable to attend her medical appointments as often as she has needed and not being able to buy her medications. One of the hardest parts for me is being unable to leave the house at times to see my mum or friends which has been very isolating,” Leah said.

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 Her objective now is to raise $20,000 so that her mother can have the first stage of her surgery in the US by a specialist who can help her.

“My mother is a really kind person and the past few years have been hard for her. Recently, I learnt that much like my mum, other intersex kids were savagely mutilated and surgically altered too, which really upset me and made me want to do more.  When I spoke to my brother about it, we agreed to do it as a surprise for her,” said Leah.

Leah also wants to raise her voice for others who are in the same situation like her mother.

“Having been raised by a strong Irish woman, who has spent her entire life advocating for the LGBTQI community, I guess a lot of her values have rubbed off on me,” Leah said. “I want to see change for the better and right now it means holding the government accountable for the needs of transgender, intersex and gender diverse people and their medical needs in this country. I never want to see more people like my mum suffering or dying for being born slightly different from some of us. We shouldn’t be treating people as second class citizens and neither should our government when gender affirming care is the solution.”

If you want to help Leah, you can contribute to the GoFundMe campaign here.

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