Cancer survivor mistaken for a man and confronted in public toilets after mastectomy

Women's toilets and breast cancer ribbon

A queer woman who had both breasts removed following a cancer battle has spoken about her anxiety around using public toilets because strangers constantly mistake her for a man. 

Tiffany Liles-Taylor underwent a double mastectomy as well as several rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment after being diagnosed with cancer during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. 

Her GP referred her to a hospital after the 43-year-old discovered a lump in her right breast one day while she was “just playing around with [her] breast kind of like a stress ball”. 

She told Leicester Live lumps were found in both breasts during a mammogram. Further tests determined the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, and she had three tumours. 

Liles-Taylor went back to work in the summer of 2021, but being misgendered – with people assuming she was a man – clouded what was initially a joyous time for the cancer survivor.

“I get called Timothy more than Tiffany,” Liles-Taylor said.

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“I now have high social anxiety because my hair’s still growing back, and I’m quite a masculine female who is in a same-sex relationship – so when people see me and my wife, they automatically assume that I’m a guy.”

She continued: “Public toilets are very stressful because people will always challenge me whenever I go in. 

“They will ask me if I’m in the right toilet, or get members of staff to question why I’m there – to which I have to constantly explain that I had cancer, not a sex change.”

“It’s that confrontation that I hate. I want people to understand that I am a woman, and I am in the right place.”

Liles-Taylor said she tried to dress differently, wearing makeup and putting on a wig to change her appearance. But doing so made her feel like she wasn’t being true to herself. 

“I think that people picked up on the fact that I wasn’t being myself, and they’d still automatically treat me different,” Liles-Taylor said.

She praised MacMillan Cancer Support for helping her find a wig she likes, directing her towards a women’s support group and helping her find out how to get access to disabled facilities – helping ease her anxiety when using public toilets.

Conversation around women’s toilets, changing rooms and other spaces has been weaponised in recent years by anti-trans campaigners, with misinformation used to stir up hate towards trans and gender non-conforming people.

International rugby star Heather Fisher described how she is regularly questioned about her gender because she has alopecia, an autoimmune condition which causes her hair to fall out, and is muscular. 

Fisher has been shoved out of bathroom cubicles, locked inside restrooms only to find the police waiting outside and even was prodded with a broomstick. One time, she even had to lift up her top to convince a stranger she was a woman. 

England rugby player Heather Fisher looks on during a game against Russia during the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series
Rugby player Heather Fisher said she’s been confronted by strangers about her gender in public, especially in public restrooms. (Getty)

The rugby player said the experience “really knocked [her] confidence as a human being” and left her “on edge”. She believed she wouldn’t have to deal with such horrific treatment if there were more women role models who were a bit “different”. 

“More females who are slightly ‘different’ or unique should be on the map, people should be hearing their stories because this is life, this is how it is.

“I hope more people will acknowledge that people are different, that they haven’t got to say what they say, to stare or to literally prod someone out of a toilet and have police waiting outside,” Fisher said. 

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