Woman who survived cancer fed up with being mistaken for a man after mastectomy


Tiffany Liles-Taylor was diagnosed with cancer in 2020 (Picture: Leicester Mercury/BPM Media)

A cancer survivor who had both breasts removed has said she’s too anxious to use public toilets as strangers often mistake her for a man.

Tiffany Liles-Taylor, 43, underwent a double mastectomy as well as chemotherapy following her diagnosis during the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

The queer woman from Enderby, Leicestershire, is now often misgendered – with people assuming she is a man.

Women’s public toilets are now ‘stressful’ for her, Liles-Taylor said, as she finds people confronting her about being in there.

Being referred to as ‘sir’ and ‘he’ has all but muddied the joy she’s felt since being in remission and returning to work.

She said: ‘I get called Timothy more than Tiffany. 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.’

Tiffany Liles-Taylor is often ‘confronted’ by other people using the women’s toilets (Picture: Leicester Mercury/BPM Media)

‘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.’

Liles-Taylor added that she has to ‘constantly’ clarify to people that she has not undergone gender-affirming surgery.

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

‘I got challenged less when I had no hair and looked like a cancer patient than now that my hair has grown back, I get challenged a lot.’

Even when she tried to dress differently – such as wearing a wig and makeup – this left her feeling not quite like herself.

‘I think people picked up on the fact that I wasn’t being myself,’ she added, ‘and they’d still automatically treat me differently.’

The former University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust ward clerk already had it rough before her cancer diagnosis.

The NHS worker is sometimes asked if she’s in the ‘right’ toilet (Picture: Leicester Mercury/BPM Media)

She was made redundant and lost her nine-week-old child with her wife Kathryn, who was undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI) fertility treatment.

Liles-Taylor’s GP referred her to the hospital after she discovered a lump in her right breast one day while she was playing with it ‘kind of like a stress ball’.

Doctors found ‘sizable’ lumps in both her breasts, with further tests showing she had three tumours and cancer has spread to 13 out of 23 of her lymph nodes in June 2020.

She said: ‘Once I’d processed the news I realised that I could get both breasts removed. I’ve had to carry around these really heavy things my whole life but I was in my 40s and they were starting to get droopy anyway – so I thought, “these can go”.’

For 18 months, all Liles-Taylor felt was fear. She was too scared to leave her home due to her weakened immune system amid the pandemic.

‘Even simple tasks like pressing the button on a traffic light gave me anxiety because I was so afraid of the germs,’ she said.

Macmillan Cancer Support has become a lifeline for Liles-Taylor, helping her find wigs, directing her to a women’s support group and explaining how she can access gender-neutral disabled toilets.

Liles-Taylor certainly isn’t alone in this. Other cis women have opened up about being questioned and harassed by others for using women’s toilets.

More: News

International rugby star Heather Fisher, who has the autoimmune condition alopecia that causes hair loss, said she was once forced to ‘life her top’ to ‘prove’ her gender.

She told BBC Sport last year that people have locked her inside before phoning the police, pushing her out of her cubicle and even jabbing her with a broomstick.

‘More females who are slightly “different” or unique should be on the map,’ Fisher said.

‘People should be hearing their stories because this is life, this is how it is.’

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