6

One year post surgery!

This is the sixth post in a series about my experience with having bottom surgery. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!Recovery Update16 weeks post-surgery update, and Six Months.

As usual, proceed with caution. Total TMI-city ahead.


Holy crap! It’s been a year since my surgery! It feels like eternity and like it just yesterday at the same time.

I know I tend to get wordy af  on this blog, but I honestly don’t know how much there is to say about this that I haven’t said already. The last six months since my last update have been fairly uneventful in Vaginaville.

Back in early September (seven months post-op), I was finally able to start dilating once a day. This was about a month later than originally planned, but I had to wear for the granulation and tear inside to fully heal before I could step down from twice daily. It was a long time dealing with that hell. With that out of the way, dilating was a lot easier and less painful. I was slowly able to switch back to using my largest dilator for the whole twenty minutes. Over the next few months, it became a lot easier to get my dilators in, which cut down on the amount of time dilation takes. Now I can get set up, dilate, and clean up in just over a half hour.

The swelling has, of course, gone down a lot since six months ago, but it still looks and feels a lot more swollen than I’d expect at this point. More on this in just a second, though.

Peeing is still a mess. If it comes out in a stream, it shoots forward instead of down. Mostly it just sprays everywhere and my whole bottom gets a pee shower. Ew. The worst part of this is it means I have to sit on the seat to pee, no hovering over a gross toilet or in a porta-potty. Double ew.

Yesterday, I had my one-year followup appointment. My appointment was with a new PA in my surgeon’s office, but she came across as extremely knowledgeable, competent, and assuring. She told me everything has healed perfectly and it looks really great down there. I asked about the swelling and she said everything looks normal and most of that is still just scar tissue and gave me some stuff to put on it to help reduce that. She also told me the way urine comes out when I pee is “an unfortunate side-effect of the anatomy” and some people are just like that. Kind of a bummer, but I’m still just happy everything is completely healed properly.

When it comes to dilation, I’m in the clear to experiment with doing it less than daily. She told me it could just be twice a week, once every two weeks, or might still need to be daily. This is very individual and I’ll need to figure out what works for me. By early December, I had started to feel comfortable that I’d be okay to dilate less frequently, but I wanted to wait it out until my appointment before trying it. With the long healing process I had, I’d rather be safe than sorry. The only day I’ve missed in the last year was last Saturday because of the hecticness of the Women’s March and dilating the next day was no problem at all. So I’m hoping and looking forward to freeing up my mornings more for running before work with less rushing.

While I’m mentioning last Saturday’s Women’s March, I should also note that was the first time I tried to pop a squat outside to pee—look, it was crazy and the porta-potty lines were long, okay? I tried my best to squat down and angle myself as well as I could, but I still peed all over my jeans. It was not a good situation. Ugh.

Mostly, life has been back to normal. Beyond the peeing situation, I don’t have to worry much about things. Our Disney trip a few weeks ago was the first time I had to deal with dilating without a completely private place to hole up in, as we were sharing a hotel room with a friend. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I was able to make it work with minimum hassle.

I wear bikinis and leggings and running tights without any worry of anything anymore. I don’t have to worry about hiding anything. It’s a nice bit of freedom. I spend a lot of time thinking about how happy I am to have proper genitals. Putting on a pair of jeans that really just fits for the first time was an oddly amazing feeling. Things just sort of feel right. I feel much more like me. And I feel more like a woman. Genitals don’t make gender, but they can affect how at home your feel in your body and identity.

Last summer, I had my hormone levels checked. I had expected a small rise in my testosterone to a more normal female level. This did not happen, though. My level was exactly the same as it had been while on testosterone blockers prior to surgery. However, the ultimate outcome I had hoped for from that—better running performance—did happen. The side effects from Spironolactone (the blocker) are no longer a part of my life with the exception of still having to pee all the time.

Beyond all this, most of what else I have to share about my experience was included in my post about the Women’s March, so check that out. Otherwise, I think this will by my last update about my surgery. Ultimately, I feel happy and empowered beyond what I expected was possible.

Happy birthday, Vagina! ❤️

It’s amazing and empowering to be a transgender woman and feel comfortable in a bathing suit.

7

My experience as a trans woman at the Women’s March on Washington

"2017 not 1720" protest sign

I don’t know how much more room there is for takes on Saturday’s Women March (on Washington and elsewhere), as there have been plenty. Some of the best I’ve read have been from women of color—black and native, mostly—that have been thought-provoking and eye-opening. It’s interesting to read the different experiences and compare them to mine. It’s also important to listen to these experiences and adjust my feminism and activism to ensure inclusivity.

Where I was standing, I saw a number of trans-inclusive signs and Black Live Matter signs. There was a fair bit of intersectionality where I was, but this still was vastly outnumbered by the number of signs with uteruses on them. In general, the crowd was quite white. From what I could gather by looking around, most people here were new to protesting. I’m not an experienced protestor myself, but this wasn’t my first time.

While the organizers put together a diverse and inclusive lineup of speakers and performers, the crowd itself suffered from a lot of white feminism. I didn’t personally hear or witness anyone being actively malicious or saying anything problematic—though, I’ve seen a fair number of people who did—but it was also clear that inclusiveness and intersectionality were not concepts many of the people in attendance were familiar with or demonstrated. While this saddens me, it wasn’t the least bit surprising. A group of people this big is going to be far from ideal in many ways and problematic in more than a few.

What I want to touch on is my experience as a trans woman at a women’s march against a man who brags about sexual assault and grabbing women by the pussy.

I had only firmly decided on attending the march in DC a few weeks ago, after a friend of mine offered a place to park and sleeping arrangements for anyone whom I could fit in my car. So I loaded up my car with four coworkers and we made the drive down Friday night. I was prepared to make my voice heard and march. I wanted to be visible and take a stand as a woman, but I wanted to do so with my transness on display. I had planned to wear a rainbow headband and my “Real Live Trans Adult” shirt (which sadly stayed covered under my jacket the entire day).

On the way down, we tried to come up some things to write on the poster board we picked up at at Target on our way down. I wanted to make a sign that said “Black Lives Matter” on one side and “Trans Lives Matter” on the other. I also came up with “2017 not 1720” and “keep your tiny hands off my pussy.” We ended up getting down to my friends house just outside of DC nearly two hours after I had hoped and my one friend may have permanent bladder damage from holding his pee. We were exhausted and just went to bed instead of making our posters.

"2017 not 1720" protest sign

One side of my sign.

Come morning, I wrote my friend’s husband’s cell number on my arm in sharpie and pinned on my Planned Parenthood “don’t fuck with us, don’t fuck without us” button and got ready for some resisting. Making our signs was a last minute affair. I had asked my friend to make mine for me while I was getting dressed. She asked what I wanted on my sign and I quickly said “keep your tiny hands off my pussy.” We didn’t have time to be making multiple signs each so I went with that—and “2017 not 1720” on the back. To be honest, this was the tone I felt like I wanted to hit for the day. Generally, I would go for a something more serious and important to say, but that wasn’t the mood I felt. I felt sisterhood and solidarity. And for me, that’s what the day was ultimately about on a personal level.

Our resistance group

Our resistance group

Our group ended up being 10 people, I think. I’m probably forgetting someone here. Seven of us came from my friends house and the other three met up at the Metro. Of the ten of us, there were three men, six cis women, and one trans woman (me). Of the group, my sign was the only one that mentioned actual body parts. Ironic that it was the transgender woman who wrote “pussy” on her sign. For the record, our group’s best sign was my friend’s “Trump is obviously bad” sign.

Trump is obviously bad.

Trump is obviously bad.

Oh, and we were also handed “pussy power” pins by a couple random women when we got on the Metro. I proudly stuck mine on next to my aforementioned Planned Parenthood pin and the “Fuck Paul Ryan” pin I got from my friend.

The rally and march were a mostly fantastic experience, for me. I felt a part of the collective and never excluded. I felt empowered and I felt hopeful. I felt if that many people could show up to take a stand against this administration, that we might just have a shot at survival.

But!

Yes, there’s a but. The but is much the reason for this post in the first place.

For a trans woman, being in a crowd of women—or even just a small group—shouting about their pussies and uteruses can be a terribly exclusive experience. It’s an environment that says you’re not welcome because you don’t meet the prerequisites for membership. Even if you’re included as a woman on some level, language that equates womanhood to genitals can undo that. I’ve seen many trans women discussing this since Saturday’s march.

Before I continue, I want to be clear that what follows are my personal experience and feelings and they are mine alone. This should not be applied universally to all trans women.

Genitals have always been a tough subject for me. I rarely hated having a penis, but I certainly hated that I didn’t have a vagina. If those two things seem at odds with each other, think about it like this, what was difficult for me wasn’t what I had, it was what I didn’t have. I remember growing up wishing I had a literal detachable penis—even before the song came out.

When I transitioned, I felt different from other women because of my genitals, but my experience wasn’t one of exclusion. I attribute this to privilege and luck. I’m lucky enough to surround myself with inclusive and supportive women and live in one of the most progressive places in the country. Additionally, while I rarely try to hide my transness, I look enough like a cisgender woman that most other women seem to see me as one of them. I’m not seen or treated as an outsider. The only people who question that I’m a real woman are internet trolls.

This inclusion always eased my dysphoria around my genitals. It was there and I would feel it when I would look at other women or look at myself in the mirror, but it felt like an internal pressure rather than an external exclusion.

Last year, after years of going back and forth with myself about whether I should or even wanted to get surgery, I went ahead and just did it. Thanks to my privilege of having transgender inclusive health insurance, I was able to have a vagina. I’ve written much about this already and I’m due for a follow up as my vagina’s one year anniversary is coming up this weekend, but suffice to say that it’s been life-changing. It hasn’t fixed all that I struggle with, but it’s done a lot.

Now, this vagina did not come with a uterus. I do not have a period or menstrual cycle at all. I can’t get pregnant. But I do have a vagina and it’s done wonders for my internal feeling of adequacy as a woman. Despite gender not being defined by genitals, I feel like more of a woman. I want to note here that this is personal and how I feel about my body, it’s not something I would extend to anyone else.

It’s been a year with this vagina, but I’m still sort of obsessed with the idea that I have proper body parts now. I love my pussy because it is mine. However, when we talk about reproductive rights for women, I feel excluded because it’s really less a “woman’s issue” and more a “uterus-haver’s issue.” I wish we’d frame it a little better. Yet, at the same time, when we talk about people with vaginas, these feel like my people. I am a person with a vagina. I’m a vagina person now. When we heard those words “grab them by the pussy,” this didn’t feel abstract to me. I felt this personally. It could be my pussy that is being grabbed. This is a different viewpoint and framing than I previously had. My perspective changed when my anatomy changed.

So let’s get back to the march a little, shall we?

A lot of pink hats.

At the march, I proudly held my pussy sign up in the air. I was literally talking about my pussy. This was empowering as fuck to me. I could talk about my genitals and not be ashamed of them. I wasn’t that weird transsexual making jokes about her dick as a poor coping mechanism to hide how much she hated herself. I was a woman with a vagina proudly taking ownership of her vagina. This was a huge moment for me.

The pink pussy hats only made me feel excluded because I didn’t have one to wear myself.

As I looked around, I saw signs and shirts with uteruses on them and was reminded how much I wish I was a cis woman, that I was born put together properly. While the reality is I wouldn’t give up being trans for anything, I still struggle with the remaining ways in which my body is different. Women talking about their periods and uteruses is a reminder of that. But it’s a reminder that I can live with. My body is different, but I’m lucky to have people in my life who don’t make me feel excluded. I have a lot of privilege that allows me to feel included and only slightly different.

The reality for many trans women is different from this, though. Many—likely most—are excluded and treated as different. One group’s language of empowerment and reclamation can be the language of oppression to another. I don’t know where the exact line is between the two, especially given that it can vary from individual to individual. People with vaginas should be able to talk about their bodies and take ownership of them. However, at the same time, it is important to consider your overall message. Is your language equating your vagina to your womanhood? Does it exclude trans women? Does it exclude trans men? Does it exclude anyone? Does it ignore the oppression of women of color? Cis women, you are more than your vagina. Your existence goes beyond your vagina. Trump brags about grabbing women by the pussy and those of us with pussies should absolutely stand up and fight back against this, but we must remember that the fight is for equality and bodily autonomy for all women, trans people, and non-binary people.

12

Six months

This is the fifth post in a series about my experience with getting my junk rearranged. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!Recovery Update, and 16 weeks post-surgery update.

As usual, proceed with caution. Total TMI-city ahead.


Ain't nothing stopping this!

Ain’t nothing stopping this!

In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been six months (and a few days) since my surgery. In other ways, it feels like it’s been eternity. I legit can’t remember what having a penis feels like and that’s pretty cool. I remember life with it, but what it actually feels like day in, day out is gone from my memory. Peeing standing up? Did I ever even do that? It’s like I haven’t!

Anyway, it’s been a couple months since my last update so here’s where I’m at…

I’ll start with the bad worst stuff first.

I’m still in pain. A lot of it. And it’s the fucking worst.

At this point, I fully expected to have zero pain left. I knew it’d take a full year for the swelling to go down, but I didn’t expect six months of pain. While I got lucky with how well the surgery itself went, it seems I’m pretty unlucky with how my body is healing.

Since my last update, I’ve been going to the doctor roughly every two weeks for granulation. I’m lucky that I’m close enough to my doctor that I can drive there when necessary, but it’s a two hour drive each way. A full trip ends up taking nearly five hours, which means missing most of a day of work…every two fucking weeks. Plus the cost of gas and like $10 worth of tolls. And getting probed in a vagina that’s already in pain is the damn ass pits. My doctor herself is much better at this, but many of my appointments are with the PA and she’s…not gentle with the speculum.

At my last two appointments—two weeks ago from today and yesterday—I was granulation-free. That sounds amazing and I want to scream “FINALLY!!!!” BUT I’m still a lot of pain when I dilate so it’s not really as big of a win as I wish it was.

Two weeks ago, the PA prescribed more Estrace cream (basically it’s an estrogen cream you shoot up your cooch…it’s weird). It’s supposed to soften things up inside and make dilating easier. Honestly, it’s hard to say if it’s helped or not, though, since I’ve still be in so much pain. The good news on this front is it’s not just some phantom pain that we won’t be able to figure out. At my appointment yesterday, I saw my doctor and she found a tear inside. It was a few inches long in exactly the place where I have most of the pain. She cauterized it so we’ll have to see how it heals. I have some pain in other places, but it’s more of the muscle soreness variety deeper inside and near the opening it’s consistent with scar tissue that still needs to finish healing from the granulation. I’m really hoping this is all the end of it though.

After having to dilate three times a day for an extra two months beyond what I was originally told, I was finally able to drop down to twice a day in the beginning of July—I’ll have to keep this schedule up until the beginning of September. Unfortunately, dilation still hurts like hell and is a struggle a lot of the time. At its worst, it’s excruciatingly painful. At its best, time consuming. The morning is always easier so I can generally get both the purple and the blue dilators in (the blue is the biggest one I have). It takes some time and hurts, but it’s doable. In the evening, it’s always much more difficult. I don’t even try getting the blue one in anymore. And even with just the purple, it takes me 20-30 minutes to slowly work it in. It’s not just that things are tight down there, but it’s that I have to be very gentle because of how much it hurts from everything else. Much of it is just that I’m a very tense person and I have trouble relaxing while dilating. Unfortunately, even the muscle relaxers I was given a while back don’t help with this. Making the problem worse is that the opening of my vagina is tight enough that it wipes most of the lube off the dilator as I slide in so I keep having to pull it out and add more. Then I end up with an ass crack full of lube to clean out later on.

On the plus side, dilation is almost the entirety of my remaining pain. The ambient pain during the rest of my day is 100% non-existent most days. Every once in a while I’ll have a day where I’m in some pain, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. Another plus is that I don’t have to wear pantyliners much anymore. I wear one at night, but that’s about it. I can probably credit my vagina’s tightness which keeps the lube out of my vagina instead of having it slowly oozing out of me over the course of the next few hours.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Okay, that’s enough about the pain, right? Let me talk a bit more about the schedule.

Not having to dilate in the middle of the day anymore is a huge win. It means I can actually go out for a whole day at a time. It means I don’t lose an hour in the middle of my work day. It means I don’t have to carry my dilators to and from work anymore. It’s freeing as hell.

However, dilating is still having a huge impact on my life.

In the morning, I lose an hour to it. That means everything else gets pushed back an hour. Where I used to get into work around 8:30, it’s now 9:15 to 9:45. This takes me from getting on a nice empty train at 8:06 to having to ride a train packed like a Rutgers frat house basement party. It smells just as bad, is just as hot, and has just as many creepy dudes. I try to get up earlier to account for it, but on mornings when I run before work, which is 3-4 days each week, I’m already getting up at 5:30am and don’t have it in me to go earlier than that. These mornings become a huge stressful rush.

In the evening, I have to make sure I leave time for dilating. If I go out after work or on the weekends, I need to either plan to come home an hour earlier or resign myself to going to bed an hour later than I would otherwise. I also find it’s even more of a struggle to dilate if I’ve had more than one drink or…done other things. So I don’t really go out and drink…or do other…much anymore. And I don’t even mean like getting drunk or anything like that. I don’t drink heavily too often, but even just having two beers at the bar with my friends is something I can’t do now without regretting it later in the evening.

In general, I just go out a lot less than I used to now because it’s such a burden to have to deal with. Even if you take the drinking out of of the equation, which generally is completely fine by me, the time aspect of it is enough to keep me at home. That hour makes a big difference when I have to then turn around and get up at 5:30 the next morning. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with it. Until I no longer have to dilate in the evening, this is going to continue to suck. I miss going out with my friends. And I hate having two hours each day that are just lost. I can’t really be productive while I’m dilating. I can’t get work done or write or anything, really. I can read or watch TV, but that’s about it.

Next month when I go down to once a day, I’ll get back either my mornings or my evenings, depending on how I want to do it. Eventually, I’ll probably be able to work it out based on my schedule for the day. And I’m hoping that once this tear heals that’ll be it for the pain and I’ll be able to insert my dilators more quickly and easily.

Random Magikarp hanging out at Tumblr HQ

Random Magikarp hanging out at Tumblr HQ

Okay, I think that covers us for all the ways in which this shit totally fucking sucks. There are a lot of positives, though! Despite all of this, I really love having a vagina. Not in like a weird way, but just in that it feels like the right thing to have. My body feels much more like mine (I think I’ve said this in every post). When I’m not dealing with dilating, life is easier. I don’t have to think about my genitals or worry about it. I still feel different from everyone else around me, but a lot less so.

I’ve been riding this huge high of body positivity recently. I actually really enjoy wearing a bikini now, even in front of coworkers like I did a couple months ago during a big outing the Tumblr engineering team went on to Mohonk Mountain House. I actually find myself looking for excuses to wear one now. I want to go to the beach or the pool now. I haven’t actually had a chance to, but I want to!

The body positivity has also spread beyond just things directly related to my genitals. I’ve been running in just a sports bra and shorts a lot this summer. It’s just something that’s really nice to be able to do. It’s just this whole thing where my body is starting to feel closer to “right.” I still hate hate hate hate just how tiny and basically non-existent my tits are, but one thing at a time!

And speaking of running, I’m like six weeks or so into marathon training for Chicago in October and that’s been going pretty well. The biggest issue is just dealing with the time constraints of dilating and training.IMG_0130

And while still on the topic of the body positivity, the weight I lost from surgery, about 12 pounds, has stayed off! This was a really unexpected win, but it’s helped a lot with my positivity. I hate myself for letting this be a thing that affects how I feel about my body so much, but I’m still taking this as a win.

Welp, I think that’s about it for now? I feel like these posts are just a jumbled up mess of thoughts. It’s hard to encapsulate a couple months of stuff at a time. Perhaps if I didn’t wait so long between updates it’d be a lot easier to form coherent posts.