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.

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.

8

All about being on the cover of a magazine

tumblr_2016-Jun-13It’s been a week since it was announced that I’m the cover model for the July issue of Women’s Running and I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on all of it. I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for weeks now, since well before the news even broke, but I’ve struggled to fully grasp it all. Most of last week has been spent with my phone vibrating with notifications faster than I could even read them. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Alerts, and texts. It’s been distracting to say the least!

I won’t lie, being on the cover of a magazine is kinda cool. I can’t act like I don’t think it is, especially when, apparently, I’m making history by being the first openly transgender woman on the cover of a women’s fitness magazine. I’ve been told I’m even the first trans woman on the cover of any fitness magazine, but I don’t don’t know that’s actually true or not. Honestly, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me so I haven’t bothered to look into it.

A lot of people have asked me what it all feels like. My answer is usually just something about it being super surreal and totally weird. Sometimes, I make a joke about how this is just my 15 minutes of fame and it’ll all be over soon. While my friends and coworkers have asked me about it, most of the attention is online so when I step away from the computer or my phone I get to go back to being a normal person. I like that. No one has recognized me (yet) out on the streets or anything and I’m thankful for that. I don’t want to be recognized! Though, if you are reading this and you do recognize me, totally say hi! For real! I’m awkward, but friendly.

As cool as all of this is and as proud of it as I am, I was hesitant to say yes. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited, I was. It’s that being a trans woman isn’t exactly all unicorns and rainbows. As you’re probably aware, our country is currently in the midst of a big debate about whether or not people like me are even human and deserving of simple basic rights. You know, things like access to restrooms. For most cis people (cis just means “not transgender”), this is relatively new, but we’ve been dealing with this for forever. The only difference is now this is happening with a lot of media attention. This isn’t the post to go into detail about how hard this world makes it for people like me to exist, but trust me when I say it’s extremely dangerous to be transgender right now. And it’s even worse for transgender women of color than it is for those of us who are white.

When Women’s Running’s editor-in-chief, Jessica Sebor, emailed me to ask if I wanted to be on the cover, part of me wanted to immediately write back with a resounding FUCK YES, but I couldn’t. I knew I had to really think this through. I spoke with my wife about it, I reached out to a few friends, both trans and cis, for their thoughts, and I slept on it. I almost said no.

I’m no stranger to visibility. I live my life very visibly. I’m open about being trans and wear that on my sleeve. I’m proud of it because it’s part of what makes me me. Between a number of articles I’ve had written about me before in regards to being a trans athlete and/or the startup I co-founded, MyTransHealth, I’ve also had a fair bit of attention outside of my daily life. To be honest, most of it kind of makes me feel weird. I say yes to things I think could be a net positive for trans people, but I generally don’t like intense amounts of attention on me. When I’m with friends, I’m certainly an attention-grabber, but outside of small groups of people I’m comfortable with, I get very uncomfortable. I don’t even like when I have to get up and speak at my company’s weekly all-team meeting.

This visibility is totally different though. This isn’t just a small one-off article that few people will actually read. This is the cover of a fucking magazine—I mean, it’s not TIME or Sports Illustrated, but Women’s Running has a respectable readership level. And because I’m, apparently, making history, there is a lot of attention around the cover from various news sources. Huffington Post, People, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, Shape, New York Magazine, BuzzFeed, Adweek, TIME, Today, NY Daily News, Jezebel, Pink News, New York Times, Hello Giggles, Pop Sugar, Business Insider, Perez Hilton, Greatist. Well, you get the idea. There’s been a lot. Plus, tweets seen by tens of millions of people. This is a lot.

I had to think about all of that. I knew there’d be attention and visibility, though, I didn’t quite expect this many news outlets to pick it up. This kind of attention isn’t just exhausting, but it’s dangerous. NYC is a hugely diverse city, but we have much more than our fair share of anti-trans violence. While most people will forget about me pretty quickly, I still risk being recognized by violent transphobes while out in the world. I have to endure an influx of internet bigots harassing me online and starting threads on Reddit and wherever else to talk about me. Over the past week, I’ve been called a man, it, freak, pedophile, and all kinds of other things thousands of times—yes, I broke the number one rule of the internet and read the comments. This is all par for the course for anyone like me who even dares as to so much as exist, but it’s greatly elevated over the normal level right now. While the reality of the last week has actually been much better than I expected it to be, I had to really think about this risk.

I also had to think beyond myself and about the rest of the trans community. Am I fueling unwanted visibility for trans people everywhere and giving into the cisgender voyeurism of trans lives? Am I making things harder for others, the way that Caitlyn Jenner has? Is another magazine cover really what trans people need? Ultimately, I would never want to do anything that makes things harder for others or sells out my community for a quick dose of fame.

And let’s not skip over the article itself. I wanted to know exactly what I was going to be on the cover of. I asked to read a draft of the feature before agreeing. I wanted to be sure the article was accurate and positive for trans people. Women’s Running, of course, had no issue with letting me read a draft ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect an issue here. Women’s Running has always been amazing with anything else I’ve worked with them on, but I had to be sure.

Finally, I had no desire to be “the face of transgender running.” Or even the face of anything. There are many others like me out there and I could never speak for them all. We’re all unique people. I do my best to be clear that when I talk about my experience, I’m speaking for myself. Still, I was already likely the most well-known transgender (woman) runner out there. Trust me, that’s not saying much. Mostly, it’s just because I’m a loudmouth on the internet and not because I’m special in any other way. I’m certainly not the fastest. I’m definitely not the most well-spoken. There are plenty of high school and college trans athletes who are more deserving than I am. And on the trans men side of things, let’s not forget we’ve got the amazing Chris Mosier kicking ass and making the US National Team for the duathlon. Really, I’m not all that special, I’m just a loudmouth.

Anyway, you’d think I’d have already figured most of this out after being a finalist for the Cover Runner Contest last fall. I entered because why not? I didn’t think it’d go anywhere. I was shocked when I was a finalist, but I still didn’t expect to win (and I didn’t). I never felt like I needed to actually face it as a reality.

Ultimately, I said yes to the dress cover, obviously. The shoot happened less than two weeks later at 5 freaking a.m. in Brooklyn (normally an hour from Jersey City by subway). I spent a few hours running 30ish feet at a camera while photographer James Farrell, said “one more time!” which turned out to mean “a hundred more times. We brought a few outfits with us, but I only ended up wearing two of them—I changed in a Starbucks bathroom.

I was really nervous to do the shoot. I’m not photogenic and I’m very particular about how I’m photographed. To be honest, though, it was a completely fun experience and everyone I worked with that day was super amazing. I didn’t want it to end! Not because I wanted to keep running laps in front of a camera, but because I was enjoying the time hanging out with the crew. And, yes, I got to keep the clothes!
tumblr_o8too2wrYX1trnxvxo1_540

After the shoot, it was pretty quiet until the week before the magazine came out—the interview for the feature had been done well before I was asked to be on the cover. Since then, it’s been a total whirlwind. Women’s Running had me make a video to introduce myself and asked if I would take over their Instagram and Snapchat accounts for a day. I did Instagram the day the issue hit shelves and Snapchat this past weekend. And, of course, there have been a bunch of talking to writers for articles about the cover.

In the end, I know I made the right decision. With everything blowing out of control over the last few months about bathrooms, this feels like a bit of a win for trans people right now. Of course, the timing of this coming out right after the awful and hateful attack in Orlando was a coincidence, but many reached out to tell me that this news served as a much needed ray of light for them. My heart has been so heavy since last Sunday, but knowing I was at least part of something positive for the LGBT community last week means a lot to me.

In the last week, I’ve had so many people contact me to tell me what it’s meant to them to see someone like them on the cover of a magazine. Not someone who is already a celebrity, but someone who is an everyday person like they are. I certainly don’t want to be anyone’s role model, and I shouldn’t be either, but I wanted to be able to show other trans people what’s possible. I wanted to do something that would give some amount of hope to other trans people right now, especially those who are seriously doubting whether or not they should transition or can survive in this world as a trans person.

Lastly, I just want to hit one last point since I saw someone comment about this. The feature does discuss the fact that I have had surgery. I was never asked about this. This was information I volunteered because it was relevant to my answers during the interview. Savita was respectful and never asked anything inappropriate. Besides, it’s not like it isn’t public information at this point anyway. I’ve written 10,000 words about it here!

On a shelf

A post shared by Amelia Gapin (@entirelyamelia) on