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.

12

16 weeks post-surgery update

This is the fourth post in a 10,000+ word series about my experience with getting my junk rearranged. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!, and Recovery Update.


IMG_0497I know, I know. I haven’t updated in a while. A lot of people have asked me to, but I honestly just haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write it all out. Since mylast update two and a half months ago, things have been a bit of a rollercoaster—I guess that happens with a major surgery—and there are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to share, many of which are things I was never told going into surgery or just had no idea to expect.

As usual, all kinds of content warnings and such ahead. Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Also, this post is kind of a poorly-written mess of updates. There’s just too much to cover to try to get it out coherently. So why even try?

I went back to work, like actually commuting into NYC, at five weeks post-op. I had planned for this to be six weeks. However, I was losing my mind at home and really eager to try to get back to some sort of a normal life. So, after things were looking perfect at my five week checkup, I went for it. Walking was doable, but not great. The swelling had gone down enough that it wasn’t inhibiting me anymore, but I still had stitches that were in the process of coming out and they hurt…a lot. It was difficult to move much without having them slice me up down there. It took another couple of weeks for them the finish coming out. Without a doubt, this was the worst part of weeks four through seven.

Also around the five week mark, I was able to switch from needing maxi pads to just using pantyliners. There was very little bleeding at this point and not needing a giant pad between my legs all the time was a major comfort improvement. Though, I find I still need to keep a pantyliner in place pretty much at all times to catch all the lube that is constantly oozing out of me. I don’t expect this to change until my dilation is less frequent.

Sitting at my desk at work, or anywhere, required positioning myself so there wasn’t any weight on my genitals. I found I was best if I was leaning to one side or just slouching a ton. It was doable most of the time, but some harder surfaces were tough for a while. I couldn’t really get comfortable on bar stools or hard benches until closer to like eight weeks. Oddly, even at five weeks, I was able to sit with my legs crossed and this was actually one of the more comfortable positions. Now, at sixteen weeks, I can pretty much sit however I want and not even that to think twice about it. I just can’t like plop myself down too hard.

At six and a half weeks, I started running again. My first run was a very tough one mile, but it felt really great to get out there again. Over the course of a the next four weeks, I built myself back up to five miles, but there was a lot of atrophying in my legs from spending five weeks barely leaving the couch.

First mile with a vagina!

First mile with a vagina!

Around the seven week mark I developed what was basically diaper rash on my perineum. Hey, I warned you! It only gets worse from here. Anyway, yeah, that was awful. It hurt a ton and it took sending another awkward photo of my frankenvag to my doctor to be sure of what it was. It cleared up in a couple of weeks after consistent heavy application of Desitin. I guess my in-between area was a little sensitive and not yet used to the idea of having a pantyliner rubbing against it all day while out and about.

Weeks six through ten where a very, very slow progression of healing. I had good days. I had bad days. I had really bad days. I had many days so bad I had to work from home or leave work early. Most of the time, it was just pain that could be easily relieved by laying down on the couch. It was not optimal at all and, at points, I was struggling to keep up with my job.

After five weeks, I was able to start dilating three times a day instead of four. This was a nice life improvement as it felt slightly less like I was just living my life from one dilation to the next. Dilating at work is definitely super awkward, but I worked out with HR a place for me to do it in the office. Unfortunately, my office doesn’t have a lot of rooms with a locking door, no windows, and a place for me to lay down. In fact, we only have one room that really fits all of that and it’s in the basement. The idea of locking myself in a room in the basement to dilate seems kinda like hiding the tranny out of sight, but the room has a sink and its own thermostat. The thermostat is very helpful for when you’re laying there with no pants on and lube is oozing out of you and down your asscrack. Yum. Every once in a while, someone tries to come into the room, but only a couple of people have keys and they know the deal so it’s generally okay…except for that time when it wasn’t and two of my coworkers walked in on me. Awk. Ward. Still, the basement is fine by me. I’m more than happy to work with what we’ve got and there’s less traffic down there than anywhere else so it feels more private.

Around eight weeks or so, I was starting to feel reasonably okay. I still had pain, but things were looking up enough for me to consider maybe trying to take this thing for a spin. Mostly, I just wanted to see if things still worked. I carefully started touching myself down there to feel things out. I really had NO idea how to operate my new genitals. Do I stick my fingers inside? Do I rub my clit? Do I do both? Should I use a vibrator? How much is too much? What if I can’t figure out how to set this thing off anymore? I also had a lot of trouble with where I needed to be mentally. Just, like, the idea of thinking about sex with a vagina instead of a penis was weird. I mean, I’ve thought about it pretty much every day for 20+ years, but this was totally different. I kept feeling like I didn’t know what to do without having a penis. Things also weren’t helped by the fact that I still had a lot of swelling that made it difficult to even get to my clit. Eventually, after long while of trying things inside and out, I was able to start getting somewhere. A few times I got really close, but just couldn’t quite get over the edge. The really interesting thing was the difference in how my body was responding to stimulation. It was a bit more full-body and there was a lot more tensing. Anyway, after a while, I gave up, but I tried again a few days later and succeeded. It was a really, really interesting feeling. It felt good, don’t get me wrong, but it was odd. The same, yet different. Unfortunately, it took over a month before I was able to perform an encore.

Shortly after the first time I was able to orgasm, I started having a ton of pain. Literally everywhere down there hurt. Inside. Outside. The area around it. It was beyond terrible. It built over the course of a couple weeks, but just kept getting worse and worse. I stopped running completely. I basically skipped out on my birthday because I was in too much pain to deal with being alive. I started taking expensive Uber rides home from work just to avoid having to be on my feet for the commute home. At the peak, it got so bad that I missed an entire week of work (this was the 12th week post-op). I don’t mean I worked from home, I mean I didn’t work at all. I spent the week curled up on the couch crying and popping Percocets like they were candy. I had never felt such pain—even in the first few days after surgery—and it was everywhere and every type of pain you can imagine. It was sharp, shooting, dull, achy, burny, stabbing, and anything else you can imagine. And the Percocets were doing nothing.

The pain was also made worse by dilating. I couldn’t stick anything in without feeling like Satan was fucking my vagina with a flaming spiked dick. It was the worst pain. And the pain caused me to start to dread dilating at all. I would get really tense and struggle to relax myself enough to get a dilator in. This, of course, made it hurt more which only fed back into this. I started using more and more lube to try to get my dilators in—as if I wasn’t already swimming in enough as it was—but eventually I had to stop using my largest one altogether. I just couldn’t get it in. Even my middle-sized one was difficult. It’d take me 10-15 minutes to slowly work it in while trying to do creating exercises to relax myself.

At week eleven, before things really peaked, I called the doctor’s office and the PA asked me to send another vag pic. She prescribed Estrace, which is basically an estrogen cream you inject into your vagina. Yup, the estrogen I inject into my leg with a needle on a weekly basis wasn’t enough for my body, I needed to also inject it straight into my vagina (is there anything more lady-like than this?). Moar lady juice! This was even more hell, though, as the applicator wasn’t exactly the most comfortable thing in the world. The tip was rough and caused me even more pain when I inserted it. I’m in pain just writing about it now. I kept this up for two weeks total, but it didn’t seem to make much of a noticeable difference. The PA also told me to start dilating four times a day again, but who’s got time for that when you’ve got a job?

At this point, I was completely regretting having surgery at all. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I was inconsolable. I just curled up on the couch and hated my life. I started to feel like I had some permanent problem and would spend the rest of my life in pain. You know, like those random people you read stories about who had some surgery and spend the rest of their life suffering because of it. Couple this pain with the stress of MyTransHealth‘s impending launch and the crazy amount of work I was putting in to get us ready and I was stretched beyond my means. This week was mentally and emotionally taxing beyond all possible comprehension. I was utterly defeated.

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Waiting to get the granulation literally burned out of my vagina

Back to week twelve, the peak of my vaginal hellstorm, I called the doctor again to see what was up. This time, I spoke to my actual doctor and not the PA. She was completely calm and collected about it. “Sounds like you have some granulation. Come in tomorrow and we’ll cauterize it for you.” I still don’t really understand what granulation is and why it hurts so bad except that it’s a relatively normal thing that happens—I mean, I’ve read about it so I kinda know, but I still don’t quite get it. It also, apparently, can result in displaced pain so it can hurt in places besides where it actually is. Who knew? I didn’t! No one told me about this beforehand!

Anyway, somehow, I was able to make the two hour drive down to my doctor with all this pain and she numbed me up down there and took care of it in a couple minutes. Despite her literally burning the granulation out of my vagina, I immediately had relief. After a few days, I was feeling GREAT. I was even able to start running again…again. However, my doctor had told me there would almost definitely be more. Still, a week of almost no pain at all was great! Well, no pain except for that damn Estrace applicator. Fuck that thing.

My doctor was right and the pain started coming back a couple weeks later, but no where near as bad as it was. So I went back again to have more taken care of. This was last week and I’ve been feeling pretty damn great this week. Though, I’m going back yet again next week for more, but I’m in not in pain from it anymore.

According to the original dilation schedule I was given, I should have been able to drop down from three times a day to just two earlier this month. Unfortunately, the granulation set me back a bit and I’m still doing it three times daily and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change any time soon. Missing a dilation right now still makes the next one really suck. And I’m still trying to get the biggest dilator back in again. I’ve only been able to do it a few times since I stopped using it.

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

Hattie really likes to lay with my while I dilate

That’s mostly the gist of what it’s been like for the last two and a half months. Of course, there have been some other random notable bits…

The swelling was still causing my pee to spray everywhere for a while. It was only a few weeks ago that this finally stopped being an issue. The worst part was how unpredictable it was, though. Sometimes, it’d be fine. Other times, it’d somehow spray out of the toilet and all over the wall and my pants and underwear. This especially sucks when you’re at work!

I think in my last update, I had talked about nerve mappings and being able to tell where feelings, sensations, and touches are. It seems like almost everything is fully re-mapped now. I can tell where feelings and sensations are coming from without having to consciously think about it. When I touch various spots, the feeling I have feels like it’s coming from the spot I’m touching. Much of this slowly happened without me even realizing. Somewhere over the course of the last couple of months, I went from feeling like things were coming from their old locations or not being able to really tell exactly where it was coming from to it all feeling like it’s working as if it came like this out of the box (pun intended).

By three months, I expected more of the swelling to be gone and I expected the pain to pretty much be over with. I knew the swelling would take a while, but I went in expecting it to be 3-6 months, with most of the visible swelling being down by three months. Apparently, it’s really a full year for all the swelling to disappear. On one hand, I’m not terribly surprised it takes that long, but on the other, I just wish this was made more clear beforehand (I’m sure it was mentioned at least once, but there’s a lot to take in so it could have used more emphasis). While it does look like a vagina, it just feels like it really looking like a normal vagina is so far away still. My doctor assures me everything is looking perfect, though. As for The Pain™, I feel like it likely would’ve been mostly gone by three months if not for all of my granulation issues. Hopefully, that will be completely over with soon. I, honestly, don’t think I could take anymore of it.

Anyway, this week has been pretty good. I’m feeling mostly great. I got up to running 6.2 miles last weekend and felt great so that’s a huge plus. I’m feeling close to a real person again and finally starting to remember what feeling physically comfortable is like.

Seriously, every time I'm dilating

Seriously, every time I’m dilating

Lastly, a few other thoughts that didn’t really fit in anywhere else…

Up until just about last week, jeans were still really uncomfortable to wear. Granted, I typically only wear skinny jeans, but you don’t realize how little give there is in the crotch when you’re sitting or bending. It was just too much pressure on my vagina and I’d barely even get into work before regretting it. I spent most of the last 11 weeks since coming back to work trying to stick with dresses and leggings as much as possible, but my wardrobe only has so many options on this front. I never thought I’d be so excited to wear jeans, but here we are.

That does bring me to my next point, though. It’s amazing to be able to wear leggings, running tights and spandex shorts, and other tight bottoms that I couldn’t wear before. It’s just a lot more freeing in how I dress myself. I can throw on a pair of yoga pants without worry of wearing a long top. Or I can wear leggings as pants without worry that my shirt isn’t quite long enough to hide my junk. I mean, it’s not really about the clothes. It’s about the lack of having to think about my genitals just to run out to grab a coffee. And there’s a comfort level with my body that’s totally new to me and it’s great. Even just walking down the street feels more natural and normal to me in a way that I can’t explain but has been extremely apparent to me. I’m only just starting to fully experience all of this this week.

It’s hard to believe I’ve had a vagina for just 16 of my 1,721 weeks on this planet and I’m already forgetting what it’s like to have a penis. I mean, like I mentioned above, there’s still some weird muscle memory around stuff like masturbation, but there’s this weird inability to conceptualize what it was like with a penis and how it felt to just like…I don’t know, exist with one. It feels 100% normal to look down or in a mirror and see a vagina. It almost feels like it’s always been like that. Which is pretty wild.

It’s been a really rough 16 weeks and, like I said at the beginning, a big rollercoaster of ups and downs and everything in between. Mentally, emotionally, and physically, this vagina has been one giant pain in the dick. But the worst is definitely behind me and things are looking up (*knocks on wood*). Except for that one really dark week—fuck you, week twelve—it all feels worth it now that I’m finally starting to feel like one coherent human being. I look at my body and I actually see something that looks relatively like I feel like it should. I still have a lot of dysphoria around parts of my body, but it’s an order of magnitude better than it used to be.

Before I end this, I just kind of wanted to touch on how much I’ve shared regarding this. A few people have brought it up to me that I’ve been very open and personal about it (mostly thanking me for it). Part of this, honestly, is for my own personal documentation, but a lot is because I hope it will be helpful to others. Very little of what I actually experienced was expected or known beforehand. There is so much that no one ever tells you. I’m sure a fair bit of it exists in various places around the internet like Reddit, Tumblr, and private communities, but it’s hard to find without really digging. Most of what I was able to find consisted of small bits of information buried within larger conversations (some of which were minefields of problematic bullshit) that lacked a larger context for being able to really understand how it would relate to my own experience. But, overall, yeah, it’s weird to write about my genitals and things like masturbation in such a public way on a blog that I know friends, family, and coworkers read.

This is an awkward way to dilate

This is an awkward way to dilate

If she's not laying with me, she's watching

If she’s not laying with me, she’s watching

9

Recovery update

Thumbs up!

Thumbs up!

Today marks one month since my surgery and, I guess, I should give an update?

Overall, I’m feeling reasonably good, I think. It’s really hard to say, to be honest. One of the hardest parts about recovery is that it’s entirely unknown. I don’t know if things are going well. I don’t know how things are supposed to look or feel. I don’t know if that pus-like stuff coming out of me is normal or not. I have nothing to compare this to. What I do know, though, is I’ve been consistently trending towards feeling better. Most of the time, it feels like two steps forward and one back. Every few days, there’s a day that feels worse than the day before.

These were yummy! My wife got them for me as part of a care package!

These were yummy! My wife got them for me as part of a care package!

While things are still swollen a lot, the swelling has gone down a ton and it continues to each day in a noticeable way. My genitals are looking less like a butcher’s shop and more like an actual vagina. Over the last few weeks, I’ve gotten more mobile and can do more. At this point, I’m able to leave the house and go places, slowly. I even made a trip into the city (NYC) via the PATH (subway) a few days ago for a coworker’s going away happy hour. The subway steps were a bit much, but it was doable…except for almost blacking out on the subway on my way home. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m certainly not pain-free, but most of the time, it’s pretty okay. As long as I don’t get too crazy, it’s not a problem. The worst pain has been from the stitches coming out. They’re prickly! And the slice you up!

I still don’t feel comfortable sitting completely upright. I just spend my days on the couch with a solid slouch going so my weight is off my vagina. My back is probably at a 60-75º angle most of the time. However, I can sit more upright if I cross my leg under me to prop my vagina up a little. I can sleep on my side if I keep a pillow between my legs, but I still sleep on my back every night to be safe. We’ve let the cats sleep with us a couple nights, but I’ve been too nervous to do it more than two or three nights so far.

Let me pause for a second there and try to connect back to my last post a few weeks ago here…

I stopped taking my pain killers and switched from adult diapers to overnight maxi pads about 12 days after surgery. I was pretty impressed by this, to be honest. I thought I was going to end up needing pain killers for much longer. It was a nice surprise. This allowed me to actually start pooping regularly without needing to take a stool softener every other day or so—if you watched the Super Bowl this year, I’m sure you saw the commercial talking about opioid-induced constipation. It also allowed me to start thinking clearly again. Switching to pads and getting to go back to wearing regular underwear was a nice comfort upgrade as well.

Another huge upgrade was getting to start taking estrogen again two weeks ago. It was a full seven weeks without it and my boobs pretty much disappeared and my face started reverting back to how it used to look before HRT.

It took about a week after getting the catheter out to finally figure out how to pee…or even know if I have to pee.

It was probably a few days after my last post that I was mostly self-sufficient around the house and, as the last few weeks have gone on, I’ve been able to do more and more.

I started officially working from home 19 days after surgery, but I was able to do a few small things the week before. Working from home hasn’t been nearly as productive as I’d like, but I’m generally the kind of person who works better in the office anyway so I’m not too surprised.

Leaving the house for the first time was really nice!

Leaving the house for the first time was really nice!

My first time leaving the house after surgery, aside from my doctors appointment a week after surgery, was after 17 days. I went to a nearby micro brewery with a few friends who were kind enough to pick me up and drive me. It was manageable, but not pain-free. The following day, a friend of mine came to Jersey to have lunch with me at the diner three (short) blocks from my house. I was able to walk there and back just fine. A few days after that, I decided to push my range a little more and walked to the drug store six blocks away. That felt like it was pushing it though. I was in a bit of pain by the time I got there, but it didn’t last too long after I got back home and rested a bit. I was able to go back out to meet a couple friends at a bar five blocks from my house that evening.

Figuring out my limitations is still an everyday process. “I dropped something, can I bend down to pick it up?” “Can I reach up to that shelf?” “Can I lift this?” Each day getting in/out of bed, up/down from the couch gets a bit easier and more normal, but I never really know how much I can move in a certain direction or what I can do until I try it…slowly.

I’ve only really been showering twice a week. It’s kind of a lot of work and I’m still afraid I’ll slip or something dumb. It’s getting better though.

Dilating is…getting old. It’s just so time consuming. I feel like every time I look at the clock it’s dilate o’clock. And I’m tired of having lube oozing out of me. And don’t get me started on how dry my skin has been from all the hand and dilator washing. On the bright side, I get to step down from four times a day to three on Thursday so I’ve got that to look forward to.

I’ve had a lot of freakouts about things. As I mentioned, it’s all so unknown. I’ve called the doctor a few times to double check things and even had to leave this message, “Hi…I was wondering if…I feel like…can I…it looks weird to me…can I…send a picture for Dr Rumer to look at to make sure everything looks okay…it…looks weird?” I don’t know how dudes send dick pics out all willy-nilly, it’s so weird to send an unsolicited photo of your junk! I spent a solid ten minutes just thinking of a proper subject line for the email that would give warning that “hey, you’re about to get a facefull of frankenpussy.” It turned out everything was fine and the part that looked really weird to me was actually just my clit! Who knew?

Fry purr programs with me sometimes.

Fry purr programs with me sometimes. And, yikes, I’ve got a bit of a beard going there. Also, where’d my boobs go?

I have my five week post-op appointment on Thursday which I’m actually looking forward to. I want to have the doctor look at everything and tell me it’s healing right. I want to hear from her when I can run again—still hopeful for the six week mark. I’m hoping to start going back into the office by the end of the week, but we’ll see if I can.

At this point, though, I’m really getting anxious to get back to my normal life. I’m tired of recovery. It sucks. I want to run. I want to go back to work. I want to not be recovering anymore. I don’t remember what not-recovery is like. What’s normal life? I have no idea anymore! My depression kicked in hardcore last week. Luckily, not my suicidal depression, but just my “I feel…nothing…at all” depression. Today seems better though.

Anyway, that’s about where I’m at. I think it’s all about normal?

PS: I’ve lost ten pounds.

PPS: I’ve reached down to…uh…jiggle after peeing twice.

25

I got sliced all the fuck up!

Hello from the other siiiiiiide…

Okay, sorry. I don’t even really like that song, but it felt appropriate? Nah, I just couldn’t think of a better way to start this thing off. This is gonna be…a graphic and super TMI post, but I feel like some of it could be helpful to some and worth reading for others. Mostly, I just kind of want to write about it for my own sake. But yeah, if you’re squeamish or don’t want to read awkward details about surgery and shit (literally and figuratively), I’d advise moving along here. Otherwise, yeah, I’ll try to deliver this with my typical snark, tone, and raunchiness. Good luck?

Pre-surgery

I was dreading pretty much every part of having surgery, but the prep stuff sounded extra awful.

Danielle (my wife) and I showed up at the hotel I was going to be staying in the night before–and she’d be staying in until we went home–around noon the day before my surgery. We checked in and hit up the grocery store a block down the street to get some last minute items. I was already twelve hours into my clear liquids only diet and starting to regret going for my last pre-surgery run that morning because it had really set off my runger. I was starving! This didn’t help my mess of nerves much either.

At this point, it was time to start the bowel-prep process. Ugh. I chugged a bottle of mag citrate and popped a few laxatives. I knew I couldn’t be far from a toilet from here on out, but I still had to head to the doctor’s office for my pre-surgery appointment. Luckily, we made it there and back before the action started, but I was really worried I was going to shit myself while sitting in the examining room at the doctor. Eep!

Well, bottoms up?

Well, bottoms up?

Everyone I saw kept asking if I was excited and ready. And really, I wasn’t? I was terrified as fuck. I think the first thing I said to Danielle that morning was “what the fuck am I doing? Really? Why would I do this? Why would anyone do this?” I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never had surgery before and I’ve never been under general anesthesia. And it’s even more scary when you’re coming out the other side with your junk all rearranged and having no idea how it’s going to work or feel or really what recovery is going to be like. And it’s hard for me to give up control and be vulnerable. Letting someone put me to sleep so they can do shit to my body is the scariest thing to me.

So night-before texts.

So night-before texts.

Anyway, most of the day was pretty uneventful. Mostly just me getting up every so often to run to the bathroom and shit my brains out. Actually, I’d describe it more as pissing out my ass. Though, oddly, it wasn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. It was just tiring and weird. Mostly, I wanted a sandwich.

I didn’t get much sleep, but I figured that wouldn’t matter much anyway, I’d be taking a nice four-hour nap during surgery.

Surgery day

Surgery day started early. Not quite as early as Disney race days, but it was a 4am wake-up. I had to chug another half a bottle of mag citrate and…give myself an enema. Now, I’ve never given myself an enema before, but let me tell you, it’s weird. Would not recommend! Unfortunately, this process didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped. I followed the instructions and then sat on the toilet for a few minutes waiting for everything to come out. Then…I blacked out. And started convulsing. And blacked out again. This all woke Danielle up who came running to help me. She stayed there with me and calmed me down until the lights in my head came back on. I honestly thought I was dying. In reality, it was probably due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten in like 30 hours at this point and had drained my body of just about everything inside of it.

Once that whole ordeal was over, I got dressed and gathered up the stuff I had to bring with me to the hospital. I really wasn’t ready for this. Danielle drove to the hospital, which was good because I don’t think I could have really done it myself. We arrived at 6am and there was pretty much no one to be found. It was eerily quiet and we were kind of unsure where we were going, but eventually a nurse came out and asked what we were trying to find. When I said I was having surgery and told her my name, she remembered it from her list and got me checked in.

After being checked in, the nurse took me to a room to prep for everything. I thought my nerves were as bad as they could have been, but they kept getting worse. She provided instructions for how to properly wipe my body down and wear the gown and such. I was struggling to keep it together while she was talking and the moment she walked out of the room, I completely lost it. I mean, full on waterworks. I was hysterically crying and freaking out. I’ve literally never been so scared in my life. I wanted to dive head first out the window. Could I back out? I couldn’t do this! Gahhhh. It was bad. I’m not proud of this.

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear :(

Prepped for surgery! Notice how a month off my hormones made my boobs disappear 🙁

Through all of this, Danielle was amazing. She was my rock. She was calming and reassuring. She stayed next to me and held my hand and was strong for me, when I couldn’t be. Between this, the convulsive-black-out affair from a few hours earlier, and all my emotional freak-outs the day before, she was incredible. It’s not being hyperbolic to say I wouldn’t have made it to surgery without her. She was my everything. I don’t know how people do this alone. I couldn’t have. And the kicker is we had gotten into a huge fight two days before and I told her I didn’t want her help and refused it. I told her not to come with me and to be out of the house when I got back from the hospital. Look, I haven’t had any of my hormones this year because of being required to stop them for surgery so I’ve not quite been myself recently, okay? I was being an asshole and terrified and not handling shit well–figuratively, at this point, since all the literal shit had been forcefully removed from my body. But she wouldn’t let me push her away even as I tried to end our marriage. God, I’m a fucking asshole.

Moving on…

My doctor came in and told me I’d do great and I just tried not to cry more.  Then the anesthesiology team came in and I was fighting to keep myself together again, but I had Danielle’s hand in mine. While the anesthesiologist went through his checklist of questions and explained this to me, the student (or resident or nurse or…honestly, I don’t really remember) stuck the needle into the vein in my hand. I didn’t even notice. It was a pretty slick distraction move. Not that it matters, I’m not bothered by needles.

Once they got the IV going, they told me they’d put something in there to calm me down, but I had to say goodbye to Danielle. I was on my own now. I got wheeled out of the room and down the hall. Fuck I was freaking. Honestly, I’m freaking again just typing this. There are literally tears coming out of my eyes. It’s weird, I cry more while off estrogen than I do on it (which is pretty much never).

Look, I really want to be clear here…I was not okay. I didn’t even believe I was going to be okay.

After I was in the operating room and they moved me to the table, the mask went on my face. Everyone tried to be so calming and reassuring and I just wanted to not make a fool of myself with my freaking out. And, well, that’s the last thing I remember. I was out.

I woke up roughly three and half hours later. The first thing I remember feeling was “okay, that’s over…I’m alive…I woke up. FUCK. Holy shit! I didn’t die! And…that’s a good thing!” I turned to the nurse and immediately asked when I could see my wife. All I wanted was Danielle. Nothing matter more than Danielle right then and there. They said in a little bit. Then I asked about 32 times if everything was okay or if there were any complications. It’s like I couldn’t believe them that things went well.

After another hour and a half of me being in and out of consciousness, I got wheeled into my room and Danielle was there. I’m pretty sure I cried again just seeing her. But it was a good cry this time. She said the doctor told her everything went perfectly, but that was it. I had made it. I had proper parts.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

Danielle took this when she first saw me, about 90 minutes after being woken up.

In the hospital

The next three days were mostly uneventful. My butt was sore from only being able to lay on my back with a very low incline. The food was surprisingly not terrible. Though, I couldn’t eat my first meal, I got super nauseous after a single bite of lettuce. The nurses and techs were incredibly friendly, but not exactly super speedy to respond to some of my calls.

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

French toast, scrambled eggs, sausage, and oatmeal!

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn't eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Scrambled eggs with cheese, french toast, bacon, english muffin, oatmeal, apple slices, plain greek yogurt. I didn’t eat all of this, but just a little bit of each.

Most importantly, I had my little friend. My morphine button. I pressed it and I got morphine. This was a relationship I could get behind. The pain was pretty manageable with the button, to be honest. I also had these compression things on my calves that basically just continuously massaged them to prevent blood clots. It was heaven. I wanted to steal them and take them home with me.

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

Let me tell you, this button is GREAT!

I didn’t see the doctor until the day after my surgery, but she said everything went perfectly and was looking good. For some reason, I wasn’t really prepared to believe this. I asked if I could see everything and she told me I didn’t want to yet and wouldn’t let me.

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

Thank you for the flowers, Ellen!

I spent most of the time in the hospital much more coherent than expected. I only slept a few hours each night and spent most of my time awake for like an hour and then asleep for a half hour. In person, I would sometimes start talking and then trail off, but I was able to tweet, text, chat, and read on my phone. My friends were really great. Mostly I just texted them jokes about having a vagina. “It’s going to be a pink Valentine’s Day!” “I’ve had a vagina for exactly one day and I’m already binging on Gilmore Girls.” Lots and lots…and lots of taco-related jokes.

Would have loved a good shave.

Would have loved a good shave.

So sexy.

So sexy.

My mom visited me a couple times and one of my best and oldest friends came by to spend a couple hours with me, as well. It was nice to have visitors. Danielle spent a lot of time with me, but she has friends in Philly and I wanted her to take some time to see them as well. I know this has been a long stressful process for her too and she was short on sleep. But it was a lot nicer when I wasn’t just hanging out by myself.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to go home yet at the end of the three days. I had a catheter and drains sticking out of me. It was hard to move and I didn’t even get to sit up, let alone stand or walk, until I was preparing to be discharged. I was afraid of the cats jumping on me at home and not having my morphine button.

Well, I'm out of the bed!

Well, I’m out of the bed!

Getting up out of the bed wasn’t as bad as I thought. I just sat there in a chair for a while afterwards until we were ready to actually go home. Then, I got wheeled out to the car and I tried to set up as best I could in there for our two-hour drive back to Jersey City. I slept most of the ride home.

My sweet ride!

My sweet ride! And, yes,, that is a bag of my pee in my hand.

At home

After getting out of bed, the car ride, and the walking from the car to the house and up our front steps, I was starting to hurt quite a bit. Just a bit too much moving. I had some Percocets in me though, so that helped a bit.

Danielle worked from home the first day I was home and I just stayed in the bed while she took care of everything I needed. I couldn’t do much and it was hard to move because of the catheter and drains and crap hanging out of my body. Everything was a big production. I also hadn’t pooped since before the surgery and I was starting to get a little worried about that. I had no idea how that was going to work. I couldn’t push at all. I started popping stool softeners to help, but those can take a little while to work.

For my first few days at home, I just stayed in bed and kept the bedroom door closed to keep the cats out. They were not thrilled by this. They love to sleep on the bed and Hattie and Fry are really needy for my attention. The two of them love to sleep between my legs.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week's all team meeting at work.

My best buddy in the world hung out with me to watch the recording of last week’s all team meeting at work.

At one point, a package was being delivered and I had to answer the door while holding a bag of my own urine. So I can check that off my bucket list now!

On my sixth day after surgery, I had my post-surgery appointment. This was to check on how things were doing and remove the catheter, drains, and packing from inside my brand new, top-of-the-line 2016 Vagina™. I was also going to be given my dilators and actually get to see thing. I’m going to be honest here, my crotch looked kinda like someone exploded a grenade inside a cheeseburger. Or a sandwich from Arby’s. Not a pretty site, but it kinda looked like a (very, very swollen) vagina.

The dilation is important because your body treats it like a wound and you want to make sure it doesn’t close up. To maintain width and depth, you have to insert a dilator a few times a day and keep it in there for a while.

Again, I was a wreck though. I was really scared of it hurting when the doctor pulled everything out of me. I didn’t know what to expect. My doctor was amazing though. She was calming and reassuring and honest. She told me everything was great and the surgery went perfectly and things were looking great. Nothing really hurt coming out, but it was some of the weirdest feeling things I’ve ever felt. SO weird! I practiced dilating and then that was about it. About four hours roundtrip driving and an hour in at the doctor. I just wanted to get back home and get back in bed…also poop.

So now that I was home again, I realized…I didn’t know how to pee…or poop still. I hadn’t pooped in a week at this point, but with the percocets and having everything completely emptied prior to surgery, it wasn’t terribly surprising. Well, that night, the stool softeners kicked in and went a good four or five times. Felt good to get it out! Peeing was weird. I still don’t really know how to reliably tell if I even have to go. And then when I sit on the toilet, I don’t know how to do it, how to push control the right muscles. I just kind of sit and wait for the magic to happen. And then it just sprays EVERYWHERE. I mean, everywhere. I guess that’ll change once the swelling goes down.

Anyway, things got a lot better once I had everything out of me. I was more comfortable and had a lot more mobility. I could get up on my own and move around and not have to worry as much about the cats. Though, somewhere in the process of resting in the hospital bed and getting home, I had pinched my sciatic nerve and so I’ve still had to be careful how I bend because of that.

It’s now nine days post-op and I’m making progress. I can feel it and see it. Dilating is weird, but not the worst thing. Mostly, it’s just boring and leaves me sore afterwards. I still kind of dread it each time, but it’s never as bad as I expect it to be. I’ve been able to do it with the biggest dilator too, which is encouraging. Though, I have gotten lube on my work computer’s keyboard in the process. Oops.

I’ve been starting to let the cats back in the bedroom with me for a bit. I have a lapdesk that I just keep in place over my crotch at all times to protect me from them. They just like to sleep a little further down between my legs. Hattie likes to lay on my chest, all up in my face.

It’s nice to be on the mend, but I still have sooooo far to go. I can get up and move around the house and lay on the couch and stuff, but I still can’t quite sit up straight for more than a little bit at a time without being in pain. And I’m still not feeling well enough to be stir-crazy yet. I’m certainly not even missing running yet. Today is the first day I actually feel up to being able to do any sort of work, hence why this post is happening today. Still, I feel gross. I haven’t showered in nine days and my hair is a knotty mess that completely holds the shape of the ponytail it’s been in since 4am the morning of surgery when I take the hair tie out. I was only just given the OK to shower on Wednesday, but I’m still kind of scared to do it. I’m sure it will be fine, but I need to work up the courage. I need to get clean and wash my hair.

I’m also totally over wearing diapers and would love to put my big girl undies back on.

I had no idea what it was going to be like to look down and not see a penis anymore, to see a vagina. But it wasn’t weird at all. It felt so normal. Just kind of like, of course I have a vagina…why wouldn’t I? What is weird, though, is the mapping of nerves. It’s hard to tell for sure where pain or an itch is. “My balls itch…but I don’t have balls.” “The head of my penis hurts…so…my clitoris?” I know this will work itself out over time as my body figures out where all my old nerves are now, but it’s an interesting feeling!

Overall, the pain is mostly manageable with the percocets. I try to take as few of them as possible, but it’s getting better day-by-day. Sometimes, I wake up in a bunch of pain or if I move around too much for a while, the pain will start to creep back up on me. Still, those first five or six days really sucked. No one can prepare you for how rough they are. You’re totally helpless to do anything on your own, relying on pain meds, unable to move much, and don’t even know how your body works.

A bit on why?

So, I mean, why go through all of this? I don’t expect cisgender people (people who aren’t trans) to really understand, but it’s a feeling of oneness with my body. To have genitals that feel like mine instead of just something attached to me. It’s freedom to live a more normal life and have to worry less about public restroom access and the TSA. To dress and present myself how I want without worry of people seeing what I’ve got going on down there.

At this point, after having been living openly as a woman (i.e. myself) for more than two years, my last remaining dysphoria was related to my genitals and my breast size. This fixes one of them. It allows me to just feel more comfortable with being me.

And a big bit of it is running. In theory, with where my testosterone level was on blockers, it should actually go up a bit now. I was at practically zero and now I have a chance to maybe be in the normal female range. We’ll see if this actually pans out, anything could happen, but I’m hopeful. Regardless, to no longer have to deal with the side-effects of Spironolactone (my blocker) will be a big deal on its own. I truly expect to be a stronger, faster, and happier runner after this. And, as you know, running is #1 to me.

That’s about all I’m going to say about that. I’m not going to justify what I neededI had to do that enough just to be able to have surgery in the first place.

Other stuff

I’m sure some of you, mostly just those who are trans, are wondering who did my surgery and details like that. I went to Dr Rumer in Ardmore, PA. Surgery was in Drexel Hill, which is basically Philly. We don’t really get a lot of options for doctors when it comes to bottom surgery in the US, but my first choice was originally McGinn. Unfortunately, that was going to be a year wait for surgery. Heck, it was six months just to get a consultation. With Rumor, I got my consultation inside a week and a half. And my surgery date was three months later, mostly because I wanted to wait until January, not because she couldn’t schedule it sooner.

Up until this point, and you should probably ask me again once I’m healed up, Dr Rumer has been great! She has a really great bedside manner that is calming, yet honest. She makes it easy to trust her and feel comfortable. She wasn’t phased at all by my horrible anxiety.

Rumer also worked with my insurance so I didn’t have to pay $20k out of pocket and then go through reimbursement. Though, just having insurance that covers bottom surgery is still a big deal that I’m very grateful for.

I know some people do this on their own, but I don’t know how they do it. I couldn’t have done it without Danielle. Both before and after surgery, I needed her so much. I wouldn’t have made it otherwise. The other day, she said to me, “what I learned in the last week is that you’re not as strong as I thought you were, but I’m much stronger than I thought I was.” It may sound like a weird thing to say to your wife, but it felt perfect. It felt real and honest. And it meant that I was finally able to show my wife of four and a half years something I’ve never been able to before.

It’s kind of weird to have this over with. For twenty years, I had such a weird relationship with the idea of even having surgery and then when I finally made a decision for what I needed, this moved pretty quickly. I still don’t even really know what to call it, SRS (sex reassignment surgery), GRS (gender reassignment surgery or genital reconstruction surgery), bottom surgery, GCS (gender confirmation surgery), the surgery, taco installation, getting your junk rearranged. The more serious terms in that list are pretty problematic for their own reasons so I tend to just stick with making a joke.

11

A follow up about the Bruce Jenner interview

I wrote yesterday about my fears for Bruce Jenner’s two hour interview. In some places I may have failed to make some of my thoughts perfectly clear, but I stand by my point.

I received a lot of comments accusing me of not supporting Bruce Jenner and being bitter because Bruce’s story doesn’t match my story, as if this is actually in any way about me (it’s not). While it is true that Bruce’s story is very different from mine, it obviously has parallels. But much of this criticism came at me dripping in class privilege, without any consideration of what our community’s most marginalized members deal with. A complete lack of the intersectionality of class and race with trans issues.

To be clear, of course I think all trans stories are worth telling! To say otherwise would be ridiculous. My point was that we are all different and unique. We have different stories and experiences. Bruce’s story is just one of an infinite number of trans stories and we should be wary how much the media focuses on his. I would never try to suggest Bruce doesn’t deal with many of the same feelings and things all trans people deal with. However, Bruce’s transition is still very different. Having money can’t buy your way out of transphobia and all the dysphoria and feelings, but it can ease many of the of the struggles around being able to simply pay for shit. If you cannot see or understand this, you have a serious case classism that I can’t help you with.

I say this as someone who lives with an immense amount of privilege. I’m white, my wife and I do not worry about money, and we live in the NYC area. It makes a difference. A HUGE difference. My transition was relatively easy because of all of this. That’s not to say being trans is ever made easy or any of it is easy, but I do have advantages many do not have. While there is too much to go into around this in this post, it is still important to consider. Still, just like Jenner’s, my story matters too. As I’ve said, all trans stories and all trans experiences matter. However, trans activism and media should focus on our most marginalized and our most at risk.

We must not leave anyone behind in our fight for equality. The LGBT movement largely left the T behind and mainstream feminism has largely left women of color behind. We must not make the same mistake other fights have had and the only way to ensure we don’t is to focus on those most marginalized. Lifting their stories and focusing on them lifts us all up. I’m sorry white trans folks with money, but this means it’s not all about us.

So, yes, Bruce Jenner’s story matters, but it should never be the focus of our community.

As for the actual interview, it was absolutely not the transwreck many expected. The interview was far from perfect, but it was more a fender-bender than a wreck. I clearly underestimated Bruce a lot, but I never didn’t support him. Diane Sawyer made mistakes and drifted into a few of the standard tropes, but largely avoided any major faux pas. While the interview clearly showed just how far the media has to go on trans issues still, it was, without a doubt, an indication of progress and real effort being put in.

While I found the use of he/him pronouns and repeated referring to him as a man to be very jarring and likely to be confusing to many cis (not trans) people, I actually completely understand Bruce’s request for that. I get the compartmentalization of what is essentially a persona you put on vs the actual real person you are. I think that’s something a lot of us have had to do to some degree. And Bruce’s request for this is why I am using masculine pronouns in this piece. This is what Bruce asked us to do, at least for the interview, so that is what we should do.

For me, the biggest issue was the repeated question of what Bruce will look like “when he emerges as she.” There is just so much wrong with focusing on how a trans person will look after they transition. I know this is always the question on people’s minds, but it can really miss the point of transition. It is this thinking that creates hierarchies based on our appearance. It is because of this that those of us who “pass” or are pretty are often treated better. It is because of this that I use women’s rooms with no problem and am consistently gendered properly while my friend Robyn has the complete opposite experience despite even having a more femme style than I do. It doesn’t matter to anyone else what we look like. It only matters to us.

All of this said, the reality is we’ve been burned time and time again by the media and “good intentions.” One only needs to look back a year to Piers Morgan’s interview with Janet Mock and Katie Couric’s interview with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera to see what I mean. Or how about a couple months ago with Jill Soloway? Skepticism is completely warranted and we should still exercise it until being burned is no longer the norm. I actually think this string of tweets by Casey Plett really nails of lot of why we should continue to be skeptical.

Additionally, I stand by my fear that media will center too much around Jenner’s story instead of those I mentioned above. I want to be wrong here, I absolutely do, but until the media starts to get this right, I will continue to be skeptical.

I’ve seen a lot of cis people come out this week in support of Bruce Jenner. That’s GREAT! For real, it’s absolutely awesome to have people supporting trans people, but it’s hard to not question where these people are when we’re calling out transphobic jokes in TV shows and movies. I didn’t see people speak up when a trans woman was murdered every week for the first two months of this year. Are these people speaking up against the proposed laws in Texas, Florida, and other states to limit our right to access public restrooms? Supporting Bruce is great, but it cannot end there. This is why I continue advocate for our focus on our most marginalized and to focus less on coming out stories and more on the lived experiences of trans folk.

I 100% support Bruce Jenner, but let’s make sure we never leave anyone behind. Let’s fight for more than just the scraps that fall off the table of equality. Let’s fight for a seat at the table.

22

About this Bruce Jenner interview

Update: I’ve written a followup here and turned off the comments on this post after an inbox full of attacks. If you still wish to comment, feel free to do so on the followup post.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.11Tonight, it’s expected that Bruce Jenner will reveal they’re transgender in a two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer. For most of us trans folk, especially the ladies, this is something we’ve been dreading for quite some time.

It may be tempting to see this as a great bit of visibility for the trans community and another chance for us to talk about trans issues. It may appear we are gaining an advocate and spokesperson in the mainstream media. None of this is true, however. There is nothing positive to come from this interview tomorrow. Most of us are actually quite afraid of the world we will be living in after this evening.

(Please note that I am using the singular “they” as Jenner’s pronoun. Jenner has not yet asked us to use a different pronoun and doing so before being told what to use would be inappropriate.)

What is important to consider is where Bruce Jenner is coming from. They are a privileged white person who exists in the heart of celebritydom. They are already a household name in mainstream media…and rich. Yes, this is going to make their personal experience difficult in a way most of us could not imagine, however, this is where the problem lies. Jenner’s experience does not and will never line up with the experience of 99.99% of trans people. Everything about Jenner will be about them and not about trans people.

Jenner will never understand the fear of being fired from their job simply because they are transgender. Jenner will not have to fear violence at every turn. They will not struggle to afford treatment (hormones, surgery, etc) while fighting with insurance companies to get anything at all covered. They will not experience housing discrimination.

Jenner will literally be able to buy their way out of any experience even remotely typical for those of us in the transgender community. Jenner will be able to snap their fingers for a new wardrobe, a body guard, medical treatment, and anything else they need.

This is not the person who should be the face of our community. The face of our community should not be our most privileged and least marginalized. It should be exactly the opposite. The face of our community should be our most marginalized. Our focus should not be trickle-down in nature. We need to be lifting up from the bottom. No one should be left behind. Our focus and the face of our community should be transgender women of color.

Jenner is not equipped for these conversations, nor should they even be expected to. Even for me, it took a couple years of listening to others in my community before I felt confident enough to be having important discussions around trans issues. I needed to learn the limits of my experience and to not speak over or for those less privileged than me. I needed to learn when to elevate the voices of others and speak in ways and about things with the nuance necessary to not over-step my boundaries. This does not come automatically.

This will not be how things go with Jenner. They will immediately be treated as an expert on transgender issues by the media. Their experience will be put front and center as The Transgender Experience™ instead of just one of many ways to be transgender and experiences to have. We saw this happen recently with Zoey Tur.

Jenner is not an expert on trans issues. I don’t even consider myself to be an expert and I am involved in the community and with activism. In reality, no one can truly be an expert on trans issues because trans experiences are varied and individualistic. Being a vocal part of the trans community and speaking for trans people means having a deep understanding of this fact. It is impossible for Jenner to possess this understanding.

Going even beyond Jenner’s ability to speak for trans people, we’ve already had a glimpse of the nastiness to come from the media. It’s not pretty. Simply look at TMZ and other tabloid publications. Jenner comes with too much baggage. People are too eager to use them being transgender as another way to attack him in pursuit of a quick buck.

Much of the bullying and attacks on Jenner feel like a flashback to the 90s for me. I still have mental scars from the imagery and treatment of trans people in the 90s. Media depictions like those on Jerry Springer set me back almost two decades in figuring out who I was and how to navigate being transgender. I fear a repeat of this for transgender youth of today.

Bruce Jenner’s stardom comes with immense visibility, but visibility isn’t always positive. Each insult hurled at Jenner isn’t just an insult of Jenner, it’s an attack on all trans people. These “jokes” are at the expense of all trans people. We are the punchline. Jenner will be a magnet for transphobia and transmisogyny and while they may be able to endure it and shelter themself from it thanks to decades of experience being in the spotlight, the vast majority of the trans community cannot.

Jenner’s “journey” and this interview won’t be about transgender people and the trans community, it will be about them and all of us will be the innocent victims handed over in exchange for media profits.

Regardless of all of this, Jenner still deserves our respect. They deserve to be properly gendered however they ask us to do. But I beg for the world to not look to Jenner to speak for us.

Update: Based on a lot comments I’ve received in various places, it seems as though I completely failed to make one of my main points clear enough. I 100% support Bruce Jenner and all trans people. My issue isn’t with Bruce Jenner themself at all. It is with a society and a media that will no doubt center around their experience and their story as THE transgender story and experience. We all have different stories and experiences and they are all worth being heard. I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I don’t believe that. Bruce’s experience is just one of an infinite number of them. What I fear is what will be thrust upon Bruce and the elevation of THEIR story over all others. This will only serve to bury the stories of our most marginalized.

2

Apparently, I’ve been testosterone-free for two years

Here's the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am!

Here’s the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am! I’m just spewing it all over Tumblr HQ.

Apparently, today is my two year HRTiversary (anniversary of the day I started hormone replacement therapy). Who knew? I mean, I guess I did in the back of my head, but I completely forgot about it. I only even thought about it today because of a friend who reminded me this morning by wishing me happy HRTiversary.

I feel like I’m supposed to write something about this? Honestly, these anniversaries (HRT, “full time,” coming out, etc) feel like they’ve lost any real meaning to me. Sure, these days mark very important steps in my life towards happiness and honesty, but they also remind me of how long I told myself lies to avoid all of this and all the reasons why I had to. Why isn’t this my ten or eleven year HRTiversary? It easily could have been.
So, really, I don’t have much to say about this, but I do think it’s kind of ironic this is the day after Transgender Day of Visibility, a day which I have so many conflicting feelings about. Visibility is cool and all, but it’s also dangerous and brings extra attention to us, both individually and as a community. I try to be visible every day, but that’s just how I like to live my life. Partially, it’s because I don’t want to hide being trans anymore, partially because it allows me to take control of it and my identity, and…I don’t know, there are a bunch of other reasons too. Anyway, I’m not going to really go much into that when Red Durkin really nailed it yesterday. Just go read that.
I think my point here is I live being trans every day, anniversaries of various steps I took along the way seem kind of redundant. Absolutely, it’s nice to take a brief moment and be like “whoa, I can’t believe it’s been that long already” or “huh, that’s it? Feels like it’s been forever!” And that’s kind of the thing, some days it feels like it’s only been a brief part of my life, like the days when I’m reminded I’m still figuring out some parts of (openly) existing as a woman in the world. But there are other days where my pre-transition life feels like an entirely different life. It feels like a lifetime ago, like maybe it was just a past life and I’ve since reincarnated as this trans as fuck person who only kind hates herself instead of entirely hating herself.
Either way, the past is the past and it’s important to never forget it and learn everything you can from it. I wouldn’t change anything about it because I wouldn’t risk changing who I am. But…it’s the past. It’s done. I try to look forward as much as possible. Tons of awesome things have happened and changed over the last couple of years, but I feel like making any real big deal about these anniversaries is giving the past more attention than it deserves…or maybe just misplaced attention. I don’t know. It just feels weird, okay?
Man, that was cynical, wasn’t it? I swear I’m not nearly that cynical of a person!
Anyway, on a different note, being testosterone-free for two years is pretty fucking rad!
4

One year

Tumblr Halloween party

Tumblr Halloween party

A year ago yesterday, I went to bed at the end of the day knowing it was the end of my last day living a lie. The next day, I woke up no longer living a double life. I was Amelia and that was it.

While my past life sometimes feels so long ago as to almost stop seeming real, it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already since I “went live.” Compared to a year ago, I have a totally new job, live in a new city, have a new legal name, am 100% out as transgender to the entire world, have a tattoo, spend 100% less time living a lie, and just understand so much more about the world/life/everything; however, by far, the most remarkable thing about where I am now is how unremarkable everyday life is. It’s boring. It’s…perfect.

Just hanging with my fellow Tumblr ladies and the guys working the Instagram booth

Just hanging with my fellow Tumblr ladies and the guys working the Instagram booth

For a while, transition can be kind of crazy. There are a thousand things to deal with and consider; it can be hard to keep with yourself sometimes, but things have a way of slowing down later on. There’s very little to do anymore except live my normal life. I take some pills everyday and inject myself with estrogen once a week, I get the occasional labs done to check my hormone levels, and that’s really about it. Being trans is becoming less and less of a focal point in my life with each day. I will always be trans and I will always be open about it and talk about it and pretty much wear it on my sleeve as I do. I love being trans (most of the time). However, I spend less time thinking about it and it spends less time controlling my life.

If you’re a regular reader here or you know me in meatspace, you know that I’ve had some emotionally difficult times in the last few months. I even questioned whether this was all worth it. The thing is, when I questioned that, I was really stressed and dealing with a lot of things going on. As I sit here typing this now, there isn’t even a question. Nothing in that post has stopped being true, but it’s easier to clearly see how much better life is and how much less miserable I am. It’s kind of amazing.

Everyday Amelia

Everyday Amelia

All that said, one thing I don’t ever want to lose sight of, though, is how easy I’ve had it. I came out at a job where everyone was super awesome and accepting to the point where it wasn’t even really a thing. Now, I work at a place which is possibly even more accepting and no one even knows my old name or what I looked like or anything about my life before transition. Being trans just isn’t even a thing there. I’m also lucky in that I have a lot of passing privilege. I’ve said it before, but I don’t care about passing. I want people to see me as a woman and it’s really upsetting when I look in the mirror and think I look like a dude, but I have zero interest in trying to “pass” as a cisgender woman. I’m not cis and I don’t want to be cis. I’m trans and I’m proud of that and I am open about that. It’s just that I’m also a woman and I want to be seen as that first. I’m a woman who just so happens to be trans.

Really, I don’t even know what else to say about it. I’ve been “full time” (god, I hate that term) for a year now which seems like a pretty big deal, but it’s mostly boring. I go about my life like any other woman does. It’s routine now. I wouldn’t say “I’m done transitioning” though. I don’t even really know what that would mean. I’m done with a lot of stuff related to transition and it’s no longer a thing I’m actively working on, but to say I’m done transitioning would make it seem so final. It would make it seem as if I’m done growing and learning. I don’t think that could ever be the case. I wouldn’t want it to be. I will always be transitioning in some way. We all are, whether you’re trans or not.

8

Has it been worth it?

This has been a rough week emotionally. Like, just brutal. I’m just starting to really recover from Monday, but it’s left me with a lot of lingering feelings. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about transition’s affect on me. Has it really been a net positive on my life? I think the answer is yes, but it’s not firm and clear-cut answer.

Much of my dysphoria is gone and I’m happier with who I am and my ability to be something closer to “myself.” I don’t hate myself anymore and my time spent thinking about suicide is greatly decreased–though, not erased. There is much less disconnect between me and who I present myself as and it’s continuing to decrease every day. I am finally happy with my gender. I no longer feel alien to myself. I’m a happier me.

But that’s only part of the story. My life is harder now. One gigantic problem in my life has now been replaced by many much smaller onesMy marriage is still in existence and solid, but it has taken a massive beating. I’m noticeably less able to handle high-stress situations or many problems at all once. I now feel emotionally fragile in many ways. The source of general unhappiness is no longer within me, but it’s external, from how I am treated by others. I’ve relinquished some control over my mood and emotions to the outside world. This is still something I’m struggling with.

I, surprisingly, spend more time feeling alienated from others and generally out of place. Not only do I feel constantly judged, but I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. I feel awkward around groups of women, as I am constantly in fear that they don’t really see me as one of them. And I, obviously, don’t fit in around men. I used to be able to fake it enough around groups of guys to feel accepted (ish), but I can’t do that anymore. I don’t even want to. In mixed company, I feel like I have no idea where I stand.

I actually don’t even really trust many men at all. If I’m being honest, my default is to hate all men and find them entirely untrustworthy. Most of this stems from knowing how men are and what they say when they don’t think any women are around. I essentially lived as a spy behind enemy lines for three decades and what I learned, saw, and experienced is horrifying to me. No, it’s “not all men,” but it’s enough that I have to start with this mindset and require men to prove themselves otherwise. Either way, it’s a lot of added complication in life.

This is really just the start of it, I could go on and on forever, but these are the things on my mind this week. 

While the net effect, positive or negative, is not a black and white answer, whether transitioning was the right decision is an unquestionable yes. I am hopeful that, over time, some of these smaller problems will either fade away or be able to be fixed with a little effort. However, in the meantime, I am at the mercy of the society around me. People repeatedly try to tell me I’m strong or brave or whatever the fuck, but I don’t think I’m brave at all and my strength is more survival than anything else. I have limits and they’re different than they were pre-transition. I’m still learning what they are.

But the thing about all of this is, my overall feeling on it all fluctuates regularly. After a super awesome good week, none of the negatives register with me. During those weeks, I am better, life is better, everything is better. Obviously, though, that’s not the problem. It’s weeks like this one that are the struggle. All I can focus on is the negative.

About how I feel this week.

About how I feel this week.