Stephanie Haskins is determined to proceed with a surgical procedure that her doctors have so far refused to perform.

Post-Surgery Blues

This Girl is Sad, Mad and Still Sick (but Getting Better)

Stephanie Haskins is determined to proceed with a surgical procedure that her doctors have so far refused to perform.

January 2023

Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of “The Transchick Chronicles,” an on-going series of essays written by out transgender journalist Stephanie Haskins, as she documents her transition. Scroll to the bottom for links to her previous entries.

 

PART THIRTEEN

 

BY STEPHANIE HASKINS

As I start to write this, in late November 2022, it’s the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s also the day after five young and vibrant queer people were slaughtered at a gay club in Colorado Springs, Colorado—apparently one of the only places in that town where LGBTQIA+ people say they felt safe.

It was invaded by some little bug of humanity who sprayed the club and the dancing kids with bullets.

Another mass shooting in America. And no one is surprised.

These angels were blown away by a sick, right-wing fuck who decided it was HIS turn to be momentarily famous, by offing some gay kids he never knew, but always despised.

A loner. A freak.

How many more of us have to die at the hand of White, entitled, twisted monsters?

How many more massacres with guns meant for warfare must we endure?

And once again, as I sit in front of my big screen TV, watching the usual scenes of carnage, tears rolling down my face, I feel totally, absolutely, and completely useless and powerless.

This is NOT where I want to be right now. Emotionally or physically.

In recent months, I’ve fallen into a dark place. I’m not doing particularly well. My life as a newly minted transgender woman feels like it’s on stall for the time being. I’m neither here nor there. I’m stranded in an emotional desert.

A few months ago, I assumed I’d finally acquired the vocabulary I needed to tell you, dear reader, what it’s like to be a physically actuated female person: Deliriously happy, free of guilt and dysphoria, and on my way to creating a new life for myself.

I got the delirious part right.

See, I just assumed that once I got my bottom surgery, on June 10, 2022, and had recovered from the surgical procedure that repurposed my sad little penis into a neo-vagina, my life would be wonderful.

I would be—in theory—a fully transitioned (and transformed) woman, rid of my dick and all of the incredibly debilitating and uncomfortable tropes I’ve been living with as a so-called male, and finally settling into figuring out what’s next for the rest my life.

But see, something happened.

Actual life happened.

As I’m fond of saying and writing about, I discovered that God (yes, I DO believe) once again has a really cute, funny way of putting oiled banana peels in my path, and then laughing like hell when I do sloppy cartwheels right onto my ass.

Folks, in recent months Stephanie Grace Haskins hasn’t been anywhere close to doing much more than waking up in the morning and trying like hell to accomplish a few, fundamental things. Like eating. Peeing. Showering, Getting dressed. And, well, that’s kinda it. Seriously.

When I last scribbled in this space, I opined that I was ready to whup ass in this incredibly dysfunctional culture we live in.

I still WANT to do that—to fully become the kind of kick-ass, left wing radical feminist I so badly want to be.

But it’s just not happening quite the way I wanted or expected.

God (back again!) is screaming “Hold on, Toots!” in my ear.

So what went wrong?  How did most of my hopes and dreams get so badly derailed? I’ve described some of these events in previous writings, so I won’t belabor the details, but I do need to provide some background for context.

It started in late 2021 when I asked—yes, I really did ask—to get a colonoscopy. On purpose. Why did I do that? Looking back to that simpler time, my loves, I’m not sure.

It was one of the most stunningly stupid decisions I’ve ever made. I guess I knew that since my gender affirmation surgery was coming up in the next few months, I wanted to show to my caregivers how amazingly healthy I was.

And what better to demonstrate pink-cheeked, robust health than pictures of a squeaky clean, sparkly alimentary canal?

Whatever it takes to pass muster and make me into Jennifer Lawrence.

During the earlier part of 2021, I’d breezed through three major surgeries—a tummy tuck, breast augmentation, and facial feminization—all in less than 11 months. Oh, also laser and electrolysis on my face and genitalia, and I was expecting to get vocal enhancement surgery after the first of the year in 2022.

I was really confident, and I thought volunteering to get a routine colonoscopy couldn’t possibly hurt.

It was time for one anyway—every five years, docs say.

So, sure. Why not?

But during the prep process, my body revolted.

As many of you know, colonoscopy patients have to completely clean out their intestines, so there’s absolutely NO evidence of any prior feasts and nibblings that might still be in the process of being digested and ready for expulsion.

You have to drink a gallon of disgusting liquid that forces this self-cleansing process. It usually takes a few hours.

In MY case, it took waaaaay longer than it should have, and when it was finally done, I’d been up and sleepless for 36 hours straight as I arrived at the hospital for my procedure. I was completely exhausted, dehydrated, and my electrolytes were totally shot to hell.

And guess what? During the check-in process, my heart went into AFib—atrial fibrillation—a potentially dangerous heart condition; it happens when the heart muscle gets out of rhythm, which can then lead to strokes, heart attacks and other dreadful stuff.

Uh oh.

It didn’t last long, and after much commotion by doctors and nurses, a trip to the ER and then the ICU, some heart drugs, and a few bags of saline solution pumped into my parched body, the AFib went away.

Or so I thought.

But it did NOT go away.

At ALL.

It did not go away because a record of my incident went on my medical record for all of my subsequent doctors and medical professionals to see. Interestingly, however, not one single doc on my transition team suggested I get evaluated—immediately—by a cardiologist.

A month later, my vaginoplasty surgeon (who ALSO read my record), told me that my genital transition would be called off, pending clearance by a—you guessed it—cardiologist.

Okeedokee.

And yet, that evaluation didn’t happen for another three very long months because of bureaucratic fuckups, and not until I had a couple of tearful, almost-hysterical Zoom sessions with my surgical team begging them to make me a vagina. And also not until I unceremoniously fired my primary care physician who, apparently, didn’t give much of a flying fuck about whether I got my vagina or not.

When I DID get evaluated, I was put on a couple of wonderful heart meds, and my AFib was history. But my surgeon then refused to perform a full-depth vaginoplasty on me, a procedure that would have transformed my genital tissues into a six-inch-deep vaginal canal.

Nope.

She decided that, despite the fact I’d been completely cleared by a cardiologist, that she didn’t want to take the medical chance that I might die on the operating table.

And so, the medical shakedown for this emotionally fragile transchick began. I was told that I could instead get a less invasive procedure called a vulvoplasty. (It’s similar to a vaginoplasty in the sense that it creates a vulva, labia, clitoris and shortened urethra, but it does NOT create a full-depth vagina.)

AND, it was either that or nothing. Or, I could go someplace else. Or, I could pay for it out of pocket—but my wonderful insurance would not.

And so…I caved.

Like I wrote earlier, I went ahead and had my vulvoplasty in June 2022.

Please let me say here and now that a vulvoplasty is a perfectly fine procedure—if that’s what a transgender person really wants. Lots do, because they don’t want or care much about having a six-inch deep vagina. Some just want to get rid of their male genitalia, and still others even feel perfectly female while keeping their penis. And that’s absolutely their call.

At any rate, the surgery for a vulvoplasty is shorter, less complicated, and supposedly less dangerous. The recovery process is also much shorter since no deep vaginal canal is created, just maybe two inches instead.

While it was seemingly an OK decision for me at the time, looking back It was also THE dumbest decision of my life. Even worse than my ill-advised colonoscopy a few months earlier.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my new vulva. It’s lovely, really. Wonderful, actually. Aesthetically perfect. But again, it’s NOT really the vagina I had hoped for. I wanted it to be six-fucking inches deep.

Sometime in late August, two months after the surgery, I just started to have a gnawing, really sad realization that I’d settled for second best. I’d agreed to something that wasn’t what I really wanted or needed emotionally.

So, no. I’m not OK about it now. Not even close.

I want to have a surgical revision to give me the actual organ I want—the six inch-deep version. Yet I’m sure the surgeons who did my vulvoplasty are going to be surprised and pissed that I now want a re-do, and I’m pretty sure their reaction is going to be a nicer version of “NO FUCKING WAY!”

But this is a big deal for me—a NECESSITY for me—because when I first came to realize who I am, what I am, my sensibility about my body changed completely. When I realized I was trans, and accepted all of the physical changes that might come with that identity, I never had any sadness in my soul that I’d be losing a huge part of my old self,  that my existence as a man was ending. Forever.

And it was lovely. It was great, actually. But I have no real memory of that chrysalis-busting moment, If there was one. I think I just instinctively knew that I couldn’t wait to be rid of my maleness.  It really was that simple and uneventful.

I just loved the process of transitioning to my congruent self as a woman. That I could do that through hormone replacement therapy and many precise surgeries that included building breasts, growing a shapelier ass, developing a higher pitched voice, sculpting a softer, more feminine face, and yes—creating a vagina that could eventually and absolutely accommodate the penetration of a potential partner’s penis. It was just amazing.

OK, so there it is.

I wanted a penis inside of me.

Inside MY vagina.

And yes, it’s even MORE complicated than that.

First of all, this is a very difficult concept to address for both me personally, and for people who know me and love me and have already had SO much sadness and anxiety dealing with my transition over the past three-plus years. For them to read this desire of mine, and to visualize this most basic sexual process, I fear that it could horrify and disgust them, and that truly does scare the crap out of me.

How will they react? What will they THEN think of Papa?

I can hardly type this right now. But I must. One more time.

A penis. Inside of me. In my vagina. My OWN vagina.

My God.

Secondly, there’s this to consider: For most of my life—since I was 13—I thought of myself as a mostly gay male person. Deeply in the closet. So, so, SOOOO deeply in the closet.

But now, strangely enough, I’m no longer sexually attracted to men. Nope. Not interested.

In fact, it’s just the opposite.

I consider myself to be, at this point, a lesbian. Yep. This transchick is attracted to women!

And THAT doesn’t quite jibe with this new desire for penile penetration. Of MY vagina.

Furthermore, as I lay my neuroses bare, there is this: As a man, I was married twice (to women), and have a wonderful, beautiful daughter whom I adore more than anything else in my life. I created her with a woman, whom I also adore—with my OWN penis.

And see, these women in my life, in my family, are all heterosexual people, and the thought of me as a faux male, formerly gay, currently lesbian, with something of a penis fixation must be incredibly difficult for them. They now try so hard to be kind and loving to me, but the sense of betrayal (real or perceived) on my part is always, ALWAYS there.

Like an aerosol spray of a Covid cough.

So, what the fuck?

 

I’m in love with the shape of you

We push and pull like a magnet do

Although my heart is falling too

I’m in love with your body 

Last night you were in my room

And now my bed sheets smell like you

Every day discovering something 

brand new

I’m in love with your body

 — “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

 

When I hear this song about sexual attraction and lust—animal-like, crazy, sweaty fucking between and a man and a woman—I shiver.

But I can’t say with any certainty that I shiver with excitement or revulsion. In some moments of erotic fantasy, I imagine I’d enjoy a penis in my vagina. But I truly don’t know if I could ever allow someone male to enter me, in my own vagina.

“What the fuck?!” you scream in confusion. “You identified as a gay male for years and you supposedly allowed guys to fuck you, but now that you have a vagina, you’re not freaking sure any more that you want a guy inside you? Are you freaking out of your silly-ass goddamn mind?”

I know. I get it.

You raise some valid points.

The answers are very complicated.

COMPLICATED!

But I simply cannot fully answer them for you right now. I just can’t. Because I don’t yet fully understand myself.

My soul is SOOO fucking roiled.

The bottom line here (pun intentional) is that regardless of whom I might eventually choose to have sex with as a transchick, I STILL want a full-depth vagina. Full-fucking-depth.

I intend to raise some fresh hell to get one. Will I be successful? I can’t tell you, dear reader. Some surgeons actually do two-step vaginoplasties, whereby a vulvoplasty is the first step and the second step is the lengthening or deepening of the vaginal canal after the first procedure is healed.

Personally, and I do believe this, I don’t see how my surgeon can—in good conscience—refuse to do a revision on me. I tolerated and healed from my vulvoplasty really well, including having to take care of myself all alone post-op.

AND—simultaneously—dealing with a vicious case of Covid! Yes, I somehow got Covid shortly after my surgery. Probably in the hospital.

I dealt with all of it alone because my caretaker (and former best friend) whom I entrusted to assist me decided, a day into my recovery, not to stick around. I won’t go into the details of this abandonment drama, but the point is that he broke his promise and then left me, sick and stranded. So, for six weeks—half of June and into early July 2022—I was mostly isolated in my condo trying to tend to my healing vulvoplasty, as well as trying not to wake up dead from Covid.

Six weeks in Hell.

Sad but true. And months later, I’m still not completely recovered. I’m a bit of a Covid long-hauler now. Some days I’m very fatigued, and can’t do much of anything. Other days—MOST days now, thankfully—I feel OK, if not great. My surgical wounds have healed and I’m navigating the ownership of my new almost-vagina really well. It’s hard to remember what it was like to be packing penile heat. With danglers attached.

So: If I could survive NO help/care as I recovered from this major operation, and after self-tending to my Covid pneumonia, how could any doctor NOT agree that I have the guts and physical strength to easily survive a second vaginal surgery that, I believe, would truly make me whole?

MY theory: If I was strong enough to survive the past few months—with no issues other than occasional fatigue—I can sure as hell make it through a second surgery.

Right?

Yeah. I know. Don’t get your hopes up, Transchick.

I’ll admit that losing my caregiver/best friend—someone I admired and loved with every fiber of my being—plunged me into a monumental depressive state. A very, VERY scary, depressive state. But again, I’ve survived. I can’t say I’ve exactly thrived, but I AM sitting up and taking nourishment. I guess my pain is mostly inside my soul right now.

But enough of that.

I’m going to pursue a revision of my vulvoplasty until there is absolutely no possibility it can’t/won’t happen.

I will NOT give up until that becomes reality. It will almost HAVE to become my truth.

As all of my friends, acquaintances, former co-workers, and even those who hate my ass will assure you, telling me “no” is a declaration of war. I’m fierce when I decide to fight for something that I believe to be a righteous cause. I’ll just be in tears a lot more.

And honestly, I think I have a pretty good case. I’ve lost nothing physically. I walk/run two miles a day, can knock out a couple hundred crunches, and a couple hundred leg lifts every day as well.

I’m a hella persistent Norwegian bitch.

Most importantly, I’m not afraid to lose my appeal for a surgical revision if I’ve done and said everything I can. And I sure as shit intend to give it one helluva shot.

I fully expect my surgeon to tell me that I’m too old and fragile for revision surgery. That even though my heart issues are likely resolved, neither she nor any of her colleagues in San Francisco will do the surgery. Period. Ain’t gonna happen.

And if that’s the case, I’ll ask my insurance provider to let me seek surgery in its Los Angeles facility. San Francisco surgeons have a great reputation for doing great work, but the docs in L.A. are equally skilled.

And if, ultimately, a surgeon in Los Angeles won’t do my surgery, then I guess that’s it. But only then will I give up the fight. Travelling somewhere like Thailand or Europe to get it done isn’t realistic. I don’t have the money.

“Hold on,” you say. “You’re not willing to pay for a vaginal revision out of pocket?

Nope.

A girl who takes a stand also has to know when it’s time to sit back down.

Still, when this fight is finished, everyone involved will know they did battle with a VERY determined transchick.

 

I got delicious taste, you need a woman’s touch in your place,

Just protect her and keep her safe

Baby, worship my hips and waist

So feminine with grace

I touch your soul when you hear me say “Boy”

Let me be your woman

 Woman, woman, woman

I can be your woman

 –“Woman” by Doja Cat

 

It’s now January, 2023.

I’m still slowed a bit by long-haul Covid. My sense of taste and smell has been severely compromised and, I’m speculating, will likely not improve much in the future.

The holidays came and went pretty uneventfully. Winter arrived in Northern California and it started to rain. A LOT.

My purse was stolen—including my phone—and I spent an anxious few days cancelling credit cards and obtaining new ID. Then, I broke my foot. The healing process has been bumpy, although thankfully not too painful.

And now, I’m awaiting a further surgery on my nose, because I’m having trouble breathing through my surgically altered nostrils. I’m hoping for better breathing and an even more feminine nasal outcome. I want a button nose. Like Jennifer Lawrence.

 

 

I haven’t yet brought up the idea of a vaginal revision with my docs, but it’s coming. I’m more determined than ever, and I’ve drafted a message to my wonderful nurse in San Francisco, which will lay the groundwork. He’ll forward my words to my surgeons, and the process will commence.

In the meantime, even though I’m still not satisfied with my not-full-depth vagina, I sure love having it; when I’m in the shower I’ll look at it in wonder, and try to remember my departed penis. It’s difficult sometimes to recall how I felt as a terribly unhappy, anxious, depressed male being.

My God, I love being who I am now.

As I’ve written in this space for the past year and a half, I’m beyond proud to be a transgender woman. Acknowledging my personal truth has been the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community has brought me into contact with some of the bravest, kindest, and most decent souls on this planet, and I love all of them for the trials and tribulations they (we) have ALL endured, for the victories that they (we) have won, and even for the future losses that they (we) will no doubt suffer.

Sad to say, the shock and horror of the shooting at the club in Colorado Springs has largely dissipated and the story has dropped from sight in most media. The legal process is underway, and the poor disheveled slob who committed this horrific crime is in jail. The tragedy will no doubt fade in the collective memories of our incredibly violent, gun-toting culture because, well, that is the way of things.

Yet I still grieve for those who didn’t make it out alive, for those who were sacrificed to anger and hatred and bigotry—on that day, and all the others that came before it.

They were all truly magnificent.

My proudest moments in the past three and a half years were when I was able to say—out loud—that I am a WOMAN.

A transgender WOMAN.

A queer transgender WOMAN.

Yes, dear readers, this transchick is all of the above.

And it’s about damn time.

 

It’s bad bitch o’clock

Yeah. it’s thick-thirty

I’ve been through a lot,

but I’m still flirty

(Okay)

Turn up the music

Turn down the lights

I got a feelin’ I’m gon’ be alright

Okay (OKAY)

Alright

It’s about damn time

(TIME)

Turn up the music. let’s cerebrate

(Alright)

I got a feelin’ I’m gon’

be okay

Okay (okay) alright

It’s about damn time

 –“About Damn Time” by Lizzo

 

 

Stephanie Haskins is hard at work on the next chapters of “The Transchick Chronicles.” Sign up for our e-newsletter here to be alerted when they’re published. 

To read her previous installments:

Parts One and Two

Parts Three and Four 

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Parts Nine and Ten 

Part Eleven

Part Twelve

 

Stephanie Haskins can be reached at 

 

COMMENTS

One person commented on "Post-Surgery Blues"
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  • Skye Venus says:

    I would love to say thank you for sharing this incredible story with the world Steph it truly was a blessing to read this and it’s a blessing to know such a person as yourself and as well have you in my life thank you I honestly enjoyed sitting back tonight and reading this I am excited to see what other stories are going to unfold
    Luv: Skye Venus

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