Countdown to Long-Awaited Bottom Surgery
Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment of “The Transchick Chronicles,” an on-going series of essays written by newly-out transgender journalist Stephanie Haskins, as she documents her transition. Scroll to the bottom for links to her previous entries.
BY STEPHANIE HASKINS
It’s late December or early January in an earlier year.
I’ve just been beamed into a woman’s uterus from infant nirvana, where ALL babies start out.
Didn’t know that, did you?
That’s why these scribblings are so important. You learn a whole bunch of stuff you never imagined.
Anyway, I’m a cluster of cells exploding in size. A zygote, if you will. (I don’t like that word, because it’s spelled like “coyote,” which doesn’t have a great public relations image.)
I’m in complete darkness. Warm, gooey darkness.
The Transchick in utero.
I am NOT sentient. I’m not aware of my place in this organic goo. I’m alive, but only in the same sense of cells that replace broken toenails or develop into ear wax.
I wish I could say that I’m not yet a male thing or a female thing, but goddammit, that’s just not the case. I’d be telling you a pathetic lie, dear readers.
My gender was determined from the moment of my conception by the presence of an X or Y chromosome, by the winning sperm of the man who impregnated the woman in whom I’m implanted.
That actually sounds incredibly icky, because we’re talking about my, um, parents.
That’s a throw-up-in-my-mouth kind of unforgettable visual. Most of my life as a born kid was spent trying to dodge the backs of their hands or stay out of the way of their many, many arguments. I cannot, nor do I want to consider, the possibility of them having sex to have me.
I still wonder: Why?
At any rate, my little soul already had the beginnings of a penis right from the beginning. I couldn’t even file a protest. I was a fucking male thing without having ANY say at all.
I only had six weeks of grace as a genderless lump of cells, which is when gender development begins. Changes don’t start until the ninth week.
I’ve always wondered how I came to be. Medical sites online explain in great detail: It seems that sometime between week nine and 11, fetuses have teeny little bulges that are made up of three primary parts: the genital tuber, labioscrotal folds, and urogenital folds. They are pretty much identical for males and females
At this point, I suppose I should still have faint hope that I might have developed in to a female.
I suppose I wasn’t much disappointed then, but I sure as fuck am now.
But as the old saying goes, life is filled with small disappointments, until the ultimate BIG disappointment when you have the big thrombo and are put on ice, lest you, um, “go bad” (aka death).
Anyway, between nine and 11 weeks, my genital tuber became the glans to my penis, the urogenital folds turned into the shaft of my penis, and the labioscrotal folds became my scrotum. My testicles remained up in my abdomen until I was between 28 and 32 weeks along, but my hated foreskin has been around since week 12. (Why did I hate my foreskin so much? In brief, because it’s a bother to keep clean, and it makes penises even dopier looking than when they’re circumcised. Just another penile disaster in my humble opinion. Meh.)
And yet, with all of this extra genital baggage hanging off of me, I’m only about two inches long. My genitals are only the size of a pinhead.
So tiny. But still there. No chance for a do-over. I’m stuck.
All of this happened without any choice on my part. I was going to be a guy. And what followed was years and years of uncertainty about WHY I became a guy, until I finally came to know, in my innards, that I was indeed NOT.
So, when I FINALLY realized what a colossal karmic blunder I was, I decided that I HAD to change. Let me say that again: I HAD TO CHANGE.
The result? Well, all hell has broken out in my life for the past three years. And yet I’ve never been happier. Yes, my life has been excruciatingly painful at times, but also unbelievably joyous.
I know I use that word—joyous—a lot in my writing. But it’s the only word that accurately describes how much I adore who I am, and what I’m becoming.
I am a transgender woman.
Most of the time I love the image I see in mirrors, or car windows, or the glass surfaces on freezer cases that offer reflections in my local Safeway store. I see frozen enchiladas on the inside, and wonderful me on the outside.
And, as we publish this, I’m about a week away from my gender affirmation surgery. “Affirmation” is a word-connection to this procedure that I’ve come to love. I feel that my surgery is exactly that. That it will indeed “affirm” my gender identity. That it will make me whole, as much as I can be, as a presenting female.
I will NOT be as whole as I had originally hoped. My surgeons have decided that due to my age and because I’ve experienced AFib during the past few months, they must put limitations on my procedure. Despite the fact my cardiologist completely cleared me for a “full-depth” vaginoplasty, my surgeons have decided that might be too risky.
They WILL do a procedure called a vulvoplasty, which is what’s known as a “shallow depth” procedure. A full-depth vaginoplasty would use my penile tissue to create a neovagina that is five or six inches deep, approximating that of a woman who was assigned female at birth. A vulvoplasty creates a look-alike vagina, but does not create a vaginal canal of any depth–maybe and inch and a half or two at the most. A surgeon called it more of a “depression” than anything else.
“Depression.” Right. Needless to say, I’m VERY depressed about that “depression.”
A vaginoplasty usually requires a process called dilation, whereby the new vagina has to be stretched by an appliance similar to a dildo (OK, it IS a dildo—four of them, actually, each of them larger than the other). It’s usually a lifetime procedure, that each person has to perform on herself. Women who have full-depth vaginoplasties are provided with four medical dilators that range from small to large. They start out with the smallest dilator, and over the next few days or weeks, they work their way up to the largest—which approximates an average-sized male penis.
At first, dilation has to take place three or four times a day. Over the following weeks, months and years, dilation frequency lessens. Face to face sexual intercourse with an actual human being can replace dilation after three to six months or so, to a certain extent, but—the less penetration, the more dilation.
Not that I was planning on having squadrons of penis persons coming to visit me and my new vagina. But still.
Luckily, some will say, a vulvoplasty requires NO stretching (dilation) and healing is faster, because there is no canal.
I guess—initially—I’m really pretty sad about not being able to receive the full vaginoplasty. I want genitalia that not only looks like a functioning vagina, but can do pretty much everything a vagina can do.
I will never feel as emotionally and physically complete with a shallow-depth vagina. I won’t feel like I’m as much of an authentic woman as I could be, or might have been.
That’s silly, I can hear some of you murmuring.
But not to me.
As I’ve explained in previous Transchick chapters, I understand—I really do—why my surgeons are reluctant to perform a full-depth vaginoplasty on me. Yet while I believe my AFib originally caused them concern, I’ve now come to the conclusion that it’s really my age they’re concerned about. Which makes me hella sad. I mean REALLY fuck-the-forest angry.
And no, I’m still not going to tell you how old I am. You’re still gonna have to slice me in half and count the rings.
Why? Because we live in a venal, ageist culture, and I’ll be goddamned if I’m gonna enable anyone to judge me more than they might already do. Look at my pictures. Watch me run two or three miles every day. Count the leg-lifts and crunches I can do.
Look at my naked body. I wouldn’t mind, actually.
My birth certificate age is meaningless. You can all gasp in disbelief when I expire in 40 years or so.
So, if my surgeons had cautioned me last December that my birth certificate age scared them, then I guess I’d have understood that rationale. I’m not a 35-year old person who has lived an uneventful life. I have a cervical fusion in my neck and a lumbar fusion in my back. Four plates. I have another plate and screws in my right foot. And other defects of lesser import.
But I have willed myself to overcome those defects.
And I’ve succeeded.
A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with a consulting surgeon, explaining the other major surgeries I’ve had in the last 18 months, and how quickly I recovered (including eight hours under anesthetic for facial feminization surgery last summer). He responded, “Well, you’ve really had a lot of good luck with your other surgeries, but this (vaginoplasty) is more delicate and complicated, and it’ll take a lot out of you. Your luck might run out, and we don’t want that to happen.”
Yes, I’m older than most transwomen who go under the knife. I accept that. But I also think I’m likely healthier than many of the 45-year old chicks who get the surgery. For example, I know of a 22-year-old trans woman—seemingly in perfect health—who had her surgery last fall and has had a really tough recovery; some of her vaginal tissue came very close to becoming necrotic (dying and having to be replaced) and she’s suffered the tortures of hell with her intestinal tract and urethra. She was in enormous pain for weeks. She’s doing fine now, six months later, and is totally elated about her new life as a post-op transgender woman.
My point is this: Who’s to say who’s going to have trouble with the surgery and who isn’t? I’m strong and relatively healthy. My AFib was resolved by taking a medication called Sotalol. That’s IT. My cardiac ultrasound a few days ago indicates I have a very healthy heart and NO ISSUES.
But yes, my luck could run out. Yep, I could croak on the surgical table. So, better safe than sorry? I don’t really have a choice.
The bottom line here? (Bad pun. Sorry.) It’s my fucking life. Got that?
The Transchick ponders her future, just days before her bottom surgery.
At any rate, one week to go. The more I think about what my new neo-vagina will look and feel like, I feel incredibly happy that my transition—from beginning to end—will have taken only 19 months. Many transwoman wait for years because they have lousy (or no) medical insurance, and have to live with their inappropriate and inauthentic male bodies way longer than they should have to.
I’ll tell you a secret: Sometimes after my morning shower, I’ll look at myself in the mirror and try to calculate just where my new labia will be, how it will look, and where my new clitoris will be positioned. And I wonder how congruent to the parts of my former penis each fold of skin will be.
Will it be hard to pee the first time? How will it feel? Will the space from the end of my vaginal opening be exactly the same place and same distance to my anal cavity as the underside of my testicular sack?
Oh God, I am sooooo fucking excited!
But look: This is NOT the end of my journey as a transgender woman. It’s the end of the beginning. The end of the physically male me.
After the surgery, the REAL journey begins: My life as a woman—no ifs, ands, or buts.
No more fantasizing about what my life as a feminine human being will look like, or how it will feel. NO more unfortunate bulges to worry about.
Look out, all of you elderly, white, misogynistic homo/transphobic, mean-spirited patriarchal motherfuckers.
Stephanie Grace Haskins has arrived, and is determined to make your lives REALLY uncomfortable.
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:
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