Column: The Other Side

My journey with gender assignment surgery

There are many aspects of gender assignment surgery, which no one talks about. Almost inevitably, what little you hear in the media is post-ops gushing about how much better their lives are now. Sure, there’s a lot to be happy about once the process is over. Thing is, it is a process and not a short one. No one dances out of the operating room.

To be sure, this isn’t an easy topic to write about. Many post-op trans people feel it’s not a topic for public consumption and resent being asked about it. Trans celebrities such as Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and Carmen Carrera have refused to answer questions about their own surgeries put to them by interviewers, arguing that this isn’t a topic they feel comfortable addressing publicly.

It’s a very personal decision.

These ladies have made a choice to avoid such questions, although Mock did discuss some aspects of her own GRS in her memoir “Redefining Realness.” I’ve made a different choice. I believe it’s time this process was demystified, at least a little, and so I’ve decided to discuss my own experience with GRS publicly.

For me, the first two weeks after surgery can be described with one word: Pain. Unending pain and discomfort, which could only be tamped down with strong narcotics. Everything hurt…getting up, sitting down, walking, sitting, standing, everything.

I literally lived on Percocet those weeks, in a constant narcotic fog that allowed me to rest and sleep. I carried an inflatable rubber donut with me wherever I went because it was the only way I could sit in most seats unless they were very well upholstered.

It’s about more than just the physical aspects, though. Estrogen thins the blood and so my surgeon ordered me to not take any for a month before my surgery. In a previous column I described how I became borderline suicidal when my emotional control faded just days after the due date for an estrogen injection had passed. This time, I was better prepared to handle the emotional impact of estrogen deprivation before my surgery. After surgery, however, was a very different story.

I wasn’t allowed any estrogen until five days afterward, and in addition to the physical pain I was a complete mess emotionally. During that time, producing only tiny amounts of testosterone as well as almost no estrogen I was what can best be described as a neuter being. I had little emotional self-control. I cried, I raged, I fell apart at even the slightest provocation. I felt like I had regressed to the emotional state of the young child I once was and there was nothing I could do to keep it in check.

When the five days had passed and I was able to take an injection of estrogen, I slowly began to stabilize emotionally, but this too was a process that took place over time. When a friend arrived later that day to take me home to continue my recuperation, I was sobbing uncontrollably. It was only once removed from the hotel where I had been staying and on my way home that I finally began to decompress a little and even look forward to the future.

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?

It wasn’t and it still isn’t as I continue to heal. Just telling you about the bad parts isn’t the whole story though. It’s also about standing naked in front of a full length mirror for the first time and crying with joy. It’s about looking at the silicon breast forms I’d worn for 18 years and knowing I’ll never need them again. It’s about being able to shop for clothes that accentuate my body instead of hiding it. It’s about truly feeling right in my own body for the very first time in my life.

Finally, it’s about something I have no other way to describe except in a way that risks unintentionally offending trans people who haven’t gone through this process: It’s about feeling like a real woman instead of a performer of the female gender. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically, I’m now fully the woman I’ve always believed myself to be, albeit perhaps somewhat heavier than I’d prefer.

It wasn’t until I’d gotten rid of the testosterone factory between my legs and the counterbalance to the estrogen in my system that had always been present was gone that I began to not only look like a woman but also truly feel like one.

GRS is a process that includes great pain, inconvenience, and a complete disruption of one’s life in so many ways, but it also includes great joy and personal satisfaction. For me, it’s all worth it, all of it.

I love who I am now. There is no greater happiness.

 


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