“THE Surgery”

I hate the phrase “THE surgery” so of course that’s the subject of this post. “The surgery” makes it sound to me as if it’s the be all end all of being a transgender person. It’s not. It’s one step, a big, scary, expensive, and often important step, but that’s all it is. It’s not even a required step. Some transgender people don’t even consider it, and if you would have asked me when I first started transitioning, it wasn’t even something on my radar.

I don’t really like any of the phrases we use to talk about it. Sex reassignment surgery and gender reassignment surgery are probably the worst, because it puts so much emphasis on gender and sex being something tied to genitalia. Gender confirmation surgery or gender affirmation surgery is better, but I don’t need surgery to “confirm” or “affirm” my gender. To me, it has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with the sheer discomfort I feel with a dangling unit of flesh between my legs every minute of every day.

I just want it gone. I’m not even sure if I care so much about what replaces it. The dangling flesh unit simply needs to disappear forever.

Honestly, I thought most of the dysphoria I felt would be relieved by having an orchiectomy, which, if you’re unfamiliar, is simply the removal of the testacles. I thought dysphoria was a product of testosterone. Spironolactone, I thought, wasn’t doing enough to shut things down. It also was the cause of “brain fog” which is an unfortunate side effect of taking the drug. Spiro, what most transgender people call it for short, isn’t very good at what it does, but unfortunately it’s the only FDA approved medication to stop or limit testosterone production in transgender women.

I had my orchiectomy in 2020, and I honestly don’t regret it one bit. It did everything I intended it to do, except the dysphoria came back. Slowly but surely it returned with a vengeance. In truth, it never truly went away, but the euphoria from having an empty dangling sack and less testosterone than a cis person hid it for a long time.

Before I even had an orchiectomy, I put myself on a list to have the full surgery done. At the time I didn’t know if it was something I really wanted or not, but waiting lists are years long, and I wasn’t about to spend three years longer than I’d have to. The worst case scenario is that I’d decide not to go through with it, should my name come up on the list. 

A few months after requesting information from the surgeon’s office I was scheduled for a consultation. The appointment involved me driving up to Chicago and meeting with several nurses and eventually the surgeon himself, Dr. Loren S. Schecter. They inspected my junk and talked to me about my options. Honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about that appointment. I know my roommate went up with me for moral support, but she stayed in the waiting room. I remember vividly being shown a binder full of pictures of various surgical results. “Those sure are vaginas” I thought to myself, as the nurse flipped through the book. I resisted the urge to make a “binder full of women” joke.

I suppose one day my vagina might appear in that binder. Not sure how I feel about that, honestly. 

The surgeon also informed me that I’d need to get laser hair removal, and pointed out areas that would need to be free of hair to make room for my new designer vagina. I started laser hair removal this winter. I chose a chain, Milan Laser Hair Removal (if you need a recommendation, let me know and I can get you a discount), and the results have been amazing. I ended up opting for a full bikini and face package.

Laser hair removal sucks. There is nothing more awkward that I have ever done in my life, than strip naked for a total stranger to shoot lasers at my junk. I thought bottom dysphoria was bad prior to this, but nothing prepared me for the nurse handling my junk as the sharp tinge of laser repeatedly struck me. I’ve gotten tattoos before, and this? It hurt so much more. However, much like the results of a tattoo, the results of laser hair removal have been amazing. I’m completely hairless down there, and my face has no more five o’clock shadow that has haunted me since I started transitioning five years ago. I haven’t even had to shave in a week.

Each laser session takes about 45 minutes. Different parts of the body feel the pain of the laser differently, but none of it is pleasant. Each zap is followed by a brief spritz of cooling gel and air, that barely does anything to relieve the pain. My laser technician, as amazing as she could possibly be, made the process as comfortable as possible. I was given a stress ball for each hand, that I desperately squeezed as each tinge of laser struck my hair follicles. The smell of burning hair permeating my nostrils.

Imagine being struck with a static shock, but over an inch radius of skin all at once, over and over, repeatedly for 45 minutes straight. You can honestly feel every hair follicle as it gets hit by the laser. The more hair you have, the worse it hurts. What’s even more fun is that the next session, when you have less hair to zap, hurts worse yet as the power gets increased with every session. My last session I was face down, crying, as she zapped my butthole repeatedly with the laser. Apparently next session, my final session pre-surgery, they’ll start lowering the radius of the laser so it’s more targeted? Definitely not looking forward to that.

I’m writing this five weeks from my scheduled surgery date, and right now, given my level of bottom dysphoria, I can’t thank past me enough. Laser pain and all.

Bottom dysphoria is what we call it when our junk doesn’t match our perception of what should be down there. The great thing about being transgender, is that dysphoria seems to be neverending. I started my transition five and a half years ago, and if you would have asked me at that time if I suffered from bottom dysphoria I would have almost certainly said a resounding no. I told my family and friends that I had no intention of having the surgery. I told my ex that I had no intention of having the surgery. I told myself that I had no intention of having the surgery.

Oh how wrong past me was.

Looking back, and having a better understanding of what bottom dysphoria really is, I’ve had it all along. The first time my egg cracked, three months into my relationship with my ex, was after having had sex. Sex, for me, triggers bottom dysphoria in a way that makes so much sense to me now but I was oblivious to it at the time. That being said, sex is just the tip of the iceberg. It was the most obvious symptom of bottom dysphoria, and I ignored it much like the captain of the Titanic.

It is the everyday things that actually bother me the most. Having to be careful of what pants and dresses I wear, because the constant bulge is impossible to hide. Tucking, the act of essentially taping your junk between your legs, sometimes helped, but god I hated doing it. Tucking, while often useful for hiding the bulge, did little to let my brain forget what was down there. The constant reminder that it was down there, that’s the dysphoria at its worst.

I wish that I could describe that feeling in a way that might make sense to a cis person, or even another transgender person struggling with wether or not surgery is right for them. I tried to explain to my mom how much I dislike showering, because it’s there. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve been showering maybe once a week. Yeah, I realize that’s not ideal, but I rarely go anywhere or do anything now that I’m working from home, and seeing myself, dangling flesh and all, it bothers me in a way that I can’t even explain to myself.

The thing about dysphoria is that once you recognize it for what it is, you’ve been FedEx arrowed. See the little arrow in the white space between the E and the x? Yeah, you’ll never be able to look at FedEx the same again now that it’s been pointed out. That’s dysphoria to me, except unlike FedEx, I cannot escape my junk. It simply has to go.

I’m terrified though. The recovery is going to be unpleasant, to say the least. I’m sure I’ll write about that as well, sometime in the nebulous future. I honestly can’t tell you what it’s going to be like having a vagina. For the surgery itself I’ll be traveling from Springfield to Chicago, about three and a half hours, and staying in the hospital for a week or two, followed by another week or two at a skilled care nursing/rehabilitation facility. Nearly a month without my cats. I probably won’t even get to see my friends and family much, if at all. That month? It’s probably the easiest part of recovery as well. I’ll have to dilate for the rest of my life, which despite having read a lot about I can’t properly describe having not done it myself. Yet another reason to write a future blog post.

With surgery being so close at hand, I’ve started being open with people about having it done. Responses range from ecstatic support, luke warm congratulations, concern, worry, invasive questions, and everything in between. I’m not sure what bothers me more, to be honest. Cis people, it seems, care way more about my junk than I ever have. If someone tells you they’re having a tumor removed, I’m pretty sure your first reaction isn’t going to be “Amazeballs!” but to me? That’s what my junk is. A tumor. One that needs excised. I don’t care about the cost. I don’t care what it’s going to take. I don’t care about the recovery and the aftercare. I’d much prefer the response to be the lukewarm “good luck on the surgery and a speedy recovery.”

I’ve spent the last three days fielding calls from my surgeon’s office. I had to sign several forms, including a “consent for sterilization.” I learned such important details such as designer vaginas not coming with any kind of warranty or guarantee or results, which, the idea of a vagina coming with a warranty is hilarious to me. Will I be getting phone calls from scammers trying to sell me one? Only time will tell! Another choice lesson is that, apparently, having one’s penis removed means you won’t be able to have sex with a penis anymore! The more you know! Oh, what about alternative treatments? Have you considered not having your junk removed? Apparently the most common alternative treatment is to simply not. The consent for sterilization form even required a witness to sign as well, because my own signature wasn’t enough. Nevermind that I’m already sterilized as the result of my orchiectomy. 

So, here I am, five weeks out from surgery. THE surgery. Two and a half years from my first request for information from the surgeon. I couldn’t be more ready.

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