Wednesday, 19 October 2016

On Surgery, My Transgender Life, And Being A Woman With A Penis

Yay!  A post specifically about my transgender life.  When I started this blog and gave it the name "A Woman Reborn" it was meant to be about my transgender life.  I'd been meaning to start it right when I began to transition but it took me six months to begin.  A blog to catalogue the journey through transition.  That was the plan.  It got off to a bad start - the first post wasn't about being transgender at all.  Then it got into a transgender stride.  Five posts in a row just about being transgender.  Including thoughts, happenings, attempts at poetry, and the day I learned what it was like when your church pastor calls you an abomination.

Since then the blog has covered all kinds of things.  My journey from deep Christian faith into a place that is currently outside of Christianity.  Walking.  Photos.  And this year it's included a lot of gratitude.  It's also covered whatever the heck has been churning in my head at the time.  There has been creative writing too.

I hope that the next year will see a lot more of all these things - including more about faith as I continue to work things out and see where I sit within or without them.  My life is very much different to how I expected it to be when I began this blog.  And of course there have been posts about autism too.  There will be more of those.  It's inevitable.  The photos in this post are not transgender related.  They are all autism related and were all taken at Autscape 2016.

As far as a blog about transgender transition goes, this blog has failed miserably.  As far as a blog about the complexity (or simplicity sometimes) of a Clare goes, it's succeeded admirably.

But today.  A post about my transgender life.  Hoorah!

During a Metro ride this morning my brain suddenly got itself onto gender and the relationship I have with my thoughts about surgery.  Surgery.  It's a big decision.

I typed this into Facebook via my phone:

My gender transition job:

To convince psychiatrists to let me have the surgery I want, when it's not a big worry and if it wasn't available I wouldn't really care.

Yeah. I want it. But it's not important and wouldn't make me any more me or any more woman. And if I won lots of money I would spend it on other things.

I am meant to tell the psychiatrists that I am desperate, depressed and dysphonic over genitals, and absolutely need new genitals to be comfy about my life.

But all that, and anything similar, would be a lie. And I am too honest for my own good in gender appointments.

So three years after my first visit to the clinic and more than two after becoming legally entitled to it I still fight for what I want as I have from the beginning.

I scream in annoyance for a while.

But then I think "so what?"

Maybe I can't be bothered to fight any more.

Maybe I am not worried much any more.

Maybe it doesn't matter anyway.

Because surgery is a happy extra. It does not change me. It would not change my life.

And I must stop. Because it's time to get off my Metro train. Life is not genitalia!

I read it back and decided to post it here, with a discussion on what my options actually are regarding surgery.

Some people think that as a transgender woman I really only have one option available to me:  To seek surgery and keep seeking and fighting for it because what else would a woman do if she didn't have a vagina?  For these people it's simple.   You're transgender = you want surgery.  They're wrong of course.  I've even been told that I am not transgender at all because I haven't had surgery and still have a penis.  They wouldn't believe me when I explained to them their error.

Some people know better and believe there are two options for a transgender person:  Either to have surgery, or not to have surgery - the "non-op" choice.  That's far better.  It's a choice any trans person has to grapple with - if they are lucky enough to have the possibility of following their choice.  For some it's an easy decision.  For me it hasn't been and my attitudes have changed drastically over the years since coming out to myself.

In reality, as far as my genitals, my "down below" parts are concerned I have four options:

A.  To have "the full job" and to have a new vagina created.  When most people think of a sex change operation that's what they're thinking of.  Most people, at least until recently, probably didn't think of operations for transgender men.  But I'm not one of them and this is only covering my options.

B.  To have more cosmetic surgery.  The end result looks identical to "female" genitalia from the outside with labia and clitoris and everything else but with no vagina.

C.  To have a bilateral orchietomy or orchidectomy.  This is the removal of my testicles - to put it simply, surgical castration.

D.  To have no operation at all.

Those are my choices.  There are pros and cons for all of them.

But C is out.  C is the most rejected of all the above options.  I don't want it.  C is out no matter whether they keep encouraging me to go for it.  Hey, have an orchiectomy because then you could opt for A or B later, but if you have B then you can't have A later so don't choose B.  That has been said to me at my last two gender appointments.  But I'm not listening to that.

C does have an advantage.  At present I have to have an implant injected into me every 12 weeks to stop testosterone production.  Surgical castration would mean I wouldn't need the implant.  But to be honest the implant isn't worrying for me.  I'd prefer to visit the nurse every few months than undergo surgery if that's the only practical advantage of an operation.

A is out too.  It's a lot of effort.  The preparations are difficult.  The surgery is difficult.  Recovery is difficult.  And then there are the dilations.  And, as it was put by a trans woman in a BBC3 documentary, "you have to sleep with a dildo up you every night for six months."

A is pretty much ruled out.  Too much work for a vagina that, being (almost) asexual, I don't need.  I don't need a hole designed for the insertion of a penis during sex.  Because such an insertion is something that I completely don't desire.  Three years ago I wanted A.  A lot.  But three years is a long time to think about it all and a long time to live my life as Clare.

Which leaves B and D.  Cosmetic or non-op.

Someone on Facebook mentioned happiness.  They said they had said to the GIC that surgery would increase their happiness.  I've wondered about my happiness.  Would surgery really increase it or would it make no difference.  So I wrote:

Thoughts from the top of my head.

Would I be happier? Now there's a question. Maybe. Slightly. But nothing or almost nothing about my happiness or unhappiness relates to genitals. I used to be pretty desperate for surgery, getting triggered or risking being triggered every time I undressed or used a toilet. It all used to be important that way. Now it isn't.

It's over 3 years since I legally changed my name, longer since I was referred to the GIC. And so far there has been nothing in my life made impossible by having a penis. [Apart from the illegal way a certain gym treated me when I was wanting to join 3 years ago, which would have resulted in legal action by myself had I had the energy for it.] Maybe I'm lucky in that.

I got over a big fear this year and went swimming as a woman. In my charity shop swimming costume. Nothing happened. It was fine. No abuse - but if there had been, well, if any of us had let abuse stop us we would never have got far with transition. I might not go swimming again - going in the pool was about the fear not the swimming. It showed me again that many impossible things are just in my own head and that the things that actually are impossible for me [of which there are quite a few] are not gender or genital related.

Plus of course there's the big advantage of no surgery - it makes things a lot easier when out walking and needing to pee!

And yet I still want surgery. Even though it doesn't really matter to me or to anyone important around me. Just as I still want hormone treatments and may yet finish the NHS hair removal funding even though it's so horrible for me on every level. Do the hormones help with my happiness? Probably. Does facial hair removal? Definitely. Would surgery? I really don't know.

I know it's important to others and we're all different. But for me it's becoming almost just a big fuss over nothing.

Woman with penis? I say so what. And nobody in the women's choir is glaring at me because I might not have the same genital configuration as me!

I say all that ... and yet ... and yet ...

And yet.  It takes me back to the top of this post.  And yet I still want to convince the psychiatrist and team at the GIC (gender identity clinic of the Northern Regional Gender Dysphoria Service) that surgery is the way forward for me.  I think I'm getting closer to the point at which they're convinced.  Maybe the next appointment.  And then they will refer me for a second opinion.  I'll be hoping for an early appointment.  I'll also be hoping that I can claim back travel expenses.  The reason for that is that the appointment will be in Edinburgh - and a freebie day out there would be lovely.

That's enough thoughts.  They're just my thoughts.  Nobody else's.  Other trans people have their own thoughts, fears, desires and opinions and they each make their own informed choices which are right for them.  My choice will be right for me.  Theirs will be right for them.  For me, if surgery didn't exist then my decision would be easy!  And it wouldn't negatively impact on my future.  Not really.  For others, surgery is a life changer.  We're all different.

[1778 words]

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this very insightful post of "your thoughts". My thoughts are very similarly aligned, however my journey hasn't taken me as far as yours.
    Way too many seem to judge transgendered woman who choose any option besides A - I hate that. We're all different, we all have our own thoughts and we all have our own journey. I think that no matter what option you go with you'll be happy and it will be the correct choice. That's really all the matters.


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