I was back in Philadelphia for my one year followup appointment on Monday, December 15, 2014. I’ve been back to Philly, and to Dr McGinn’s office, a few times since my surgery, but this time felt different. The drive up was uneventful, the appointment was quick and easy (McGinn said everything is healing well), but everything seemed to catch up with me on the drive back. “It’s been one whole year,” I kept thinking.
I drove alone from New Hope to Philadelphia, passing through the town where I’d spent my initial recovery in late 2013. The Potomac River peeked in and out from between bare trees, and the landscape was gray and quiet. I started to cry shortly after getting on the highway, awkwardly trying to suppress tears so I could focus on the road. I blasted Laura Jane Grace and tried to figure out what the emotions bubbling up through me meant. Continue reading 'One Year Post-Op'»
One of the many reasons I like having a blog is that it gives me a platform to talk about sex. I’ve attempted to define feminist porn, I’ve reviewed sex toys (albeit not for a while – stay tuned on that front), and I’ve bitched about 50 Shades of Grey. The comfort and experience discussing sex and sexuality that have stemmed from writing this blog were absolutely on my mind when I worked with Early to Bed to create a sexytime guide for trans women and our partners. (Stay tuned there, too – I’m working on revisions and updates.) But I haven’t talked about sex much since December, and The Surgery. I don’t apologize for that gap (goddess knows I needed time to process) but I am conscious of it. And, as I’ve continued healing and masturbating and hooking up, I’ve been thinking more about myself and how my new and reconfigured body works. In particular, I’ve been thinking about sexytime communication, and how things have changed since The Surgery.
Pre-op, I intuitively assumed that there’d need to be a Talk with every new sexual partner. At the very least, there was an expectation of disclosure. Without getting too into the question of whether or not trans people are obligated to disclose their transness (and I think the answer is no, we aren’t obligated) I do think it makes things simpler to disclose. There’s less of a risk of physical or emotional violence, certainly. It also just removes a potential bump in the road: even if a partner is enthusiastic about sleeping with a trans person, they almost certainly have unconscious expectations about what’s going to be between a man or a woman’s legs. Not meeting those expectations may be surprising (even if it’s not bad) and I’d rather skip that kind of surprise when getting undressed with a partner. Continue reading 'Sexytime communication, pre- and post-op'»
Note: This post was written in response to a writing prompt given to me by a friend, in which she encouraged me to explain to my body why it’s about to undergo major surgery. The post itself is scheduled to publish during my upcoming gender reassignment surgery. The actual surgery, that is; when this post goes live I should (fingers crossed) be under general anesthesia, getting myself all vagified. That might be going a little overboard, but I couldn’t resist the metaphor.
Dearest, singular, unique, self. My body.
Know that what’s coming is going to be hard. For that, I am deeply and eternally sorry. There will be discomfort, there will be pain, there will be an unreasonable amount of piss and shit, there will be stitches and sutures and drugs and aches and pains and moans and tears. There will be moments when you wish I hadn’t done this to you, when I will wish I hadn’t done this to you, when family and friend are annoying and no position feels comfortable and food sounds disgusting and Netflix has been watched in its entirety and the world is stupid and dumb and should just go away and oh my god how can I possibly need to dilate again. If it could be different, if I could be different, if you could be different, know that I wouldn’t do this to you. I wouldn’t do this unless I was so fundamentally sure it was right.
I am fundamentally sure this is right.
Continue reading 'A Letter to My Body'»
I recently wrote a post, I’m Scared, in which I talked about my fears relating to my upcoming gender reassignment surgery. (Shameless donation plug: Please donate!) The post was really important for me to write, and has helped me internalize and work through some of the fears that I have. (Some of them remain scary, and will continue to be scary until I’m through them and they’re OK.) But I also wanted to take time to focus on what I’m excited about, what I’m looking forward to, and what is going to be awesome about having surgery.
I’m excited about having a body that will ‘fit.’ A body I can bathe in the shower without having extra dangly bits. A body that will be hugged by form-fitting clothing, without unseemly bulging. I’m excited about shopping for that clothing, trying on dresses and skirts and pants (and the dreaded yoga pants!) and feeling like they were designed for my body, and vice versa.
I’m excited about exploring my new body. I’m dreading dilation, yes, but I’m also excited by it. About having this new part – constructed from the old – that offers new opportunities for pleasure and simply for comfort. I’m excited about getting to know my new anatomy, its rounded parts and squishy bits and how it fits with the rest of me. Continue reading 'I’m Excited!'»
DISCLAIMER: I am not interested in people telling me “it’s going to be OK.” I know it’s going to be OK. Likewise, I am perfectly capable of talking myself down from any and all of the below-listed fears. And I realize that – while none of them are stupid – they’re all perfectly normal and will pass as I go through them and come out the other side . But this specific post is about my expressing and processing my fears, not being told “it’s going to be OK.” So please resist the urge. The only exceptions to that request are:
- You are providing a link to someone else’s experiences around actually having surgery
- You yourself have had a vaginoplasty (or comparable, major, trans-related surgery) and are willing to talk about it
Put another way, this post is not about you trying to make me feel better. I appreciate the sentiment, but now isn’t the time.
That’s out of the way. On to the post itself.
Last week, I attended (and did a reading at) the launch of Spider Teeth, a zine by ellie june navidson. ellie and I aren’t super close, but we’re friends and I’m a big fan of her as a person, an artist, and an activist. The zine is about her experiences around having surgery in Thailand during the spring of 2013, with pieces written in present-tense around the lead-up, surgery itself, recovery, and in the months since. It talks about the politics, emotions, physical experiences, and more. The other night, ellie read some selections from the zine, but I didn’t have a chance to sit down and give it the attention it deserved until a few days ago.
It’s awesome. Beautiful, well-written, and perhaps the best piece of writing I’ve ever seen about “the surgery.” (This post isn’t a review of the zine, but I’ll give one anyway: Go buy it. Find a way to track down ellie, give her money, and get a copy.) It also brought up a lot of my fears, many of which I’ve been giving lip service to (“Of course I’m scared!”) but hadn’t really sat down and inhabited.
Continue reading 'I’m scared'»
See, it’s in my schedule! I promise!
I’m just over two months until V-Day, and at $5,262 on my surgery fundraiser. That is amazing, and I am overwhelmed by the generosity. So many friends, family members, and strangers have come forward to help me out. (And get silly gifts in return, most of which still need to be shipped. I promise I’m sending them out next week!
But I think we can do better.
An incredibly generous family donor has come forward to say that the next $2,369 in donations will be matched, dollar-for-dollar. For those keeping track, that means that – if I can get another $2,369 in donations from y’all – I’ll hit my $10,000 fundraising goal.
Some say it’s impossible. Some say it can’t be done. But to them I say NAY!
So, if you haven’t donated yet, now is the time! And thanks.
This past week I received a packet of documents from my surgeon, including clarification about payments (this much money to her practice, this much to the anesthesiologist, this much to the hospital), about housing and hotel stay, about travel, about pre- and post-care, and all the other minute details that go into preparing for, executing, and recovering from a major surgery.
The experience of reading all that info – and rereading much of it – made my upcoming surgery more real. I’ve done my research, and a vaginoplasty is not an abstract concept to me. But reading the specifics of how it will impact me – not a general description, not someone I know online, not a friend or a lover, but me – is taking some time to process.
Dilation is a specific example. So, after surgery, the body isn’t sure what to do with this new hole. It’s natural response is to close it up and “heal” the “wound.” Dilation works to prevent that by dilating (holding open) the new vagina so that the body heals in a desirable fashion.
For the first 24 weeks (six months!) Dr McGinn recommends five sessions a day. At twenty minutes a session, that’s almost 17,000 minutes, or 280 hours, of having a plastic dildo up my new vagina, all to ensure my body won’t freak the fuck out and close this new and foreign hole. Then four times a day for the rest of the first year, for a total of over five hundred hours. Continue reading 'The Math of Dilation'»
I just got off the phone with an attorney, Joanne, who is interested in working with me to fight for insurance coverage for my upcoming vaginoplasty. She said that there seems to be some realistic possibility of getting a judge to agree that ICHIP (the state-run insurance pool I’m a part of) should be required to pay for the medically legitimate surgery I’ll be undergoing. She’s not licensed to practice in Illinois, though, so she’s reaching out to some people who are.
We also had a larger discussion about tactics, one which left me with a lot to think about.
So. In 2014, a bunch of additional provisions of the Affordable Care Act go into effect. Arguably, 2014 brings all the good stuff: a health insurance exchange marketplace, eliminations on pre-existing condition exclusions or annual coverage caps, and more. The two parts that Joanne brought up were the insurance exchange and the non-discrimination language in the ACA. The non-discrimination language is the more legal part. Basically, one part of the ACA mandates non-discrimination against LGBT folks. Another part says that insurance companies are nevertheless not required to provide gender reassignment surgery. These seem to be in conflict, and Joanne thinks there’s a good change that the latter will – eventually – be struck down by a judge, on the basis of the former. Trying to take advantage of this wouldn’t require me to change insurance providers, but would require me bumping my surgery back to 2014.
Also up in the air is how the insurance exchange will play out. The ACA mandates the existence of consumer operated and oriented providers, (CO-OPs) owned by their customers. It seems like, if any insurance company would provide inclusive trans coverage, it would be one of those. Of all of these tactics to get insurance to pay for surgery – staying with ICHIP and fighting now, pushing into 2014 and fighting then, or trying to find a trans-inclusive insurance company in 2014 – Joanne seemed to think that waiting for the CO-OPs was the least risky, in terms of time and money. It would, however, require me canceling my surgery in December, 2013 (and presumably loosing my $1,000 deposit) and going waiting, fingers crossed, for the unknowns of the insurance exchange to play out.
Continue reading 'Having surgery, or fighting the good fight'»
The Surgery – gender reassignment surgery – has never felt like the One End Goal for me. I was ambiguous about surgery, unsure if it was right for me. I knew I didn’t like my body as-is, but surgical intervention is a big step. I joked that, should a vagina fairy fly through the window, I would happily swap my penis for some new plumbing. But wanting something in the abstract and being willing to undergo the steps to get it are two different things, whether the thing in question is moving, learning a new language, or gender reassignment surgery. My equipment (such that it is) works pretty well. It gives me pleasure. I’m not too upset about it. Couldn’t I find a better use of $20,000? Life would certainly be easier if I decided I didn’t want The Surgery.
At some point within the last two years, though, I woke up and realized I did want The Surgery. So I started doing research. Met with doctors. Decided on Dr. McGinn. Scheduled a date, December 9, 2013. Launched a surgery fundraiser. Went to New York City to get my penis scanned by lasers, so that I could make a custom, self-cast mold. I am having this surgery, and the surgery itself is rushing closer every day.
I’m still scared, though. And I’m not sure how to talk about that fear.
Continue reading 'Surgery fears'»
(This is yet another post written while waiting to board an airplane.)
The first question people ask when they hear I’m going to New York to get a custom mold of my penis so that I can make (among other things) penis candles is “…why?” (Either that or they start laughing hysterically.) My first answer is, “Because it’s funny?” But after talking about it with a friend last night, I want to expand on some more subtle motivations.
Transitioning is a private issue that inherently becomes public. Coming out as gay doesn’t necessitate a discussion about your sex life, your relationship with your body, or your changing ideas of ‘self.’ Transitioning necessitates making public (to a greater or lesser extent) many of those things, whether or not the trans person wants to. As I transitioned, people could stop by my office at work and see how my presentation and my body itself were changing. That visibility meant that they felt comfortable asking questions, many of which – on the whole – weren’t really any of their business.
That’s part of the reason I perform the material that I do.
Continue reading 'Making the private public – turning the tables on transitioning as a public experience'»