This post is a little personal, rather frank, and took some effort to write. If you’re not interested in hearing my thoughts on having a penis versus not having a penis, and on the possibility of having sex reassignment surgery, you probably shouldn’t read on. Consider yourself warned.
My identity as trans hasn’t really centered around genitals. Sure, I’ve fantasized about what I’d look like without a penis from a pretty young age, but my concept of myself as a boy or a girl didn’t pertain exclusively around what is or isn’t between my legs. I’ve never really though about surgery as something I’d want to do, or would feel like I needed to do.
Likewise, I enjoyed being sexual (alone or, ideally, with a partner) prior to starting my transition, and I never felt like I was forced into a ‘male’ role by having a penis, even though that may have been how things looked to an outside observer. Even as hormones have changed how I experience sex and feeling sexual, I’ve continued to enjoy those feelings – and managed to feel feminine – penis and all.
Lately, though, I’ve been thinking more and more about the possibility of having surgery…
This round of thinking started while shopping for clothing with a friend. I was trying on some skirts in the dressing room and realized I ‘bulged’ in an obvious way, something that doesn’t happen when I’m wearing pants. Likewise, when I went up to circus class today, I was the only woman in big baggy sweatpants, cuz I’m not dying to have a discussion about chicks-with-dicks. But if appearance were the only issue, I could always wear a gaff (and, indeed, I may try one) but it’s become something more than that.
I realized the other day, as I was lying on the couch watching TV and thinking about how I think about myself as gendered, that I don’t want my penis anymore. I still enjoy the pleasures it offers (not least of which is peeing standing up) but the idea of laying on the couch with a vagina just felt much more ‘right,’ in a way that it hadn’t before I started transitioning. I don’t know if I can explain it much better than that.
On the other hand, there are some serious roadblock – mental and practical – that deserve mention. First, any surgery is kind of gross, but SRS particularly is a tricky, and icky, procedure. This page has links to lots and lots of positive experiences (and pictures of positive surgery results) but also links to bad experiences and pictures of what could politely be called surgical ‘complications.’ (And more rudely, “Oh god, what the hell is that?!”)
In addition, surgery can range from around $6,000 for surgery in Thailand to up to $15,000-$20,000 for surgery in the US and Canada Now, there is a chance my insurance would cover some/all of that. But, if that is the case, I’d need to get moving, since my COBRA insurance runs out in about 18 months and no one was particularly eager to insure me the last time I checked. (“Will be on drugs for the rest of her life” doesn’t inspire insurer confidence.)
(I do feel compelled to note I managed to save the $4,390 for my current round of hair removal in about 9 months, putting me at just under 4 years to save up $20,000. And, as I joked with my therapist, if I were planning to drop $20,000 on surgery I’d do some serious fundraising. If I can post to my blog about the posibility of cutting off my penis (a nested-parentheses-note that it’s not actually cutting it off, but rather inverting it to make a vaginal cavity) I can damn well pester friends and family for money toward that end.)
Finally, the idea of drastically changing anything about my body is really scary. I’m sure that’s true for most people, but I think because I’m so used to having a mindset of “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t,” and because I’m so terrified of changes in my body making things worse (possibly leading to shouts of “freak” and “pervert” while walking down the street) my tendency has been to avoid decisions that might have a negative consequence, even if the positive outcome could be amazing. (Hence what I feel was a huge delay in going on hormones in the first place.) I think that’s part of the reason why surgery never really even appeared on my radar until recently.
In any event, I don’t need to make a decision right this second, and hopefully I’ll be able to better wrap my head around things as I think about them more.
PS – I also need to do a post on legally changing my name, something that I imagine would come WAY before surgery, and that I might start the ball rolling on within the next month or so.
PPS – I like that Wikipedia has an entry on the penis game.