My Next Surgery is Just Around the Corner, and a Bit More South(ish)

I’m preparing for my next major surgery. The date is May 19th. A mere 4 weeks away, and I can feel the nerves rising again. Meditation is helping. Also, knowing I made it through the facial surgery with minimal problems gives some comfort. My body seems to be OK with this stuff.

My facial feminization surgery on February 3rd appears to be a success. The healing is proceeding according to plan. I’m still uncomfortable (understatement), but things get a tiny bit better every day. I’m concentrating on eating healthy, exercising, and embracing patience. I’m pretty good at 2 out of 3. Wanna guess which one I suck at?

Discussing the next surgery is more complicated. It’s important to share the journey in case it can advance the conversation, answering some questions that are uncomfortable to ask. However, I also want to avoid putting too much focus on surgeries. I happen to be a trans person who not only wants these costly procedures, but who has the privilege and opportunity to access them. There are many ways to be transgender. I want to make sure I’m not adding to the impression that the paths I’m choosing represent the only correct ways. Please do not equate trans identity with genitalia. It’s not that simple. Also, these surgeries are covered nearly 100% by our Kaiser HMO plan. Without this coverage, it’s doubtful I would ever have the opportunity to do it at all.

I’m going to talk in generalities. If you want more detail, there’s plenty of info available out there. If only I had access to information when I was young. Would have saved me a ton of unhappiness.

“Someday I’ll get my operation”

Fall of 1982 I visited my sister Victoria at Western Michigan University, staying the weekend in her dorm room. The planned events included a Circle Jerks show and a few mood-altering substances. By the end of the concert I was obliterated by a combination of beer, pot and LSD. At some point I blacked out. I’m not sure how long I wandered around, but eventually the fog lifted and I came out of it. I was alone, sitting on the cement step in one of the dorm’s stairwells. I heard myself state out loud “Someday I’ll get my operation.” The echoing proclamation was startling. I knew about transsexual people and I knew about my own denied femininity. But at 18 years old I had not yet made the definitive and conscious connection between myself and that destiny. Not that I would admit. In hindsight I always knew, but I was a master of compartmentalization. A common trait among many LGBT people.

Saying it out loud broke my ability to deny it. I spent the next 24 years attempting to put that genie back in the bottle, but she wouldn’t go, the tenacious bitch.

A lifetime of self-loathing

Flash forward to now, skipping a lifetime of self-loathing and substance abuse. It’s not fun to remember how lost I was for most of my life. Only looking back on it from a happier perch can I admit what a difficult person I have been. Hatred of oneself heaps bullshit on everyone, not just the dummies who foist it upon themselves. If anyone reading this feels I mistreated them, I offer an apology. I was sometimes a total asshole.

Back in 1982, I guess I assumed one entered a hospital, had a “sex change”, and then everything changed. I didn’t yet understand the intricacies of talk therapy, hormones, electrolysis, and the billions of other details required to assist a gender transition. Maybe I can’t be blamed for my skewed ideas since they were mostly based on weird (and very rare) instances of gender transition in 1970s TV and movies. One of the first such stories I saw was an episode of Medical Center. Robert Reed (the dad on The Brady Bunch) played a doctor who is admitted to the hospital for “the operation”. He literally spent most of the episode dressed as a man and only appeared as a woman briefly at the end, after the procedure. She also seemed to have recovered very quickly, leaving almost immediately in a taxi. She was sad and alone, moving to a foreign country to live out the rest of her shameful life. It was all very dramatic, and depressing … and medically incorrect!!

Roberta

The first positive portrayal of a trans person I encountered was July of 1982 when I read the John Irving novel The World According to Garp. The movie was coming out that week so I read the book in advance of the release. The character of Roberta Muldoon was a regular (albeit lonely) person. She was loved and admired by the other main characters, and although she had a thread of sadness that maybe plays a little victim-y today, it was the first time I felt maybe … maybe … a transsexual person could have a life that wasn’t full of torment. A couple months later I visited my sister and those drugs at Western Michigan University and woke in a stairwell, Scarlett O’Hara-ing about “my operation”.

And I was correct. Go figure.

The surgery I referred to in that stupor was the magical one which changes male genitalia into female genitalia. Today, I know there’s not nearly as much difference between those structures as most people think. The reconstructive surgery is really just a reconfiguration. It’s not simple, but it’s not as outlandish as my teenage brain imagined it.

Surgery for better health and marriage

Since I assumed I would never have the opportunity (money) to get full reconstructive surgery, I began considering a less drastic (and therefore less expensive) procedure that would allow me to settle into a better legal and physical state. In 2011 I had a bilateral orchiectomy. The surgery would allow me to dramatically lower the dosage of estrogen I needed to maintain secondary female physical characteristics. I’ll have to take estrogen for the rest of my life, but the large dosage required prior to the orchiectomy put me at higher risk for health issues. Also, once complete, the surgeon would sign an affidavit so I could petition my home state of Michigan for a new birth certificate in my new gender. This, in addition to another legal document ordering recognition of my female gender by the state of California, would allow me to live legally as female. I would change all my paperwork, and marry Mark as a heterosexual woman. This was prior to marriage equality, so it was the only way we could marry.

To share or not to share

One of the dangers of writing about this is reducing myself to body parts. There’s so much more to being trans than facial structures and genitalia. In talking about it publicly, it’s hard to determine the line between necessary privacy, and being open so cisgender people understand the issues.

I’ve decided to write about it but I’m still on the fence about whether I’m doing more harm than good. I’m not connected to a wider trans activist community and perhaps this could be seen by some as doing damage of some kind. I’m trying to perform my own version of activism. Or I’m fooling myself. Hard to tell sometimes.

These surgeries are simply the cherry on the sundae of my transition. Most of the work of transition has been in my mind and the adjustments made by the world around me.

Until the last few years, making this journey seemed incomprehensible. Most of my life I stood before the edge of a massive abyss, devastated by the idea of staying where I was, but also facing an impossible set of obstacles to get to the other side safely. I don’t exactly know what I thought I meant in that stairwell in 1982, but May 19th is the completion of some arc, a promise I made to myself. There’s poetry in that.

Comments

  1. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, or at all about how the trans community feels about talking “body parts,” but this cis woman really appreciates your bravery and openness. It’s hard for me to understand the process of what you and other trans folks go through – obviously, I have nothing to go on but second-hand information and not too many points in my own experience to anchor a metaphor to. There is so much (good and necessary) focus right now on “surgery isn’t necessary to be trans” that it can be hard to know how what kind of support someone who *is* choosing to redefine body parts might need. And I feel like the more I know about the full extent of trans experiences from people in all different parts of it, the more “normalized” that experience is in my head. So thank you. You have taught me so much, and I know it can’t have been easy for you to open up. But I’m grateful that you did, and do.

    • Well I’m grateful that you’re grateful. Thank you for taking the time to show such support. And don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. XOXO

  2. Much love my dear Daya. You are living your truth! No one can or should question or judge your choices. I couldn’t be happier or prouder of you. Big Hug and be happy.

  3. You my dear are such an inspiration. Your bravery and openness speaks volumes to your authenticity. I love that you are sharing your journey and the background to your self discovery. You are brave and to be congratulated for your transparency. If all of us could be so connected with our inner truth! Thank you for sharing. XO

  4. Thank you Daya for being so generous, including us on your journey. There is no right or wrong way to share with us as each experience with this transition is different and unique. I’m really old so I remember when Christine Jorgensen transitioned. I was in Hawaii on vacation and she was there performing in a night club. I remember thinking way back then what an amazing, brave and strong person she was and I truly admired her. I truly admire you Daya. I think your friends will be there for you and accept whatever you deem to share with us. Blessings blessings blessings and I wish you smooth sailing on May 19th.

    • Wow…thank you for sharing that. You were certainly ahead of the times to not hold judgement about a trans person. but, why does that not surprise me at all about you?

      Happy to count you among my friends!

      XOXO

  5. Your willingness to open up about the past (and near future) surgeries blows me away. You have educated me in a way I couldn’t have been by someone else. I am sitting here deeply moved. And I am so proud of you.

  6. I’m so very proud and in awe of you. We may be coasts apart, but you are always on my mind and in my heart. Thank you for your bravery and sharing your experience. I love you always.

    • All the land in between feels too far most of the time. I’ve never stopped missing you like crazy!

      But yes, mega ditto. You love and support means the world!

      XOXO

  7. I admire you so much Daya. Your living your truth!
    Your transparency to your dreams and the roads traveled to attain them are an inspiration to all of us. Congratulations on achieving your lifelong hopes and dreams . I will be thinking of you, praying for you, and waiting to hear from you. ❤️❤️❤️!

  8. I saved your post to read when I had time to set aside and give it the attention it deserved. Reading it the day before your procedure felt fitting. What I love about your [beautifully written] post is that it lets me ‘walk in your shoes’– which is how I learn best. I just had to look up what cisgender meant… I greatly appreciate being able to support you with a better understanding now. The lack of identity in books and films/TV must have been excruciating. Also, in my opinion, your sharing your story with honesty and heart is your style of supporting the community, not everyone is called to be an activist and I think living your life with celebration and joy, and visibility when you want to, has a ton of value for everyone. Time for some peace. I am thinking of you today and will continue to hold you in my thoughts tomorrow and over the weeks to come as you are healing. Looking forward to your next post. <3

    • Wow…thank you so much for taking the time to read and send this amazing comment to me. I was closed off and hidden for so long…I have no fear anymore about sharing this part of myself. I’m constantly humbled by the reaction from people around me. I wish I had known (or even suspected) that might have been true when I was tormenting myself over it for years!

      As soon as I’m able to put thoughts together (and EAT SOMETHING for glob’s sake!) I will start working on an update post.

      XOXO

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