For the last five years, I’ve fleetingly thought about how I’d mark today. It’s been five years since I had my surgery. And it’s strange because in a lot of ways, it just kind of… is? How do you mark something that came and went and is now in your rearview mirror? Even if that thing changes your life in deep and meaningful ways, human nature appears to be one that finds new normals.
I guess it’s fitting to be writing this nearly eleven months into the pandemic when much of the way we’ve been living feels like normal now. We know it’s not normal, but it’s familiar now and familiar tends to equal normal for us. While something that will end up lasting two years or so feels weird to describe as temporary, it is, indeed, temporary. There will be an end. But we won’t go back to the “normal” we had before the pandemic. We’ll find a new normal. For those of us old enough to remember what life was like before 9⁄11, I think we have the capacity to understand that. In concept, at least.
Getting your genitals all sliced up and rearranged isn’t that much different. There’s the time before and the time after. And the time after is the normal, just as the time before was the normal then. You don’t forget about the before. Sometimes, you still think about it. But it’s still just “the before.”
As you would both hope and expect, I couldn’t be happier about the fact that I did have genital reconstruction surgery… or gender confirmation surgery… or bottom surgery… or fuck it, I’m not going to list all the miriad of terms we use for this surgery because we can’t really agree on one and the one that seems to be most commonly agreed upon, gender confirmation surgery, makes me want to scream.
Having surgery and having a vagina has, without a doubt, eased my dysphoria. Though, that does feel somewhat disingenuous in phasing. A specific part of my dysphoria is mostly gone and that’s great. But my dysphoria is now split between fewer specifics which means the other aspects of it and other triggers are heightened and get more attention. No longer am I dysphoric for not having a vagina—to be clear, I almost never felt dysphoria around having a penis, only the absence of a vagina—which is great, but my dysphoria around my breasts, hips, and waist have each claimed a part of the attention that previously went straight to my crotch. While these aren’t the specifics in my dysphoria that I can name, they are the ones that seem to have grabbed that extra attention. These are the ones that now consume those brain cycles that previously centered around not having a vagina.
Largely, this is something I expected to some degree. When I first transitioned, my dysphoria shifted to the things that hadn’t changed yet. It’s strange how something can help you so much while at the same time providing more attention to other things that still cause you some level of pain. Over time as (a little) less mental energy was consumed by dysphoria, more of it went to my always-present anxiety and depression. And, likewise, when I took steps to alleviate those with medication, my ADHD stepped up and got that extra attention. Nothing here is new, these were all always present, but the share of emotional and mental energy shifted.
The space created by absence has to be filled with something.
So yes, I am happier on this side of surgery. I’m happier with the normal that is life after surgery than the normal that was life before surgery. There is no doubt about that. It’s just that things are still complicated and there is no single fix for dysphoria. At least not for me. You can pick a thing and deal with that. And then you pick another thing and deal with that. What you need to decide is where your stopping point is. Do you always chase the next thing and never stop? Or do you reach a point and say “this is good enough that I can live.” This is a question I have yet to answer.
All of that said, there are a lot of little things that don’t get lost on me. The ability to just put on a bathing suit or leggings or running tights or jeans or really anything and not have to worry about what’s going on with my junk down there? That’s nice. While the narrowness of my hips and lack of a discernible waist are still major things for me, I can find comfort while wearing a bathing suit now. Leggings and running tights can be a normal part of the clothing I wear without other consideration. I don’t need to wear two pairs of underwear to keep my junk all tucked in. I no longer look at race photos and wonder if anyone else can notice the penis under my race shorts.
Those things are all… nice. They make day-to-day life easier in a way beyond—well, not beyond… _separate from_—just whether or not my dysphoria is eased. And I absolutely cannot leave out the jokes I get to make now. I mean, come on, it’s me. You know I’m going to take advantage of being able to make jokes about cutting my dick off or telling people to “suck my inside-out dick.” It’s just comedic gold.
And let me just tell you, not having sweaty balls stick to your leg in the summer is just so nice. I just wanted to quickly mention that because oof.
Not everything is perfect, though. I am largely unhappy with the actual aesthetics of my vulva to the point that I’d be embarrassed to show them to others. Not that anyone besides my wife or a doctor would be seeing my junk anyway, but still, I don’t really feel comfortable with showing it to a doctor. It’s not the privacy thing or anything like that, but it’s specifically that my junk looks weird. It bothers me to some degree, but when comparing this to having a penis, this wins every time… unless I’m outside and need to pee really badly. I don’t know if it bothers me enough to seek a revision, though. I can’t rule it out, but it’s also not something I think about much.
At some point, like three years ago, probably, I pretty much stopped dilating. Not pretty much. Completely. Typically, you’d have to dilate or have some form of penetrative sex forever. It doesn’t have to be daily, but the schedule is largely individual, I think. Either way, I do neither. I kind of got tired of dealing with dilating and got lazy, as I am wont to do. So I stopped. I don’t have penetrative sex nor do I see that as something subject to change in my life so… meh? As a result, things are pretty tight down there. I can still get my smallest dilator partially in, but not all the way. I have not researched it at all, but I believe, if I wanted to, I could start dilating again and slowly and painfully work back up over many, many months. I likely wouldn’t be able to get back to where I was, but it’s just not really much of a concern to me. I, honestly, can’t tell you if this is fine or not. I don’t know. Maybe my doctor would say that if it’s not something I care about then it’s fine. Or maybe she’d say I’m fucking up. I don’t know. I just haven’t cared enough to actually research it because it’s not all that important to me. Future Amelia be damned.
I started this post off saying that I don’t know how I’d mark the five-year anniversary of “the incident” and I’m no closer to that answer. I guess, simply giving an update and how I feel is pretty in-line with how I operate. I don’t feel a need to celebrate it or really do anything beyond this post. Had I not even acknowledged it or not written something, I’d probably be bummed about it, but largely I just live in a normal. A normal that is better than the previous normal.