There’s a topic which has been dominating my consciousness and that of my family a lot lately – my upcoming bottom surgery. That’s certainly understandable, as this surgery may be the largest single medical expense of my life, will knock me on my butt for around 6-8 weeks, will require daily maintenance and care for every day of my life, and will change my interactions with the people around me in ways I won’t even know until they happen. For my family, the surgery represents a point of no return – for them it symbolizes the permanent loss of me as a man – their male husband, their male daddy. This may end up being the biggest life-changing event any of us experience, and there is a lot of anxiety and fear as we all approach it.
I’ve been asked many times some variation of a fundamental question: why do you need to have this surgery? As with much of this journey, I find myself a bit perplexed to put into words the complex feelings surrounding this. It’s my intent to try to order these thoughts and feelings in this post so that they make enough sense that others might be able to find whatever answer they are looking for. I expect I’ll be all over the place, because that’s how my feelings are, too.
Why do I need to have this surgery?
The short answer: because I do.
The longer answer (bear with me – it will take a little while to get to the answer): I’ve come to understand that I’ve been a girl/woman for my whole life, but my body was a boy’s/man’s. The presence of a penis has been used to define me and to tell me who I can be and what I can do. Even when I protested (at very young ages) that I was a girl, I was dismissed and laughed at by well-meaning adults; I learned that it was impossible that I was a girl, and that if I told people, I’d be made fun of (and later in life, they would get upset/angry). So I hid my truth, even from myself.
Fast forward to recently, and I’m finally unpacking these memories and unlearning those lessons. I’ve accepted that I am a woman and I’m reprocessing my life’s experiences with this new understanding. The more I look at, the more I find that the answer to so many of the questions I’ve had throughout my life come back to this one thing: I am really a girl/woman, but everyone thinks I’m a boy/man.
- Why does it feel like my body doesn’t fit me? I’m really a girl
- Why aren’t I allowed to play with the girls? Everyone thinks I’m a boy
- Why can’t I wear the dresses the other girls get to wear? Everyone thinks I’m a boy
- Why are competitive sports so unattractive to me when the other boys seem to love them and be really good at them? I’m really a girl (I know – stereotypes – but for me, it rings true)
- Why do I feel such a connection with the girls I’m moving from class to class with? I’m really a girl
- Why does it hurt so much when they exclude me? I’m really a girl, but they think I’m a boy
- Why do I feel like I was supposed to be born a girl? I really am a girl
- Why won’t these feelings go away? I’m really a girl, even though I think I’m a boy
So I have the answer to the “why were my experiences the ways they were?”, but that doesn’t really answer why I needed to transition, nor why I need the surgery. For that, let’s return to my earlier life. I learned early on to hide what I felt about my gender, and that to avoid scrutiny and ridicule, I needed to *be* a boy. It didn’t come naturally (at all) – I struggled through elementary school, was made fun of and became an outcast within my grade. Junior High was a little bit better – I was able to start to make sense of some of the boys’ behaviors and could mimic them, but I wasn’t convincing enough and still got bullied. High School was better still – my study began to pay off and I could perform the part well enough to avoid detection, but it still didn’t feel natural, and I had no energy left to try to figure out socialization; I never dated in High School, didn’t go to any of the dances, and kept the other kids at a certain distance – I was afraid if I let someone get too close, they’d see through the illusion and discover me as the shameful embarrassment of a boy that I felt myself to be. This continued into adulthood, where I slowly honed my performance and began to develop closer relationships. But with the exception of my wife, I couldn’t let anyone get close enough to see the cracks in my facade.
All this is to say that I spent most of my life working hard to be seen as something that I really wasn’t – at least not completely. You see, I never learned how to lie convincingly; that was too hard on top of everything else. The best way to sell a lie is to believe the lie, and I believed this one. I believed what I’d been told my entire life – that I was a boy – and I worked hard to prove it to be true. What I shared with the world was not false – it just wasn’t the whole truth. My interactions with the world were carefully controlled; any thoughts or actions were first considered with the question “is this something a (heterosexual) man would say or do?”. Anything which I perceived as feminine was rejected – showing any interest in stereotypically feminine things might reveal something I was unwilling to reveal. While I wasn’t what I’d call a “man’s man”, I was convincing enough that nobody suspected that I was really a woman. I’d succeeded!
But what I’d succeeded at was making myself perfectly miserable. There was a part of me – an important part – which wasn’t allowed to even breathe. I was so invested in proving myself to be a man, I was strangling the woman inside of me. And while I was a successful “man”, I really wasn’t a man at all. What people saw of me and celebrated about me was not the real me – not the whole me. I wasn’t being seen for who I really was, and I wasn’t being loved for who I am – the people who loved me loved a version of me which wasn’t complete. The disconnect was uncomfortable – if I wasn’t seen and loved for who I really am, am I really seen? Am I really loved? The discomfort increased over time, until it reached a point where I finally consciously addressed what was happening within me. I came out to myself and began to examine and respond to the feelings of gender incongruence, and with the discomfort – by this time, severe – which ultimately traced back to that incongruence; I came to understand this as Gender Dysphoria.
The more I learned about myself and opened myself up to finally feel what had been happening all along, the more distressing the dysphoria felt. I’d opened the bottle, and this genie refused to go back inside. I needed to make the dysphoria better; I needed it to stop hurting! You can find the details some of the things I did to address this elsewhere in my blog, but basically it was accepting that I had these feelings, allowing myself to explore my own personality and find the parts which were genuine (discarding the parts that were just facade), begin HRT, and to begin living authentically. This helped a lot!
The dysphoria improved. It didn’t go away, but it didn’t hurt as badly as it had. I’ve compared it to falling off the roof of a house – when you hit the ground, everything hurts, but once you get past the shock and address the worst of the pain, you begin to be able to tell the individual injuries: the broken leg, the dislocated shoulder, the nosebleed, etc. My dysphoria similarly changed – instead of everything hurting, I was able to identify individual injuries. I found that I was very aware of the attributes of my body which marked me as male – my height, my voice, the shape of my face, the hair on my body (especially facial hair), and, my (lack of) breasts and the presence of a penis. The presence of a penis where a vagina should be. The lack of a vagina. I’m supposed to have a vagina!
I’m supposed to have a vagina!
The more I think this thought, the more I say it, the more I write it, the more sure I become of it’s truth. The simple truth. The truth which ties in with the answer I’d found earlier: “I am a woman… and I am supposed to have a vagina.”
The feminist in me tells me that women are not defined by their body parts, but the little girl in me was defined by a body part that never fit, that should never have been there. The part which continues to be used to define me by people who don’t understand what it means to be transgender. But in the end, those things don’t matter – not really. I’m the only one who gets to define *me*, and, right or wrong, for better or for worse, I need to correct this congenital condition. I need to be freed from the thing which was used as “proof” to get me to believe the lie that the world told me. I need to be able to look in the mirror and see myself. I need to be able to inhabit a body which is at peace, because what I know to be true inside and what exists on the outside will be in alignment. I need to be able to not carry the constant physical reminder of what makes me so different from other women. I need to finally love my body.
I need to have this surgery because I have finally discovered my truth, I have finally accepted my truth, and I am listening to both my heart and my body. I am pursuing this surgery not as an act of protest or defiance, but because it as a necessary part of my journey to wholeness and peace.
I am doing this because I finally have begun to love myself.
P.S. I’m very interested in what you think about this. Did I make sense, or does this feel like some disjointed ramble? Can you understand why this is so important to me? Do you have any questions? Please comment below, or send me a message some other way.