What is it like to be cis?

I’ll admit it. I don’t understand cisgender people. It’s hard for me to imagine what it’s like to have an uncomplicated relationship with gender and have a body that doesn’t need extensive modification to work with your brain. But just because I don’t understand doesn’t mean I go around villainizing all cis people and telling you you’re invalid.

Yet that’s what it’s like being trans. Everyone from children’s authors to radio personalities think they can attack us without repercussions. They tell us we can’t possibly know what our experience is and that we are somehow anti science for just existing.

I’m thankful for all of you who take the time to read my blog posts or educate yourselves about trans issues. It means a lot that you try to understand.

I am a walking contradiction

I am a woman and I am nonbinary. I am female and have a body shaped by testosterone. I am a femme and I am a tomboy. I am androgynous but I’m not gender neutral. I love my femmes strong and my mascs gentle. I am a racist and an antiracist. I am disabled and ableist. I am a radical and a pragmatist.

I am a person of opposites and contradictions. I break boxes even outside of the boundaries. Life isn’t black and white but it’s not all gray either. It is the opposites and the variety that make it interesting.

I contain multitudes. I am a walking contradiction.

9 Week Update

This week has been pretty uneventful. The only thing going on with healing is that things have tightened up and lost their elasticity temporarily. Luckily I was warned that this would happen and make dilation more difficult and so far it isn’t as bad as they made it sound. Once this is over, I think I’m ready to move up to the next size dilator.

Other than that, healing is going well and it’s starting to feel more like a normal part of my body instead of something new and unfamiliar. 3 more weeks until I can start exploring it more!

8 Week Update

I’m now 2/3 of the way through the recovery process from bottom surgery and this week I seem to have really turned a corner. Before I was going through 2-3 pads a day and now I’m down to 1. The discharge is almost gone and even during dilation I’m not draining fluid.

The pain is also almost gone now and my energy is starting to return. I still can’t lift things or get in the hot tub but I’m able to do a little more around the house like cooking meals and cleaning. Work has been going well and I’m getting a lot done at half time. My mood has also improved this week now that my brain has energy (and I’m spending less time on Facebook).

I still can’t feel my clit but I think it’s there and just happens to have a low profile. It worries me a bit but I’ll hopefully get reassurance at my post op in a month.

How much does surgery cost?

It is going to depend a lot on your insurance plan and where you decide to get surgery but let me share a bit about what my expenses were.

  • 2 Pre-Surgical Consults in San Francisco with flights for 2 people and 5 nights in a hotel – $1,000
  • Comfortable ground floor lodging for 1 month in San Francisco for the pre-op appointment and 3 weeks of recovery on AirBnb – $3,300
  • Lodging and gas to drive to San Francisco from Seattle and back – $400
  • Takeout food during recovery (we splurged a bit on comfort food) – $1,200
  • Medical supplies and copays – $200
  • Flight back to San Francisco for a 3 month recheck – $200

Total = $6,500

I am very lucky that I didn’t have any large deductibles and copays since I met my out of pocket max both years. This was obviously a much more comfortable recovery than most people can afford and I am extremely grateful to my friends who donated almost $4,000 to help make this happen. I also didn’t have to bear all the expenses myself since my spouse paid for a lot of the food.

Did my clit just fall off?

Content warning: gross medical shit below

Healing from this surgery sure has been a wild ride! Last night I had the fun experience of having all that yellow tissue that had formed where my clit should be just fall off in my hands. There wasn’t any pain or blood but a fairly large piece of… stuff? just came away.

Naturally, being the anxious person I am, I freak out that my clit must have just shriveled up and fallen off. I legit thought that and it made it very hard to fall asleep. I messaged my surgeon though and this morning she got back to me and said that it is normal (!) and this is just the exudate falling away.

I still am not entirely convinced since that whole area is still numb and swollen and I can’t tell where my clit actually is. I also have quite a few areas of granulation tissue that keep bleeding that I need to get treated. So I just decided to switch my 3 month post-op back to an in-person clinic visit instead of a virtual follow up. That means spending an extra $200 to fly to San Francisco again and risk COVID exposure on the plane. But I need that peace of mind to have someone look at it and tell me that everything is fine.

Week 7

The mantra I have to keep chanting to myself is “Healing is not linear.”

Content warning: Gross medical shit below

It’s been 6 and a half weeks since surgery and while the exterior of my labia look great, the interior is still a mess. My clit is still obscured by yellow tissue that is apparently called exudate and while it is apparently normal for this stage, it looks disgusting. I have a lot of the brownish proteinaceous discharge which means I’m going through a lot of pads. And I have some granulation tissue on my inner labia that bleeds easily.

On the upside, dilation is going easier now that I’ve gotten used to the new size. I’ll give it a couple more weeks and then upgrade again. I also talked to my primary care doctor yesterday and she assures me that this is great healing for this stage. I am so grateful to have a doc who is one of the most knowledgeable people about neovaginas in the city.

My mood has been pretty down still and while it’s not as bad as the day I think I had my period, I’ve had a hard time finding ways to get through the day. The mood lighting from the smoke in the air definitely doesn’t help and it is triggering my Seasonal Affective Disorder early. To help, I got back on OKCupid and I’ve been chatting with a lovely trans woman. I know I can’t meet anyone new right now but it feels good to start planning for the future.

I also started back at work half time which is where I’ll stay for the rest of my 12 week healing period. It is exhausting to even do 4 hours a day of computer work but it is nice to feel useful and talk to my coworkers again.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now. Healing is not linear.

Pet Peeve

I would never tell another trans person what words they can use for themself but can I rant for a minute about one of my terminology pet peeves?

I fucking hate the term “MtF” (Male to Female transition)! I was never a male and it wasn’t my transition that made me a female. I was assumed to be a boy and later a man based on the shape of my genitals at birth. That’s why we have the term AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth). But that didn’t make me a male. That was one aspect of a broader human personhood that was then generalized to dictate how I should act and label myself.

I have always been a woman. My brain developed that way and no amount of growing up a tomboy would make me a man. My transition has helped bring my body into alignment with my brain and that happens to follow a pathway that outsiders may perceive as changing me from a man to a woman. But they are wrong.

I am a transgender woman. I am AMAB. But I am NOT MtF.

Post Surgery Blues

I really didn’t expect week 5 to be the hardest week. I guess I expected that by now I’d be in the clear mostly but healing isn’t linear.

When I graduated from the surgeon’s care, she warned me about a phenomenon called the “post surgery blues” that usually hits around the 2 month mark. It is caused by all your body energy going into healing and depleting the brain’s reserves. So eventually you hit a wall and your brain is starved for happy chemicals.

I’m not sure if that’s what’s happening early but it sure feels like it this week. It could be just my period hitting but today I’m constantly on the verge of tears and anxious about everything. Yesterday I was tired all day and I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t fall back asleep for over an hour this morning. My brain kept fixing on all the things that could go wrong.

What if I’m dilating my urethra accidentally? I have had a dribbly stream when I pee lately. What if my blood clot has actually moved and I’m tired from it being in my lungs? What if I caught COVID in the ER lobby?

Then this morning I cleaned my new bits and discovered that my clit is yellow and swollen and doesn’t look right. So I messaged my doctor and anxiously waited for that response. Turns out it’s very normal for this phase; enough so that she has slides on it for her presentations. That doesn’t mean I’m not freaking out though.

Everything hurts this week and it sucks. I’m sure it will get better but for now all I want to do is complain and cry. That’s the full answer to how I’m doing this week.

Blood clot warnings

When I started estrogen 2 and a half years ago I got the standard lecture about how hormone use (including birth control pills) can make you higher risk for a serious thing called “deep vein thrombosis.” Basically blood clots in your legs that can cause pain and swelling and potentially move to your lungs and cause serious damage or even death. I listened to the symptoms and for awhile, I was pretty conscious about any of the signs. Every time I have a hormone check I get asked if I’ve had any leg pain but it’s become so normal I barely think about it anymore.

Fast forward to surgery and I get those warnings again. Having a surgery and the resulting inactivity puts you at higher risk of clots which is why they have you stop hormones ahead of time (causing hot flashes) and only restart after you are walking again. I once again thought I took in the symptoms and was aware. I tried very hard to walk every day to avoid it.

Then comes time to drive home. Long travel and inactivity is another risk factor so we made sure to stop often and walk around. We made it home a week ago now and I thought I was past the worst risks. And I let my guard down.

Monday morning I woke up with my calf hurting. I didn’t think much of it and honestly thought I had over extended it in my sleep. But it was bad enough pain that I was limping. Well the pain didn’t go away. It got better at points but every morning it was hurting again. Still I didn’t connect the dots.

Finally today I posted complaining about my shitty week and a couple friends pointed out that it could be serious. So I reluctantly went to the ER. It was very crowded and took me nearly 2 hours to be seen and almost as long to get an ultrasound. But they confirmed what I was increasingly getting anxious about. I had a couple blood clots in my calf.

I’m now on blood thinners to get rid of the clots and I’ll likely be ok without any permanent damage. But it could have been so much worse.

So please, heed my warning and get leg “cramps” checked out, even if they don’t swell. Especially if you have any risk factors.