tim: Mike Slackernerny thinking "Scientific progress never smelled better" (science)
[personal profile] tim
It's about 7:30 PM and I have another two or three hours to go before the northbound Coast Starlight train I'm on gets to San José. I've done all of the work, and working on the other (much huger) blog post in progress that I'm working on, that I can stand for today. You know what that means, right? It's Surgery TMI O'Clock!

Like with my first surgery post, some disclaimers apply:
  1. I like to be open even about things many people consider private, and that means I'm okay with writing about intimate details about my body and my sexuality in public. I'm okay with sharing these details with anyone who might stumble upon them. But you may not be comfortable with reading about them. I'm expecting this will mainly apply to people who know me in particular contexts.

  2. Besides the sexy stuff in here, there's also stuff that's kind of gross, so if you're made easily queasy by blood 'n gore, you might not want to read it either. Seriously, if you don't like reading about pain and some of the grosser things bodies do, don't read it.

  3. Just because I'm sharing these details doesn't mean it's okay to ask any other trans person about surgery they've had, surgery you think they may have had, surgery you think they should have, anything else about surgery, or any intimate details about their bodies that you wouldn't ask someone who wasn't trans who you knew only casually. So don't do that! We're not all alike, and I am not going to be the one who gives any cis people an excuse to ask other trans people invasive questions. In fact, there are a lot of situation in which I don't want to discuss the contents of this post, even with people who I'm comfortable having read it: in the office, in church, on VTA Light Rail, and so on. So use the same judgment you'd use when bringing up any other sensitive topic.

If this post doesn't provide TMI about how I relate to my body and about what makes me tick, sexually, then I'll have left something out that I meant to put in, and you'd better nag me about it. It's up to you whether you want to read or not, and so you can decide for yourself, here's a cut tag.



As you know if you're an avid follower of my TMI posts, I had metoidioplasty and scrotoplasty in February. I didn't write anything about what happened afterward, because, well, various kinds of shit got real afterward, and I just didn't have time. Here's where I attempt to make up for that.

After having surgery, I spent 4 days or so in the Holiday Inn Express in Scottsdale, and my recollection of it is as hazy as you'd expect post-surgical memories to be. I took plenty of pain drugs and they did their thing. Also, I learned to fall in love with ice packs, applied to what the post-op instructions delicately call "the surgical site". There's one that I didn't discover until afterwards, that I've only seen at CVS, that's the bomb -- it resembles a bag of frozen peas only reusable, and it's just the right size for the crotch. Well, my crotch, maybe not yours. I'm getting ahead of myself, though. My awesome friend G. who came with me to Arizona did a great job of attending to whatever I needed (which wasn't that much, honestly, I mostly just stayed in bed with my laptop and probably watched some TV... yeah, that's a shameful memory right there). Then he drove me back to Oakland, a car trip that I spent sitting on a donut cushion usually with a bag of ice between my legs (stopping at gas station rest stops and surreptitiously filling up a cooler of ice from the soda machine). Good times.

I violated instructions and jerked off five days after the surgery. It was good.

I had some swelling and pain, which you'd expect. Actually, an absurd amount of swelling, I mean, it was awkward (no reason to think this was more than normal, but whoa). Oh, and then the itching. Oh, the itching. And walking kind of sucked. That was all normal, though. But, a week or so after getting home, though, I started feeling sick. At first I thought I was getting a cold. In rapid succession I got a high fever that acetaminophen (as opposed to Tylonol) wouldn't shake. Also, I started having some pain in my lower abdomen around my mons resection scar. Since I have IBS (told you this was a TMI post!), I figured that could have been anything, though. (Definition, though you can look this up if you really want to: "mons resection" means sucking out some of the fat in my mons, which is the triangular area above my genitals, and then basically pulling everything up so that my penis sticks out and is front-and-center rather than hanging far back between my legs where it started out. It leaves me with a horizontal scar that's not quite from hip to hip, but close, marking the top of that triangular area, below my belly. Because I form hypertrophic scars, the scar is still pretty visible today. On most people of Western or Northern European ancestry, it would have faded out more. I made a practice out of massaging the scar with pure shea butter and with a heavy-duty vibrator -- don't laugh! -- but I don't know how much that helped. If I were the sort of person who let my pubic hair grow, the hair would cover the scar, but... again, told you this was TMI.)

So, high fever, pain, sounds like an infection, right? Also, because I was just having a lot of bad luck, both of the incisions down where my new scrotum was, where the scrotal expanders went in, started to separate a little bit and... ooze. Disconcerting. I talked to both my primary care doctor and Dr. Meltzer's office, and the latter pretty much advised me to keep taking care of the fever. But the incisions that had separated were scaring me -- I was worried they wouldn't heal properly -- so I went to my primary care doctor. She said basically to just keep them clean and keep watching them. In the meantime, I was still feeling like utter crap (as if I had the worst cold/flu thing ever), so I made another appointment with my primary care doctor. When I was getting to leave for the appointment, a part of my mons resection scar... literally just burst open and started bleeding. I looked down and there it was -- it didn't hurt. I was actually on the phone with my therapist at the time, and I didn't end the conversation (the appointment was almost over); I just went into the bathroom and parked myself over the tub, and kept talking. After which I taped whatever gauze pads I could find over the place that was bleeding, and headed to the doctor. She advised me to go to the emergency room.

Now, if I was a full citizen, I wouldn't have had any qualms over doing what she said. But I'm a second-class citizen, because I'm trans. I wasn't covered by employer health insurance at this point, for reasons too boring to go into. I was instead covered by an individual health insurance plan that I had acquired for catastrophic emergencies. You'd think going to the ER with copious bleeding would be a catastrophic emergency, right? But I knew that if I went, my care likely wouldn't be covered by insurance because it was a complication of genital reconstruction surgery, which almost every health insurance plan (mine was no exception) covers for cis people but not for trans people. That is, if a presumed-cis baby boy gets his penis mangled in a badly done circumcision and needs it reconstructed, or if a cis woman was born with a vagina that wasn't able to be penetrated with a typical penis (and lord knows the cisnormative medical establishment thinks that that's all that vulvas are about), surgeries to repair those issues would be covered. But not mine, even though I'm a man who was born with genitals that don't permit the kind of sexual functioning that would be normal for me. And yes, all of this was running through my head as I was sitting on the F-Market streetcar on the way home to pick up whatever I would need for the hospital trip, bleeding.

I went to the ER, of course; my primary care doctor had told me I shouldn't wait, that the bleeding might not stop on its own and I would need a plastic surgeon to deal with the problem, and aside from hopping on a plane to Phoenix, there was no other way I could get in to see one that quickly. My mistake was not hopping on a plane to Phoenix, or rather, doing that before the uncontrollable bleeding started. I figured that UCSF would be the best place to go because they have a "center for transgender excellence" and thus their staff would hopefully be sensitive, but realtalk: I was afraid that, even in San Francisco, wherever I went, I would get lower quality care and/or my care would have obstacles placed in its way by people who were unfamiliar with my body and more interested in using it as a learning experience than treating me. I'm aware that this is a more legitimate fear for trans women than for trans men, but nevertheless, it was in the back of my mind -- or more like the middle -- anyway. I brought a friend with me in the hopes that ze would be able to advocate for me in a pinch, or at least just for moral support.

With only one exception, though, the doctors and nurses at UCSF were great, and nobody acted like it was a big deal that I was a trans man who'd just had genital reconstruction surgery (and, no less, surgery that left me basically with intersex genitals, since I didn't have my vagina removed). I'll get to that exception shortly. When I saw the triage nurse, he said he would try to get me on "fast track", which meant my problem was urgent enough that I could get seen quickly. I wasn't actually sure I wanted to be fast-tracked, because that would mean I was having a serious problem, and no one wants that, right? In the end, he said, I just barely missed the cutoff for being "fast track", and I was sort of relieved. My friend and I sat in the waiting room for quite some time (a waiting room that was surprisingly empty for an urban ER at night), and I was finally called in. I let my friend continue waiting in the waiting room, which was a mistake, because I spent basically the next 6 or 7 hours waiting in a room in the ER (I mean, at least I was lying down, and I imagine they took care of the bleeding temporarily, though I really can't remember). (I communicated with hir via text and eventually told hir to go home because I had no idea when I would be seen, but really, I should have just had hir come in with me to begin with.) I remember talking to a series of doctors and nurses, and answering a lot of the same questions repeatedly, and being aware that they really didn't know exactly what to do in this situation and were trying to make that as non-obvious as possible. (It was obvious.)

So that one exception to everybody being great: one of the nurses, after checking that I was doing okay, asked if she could ask me a few questions. I was wary, but thought that maybe the questions would be medically relevant. They weren't. The one that I remember was: "So... now that you've had the surgery... can you produce sperm?"

Pause for a moment to take that in. This is somebody who, presumably, went to nursing school. Asking me if, with prosthetic testes, I can produce sperm. (And yes, she knew I was someone who previously didn't have the ability to make sperm, I'm pretty sure of that.)

So that was WTF, but she was so nice that I didn't really want to get annoyed.

At some point they took me to get a CT scan of my crotchal area done, to see if there was fluid trapped behind the expander ports (the tissue expanders, which I was going to eventually start injecting saline solution into to stretch the skin of my scrotum so the surgeon could eventually put in permanent testicular implants, had ports that were buried under the skin near where the incision for my mons resection was). They concluded that there was fluid, so I had an infection and needed immediate surgery to drain out the pus. The surgeon who operated on me, Scott Hansen, turned out to be one of the doctors for the San Francisco Giants, so I guess he's probably good? I didn't know that then, though. While too tired to really know what was going on, I had the surgery (which was apparently about a 15-minute deal) and stayed in the hospital another night (my friend came back to keep me company), in a lovely room with a great view of San Francisco.

You'd think after that was over, everything would be easy-peasy, right? Not... exactly. Dr. Hansen explained to me that in order to not seal the nasty bacteria inside the wound, he had to leave the wound open instead of re-stitching it. So I ended up going around with an open wound for... um, quite some time. It takes a while for a wound to close naturally if it's not stitched up. To keep the wound clean, I had to keep it packed with gauze soaked in saline solution, which I had to change twice a day at first and less often after a while. The process of pulling the gauze out of the, um, pocket inside my groin, then wedging new wet gauze in with a Q-tip, was a "take a pain pill first" sort of deal. It ended up not being too bad, actually, and the feeling of pulling out the gauze was sort of satisfying. (If you like picking scabs or twirling a Q-tip in your ear, you'd love it.) So, um, there was that. For weeks and weeks. I could tell progress was happening since as time went on, less gauze would fit.

Exactly six weeks after my surgery date, I thought things were healing up fine and I decided to try riding my bike to work. By then, I'd moved to San Francisco, and my office was just a mile or two away. (How did I move while incapacitated with a crotch injury, you might ask? I'm not exactly sure, but one friend and two professional movers were involved.) Well, I hadn't ridden my bike in a while, but I thought it would be fine because I'd had it tuned up just before I left for surgery. The bike shop I went to was apparently a bad bike shop, because within a few blocks of home, the chain slipped off the front gears. If you know what happens when you abruptly go from third gear to no gear... well, if you don't, there's impact involved, that travels up through the seat. And through my crotch. Yeah, it hurt. But because I was exhibiting poor judgment, I kept biking. It happened again, and it hurt again. But I made it to work.

Now, coincidentally, I had one of my follow-up appointments with Dr. Hansen scheduled that same day, and I had to leave work early to get there; I figured I would bike to St. Mary's Hospital. Right after turning onto Market from Embarcadero, the chain slipped off again. This time the seat hit my crotch hard. It was incredibly painful and then I looked down and saw that blood was soaking through my shorts and dripping onto the street. I got onto the sidewalk quickly and started bleeding onto the sidewalk. it turns out that if you're bleeding onto Market Street, the only person who will care is a man who appears to be homeless. I said I didn't need help, because I wasn't sure what he would do. I tried to wrap whatever I had (maybe a sweatshirt or something) around me, locked my bike as quickly as I could, and got into the first cab, trying my best to make sure there was stuff under me so I didn't bleed onto the nice cab driver's seat.

I was kind of embarrassed to explain to the doctor (and, it turned out, the resident whose name I can't remember, who wasn't from San Francisco and was maybe having a first-time experience, though he was very professional) what had happened, like, was I just accident-prone? Or maybe not very bright? But, you know, they were nice about it. It turned out that the place where I was bleeding from was the underside of my penis, right where it joined with my scrotum, a place that was normally hidden (given how my anatomy was) unless I pulled my penis up. Since the bleeding didn't show any signs of stopping (shades of the first ER trip!), the resident explained that I was going to need stitches. Yeah, stitches there. But there's going to be anesthetic, of course? Of course. But um... where are you going to inject the needle for the anesthetic?

This is where you might want to stop reading if you thought you could handle a little gore, but you're really not that tough.

























Still with me? Good. You know the cliché about "this won't hurt a bit?" When a doctor says "This isn't going to be pleasant," you know it's not going to be good at all. Someone might have been there squeezing my hand, I really can't remember, but I'm pretty sure I screamed when the resident stuck the needle right into the underside of my penis (by the way, for me, that ended up being the most sensitive part). It was over after a couple of seconds, but whoa. I decided that I was definitely never getting any genital piercings voluntarily. Also, then there was the awkward period of waiting for the anesthesia to kick in while the doctor sat there holding some gauze to my crotch, trying not to stare in the wrong direction, and making awkward conversation. He was really a pro at making awkward conversation, though. One thing that was a little off was that he talked about how his wife had an episiotomy and how that was for her (or, well, how I guess he guessed it was for her), with I guess the implication that this was the closest thing in his experience that he could relate my experience to. I wasn't sure whether to take that as a sour note or just to appreciate that he was trying to find some common ground.

Actually getting the stitches in my penis wasn't too big a deal, since it was good and numb, although if you've had stitches anywhere you know the odd sensation of having thread pulled through a part of your body that's mostly numb but you can still feel that something is happening... well, let's just say I've had stitches in my finger before, and this was weirder. And then, the bleeding stopped. Stitches: they're fucking magic! After that I went to Haight Street and bought a new pair of pants.

I avoided my bike, or anything else that was likely to do grievous bodily harm to my crotch, for a while after that. Quite a while. And I took my bike to a different shop for an inspection before I finally got back on it.

After everything healed, and everything did heal, I started expanding. This is how you expand if you have scrotal expanders (although if you do, the doctor, or probably a nurse, will give you better instructions anyway): draw up the right amount of sterile water using a small needle and syringe, remove the needle and screw on a butterfly needle instead, find where the port is. I mentioned I had these buried ports -- it was super hard to find where they were, especially after the first couple times, because I think they rotated. The idea was to feel around and find the flat, slightly soft, hexagonal area. I just found it really hard to know if I was in the right place. Anyway, once I found it, I would stick the needle in, then sort of wave the needle around to make sure I was inside the port (which is about the size of a trial-size container of dental floss), and then push the plunger on the syringe. The first couple times I did it, I didn't really feel anything. After I'd gotten maybe 20 cc of liquid in, I definitely started feeling my skin stretch as I injected the fluid, which was just weird the first time, and started being painful the last couple times. I had some problems. Like I said, I had increasing difficulty finding where the ports were. I'd spend maybe half an hour trying to find them. The whole process got to be a source of anxiety. Even though it didn't hurt that much at first, actually injecting would hurt a lot. And I might have been injecting outside the port a bunch (which is harmless, but is supposed to feel weird and burning, though I never felt that) because my right expander seemed to expand a little bit, then go flat, and stay flat after I kept expanding. The left one got nice and big. When I had my second surgery, Dr. Meltzer told me the buried ports work better for skinnier guys (I'm not thin). Gee, would have been nice to know that in the first place. Also, I'd get random shooting pains in the parts of my crotch where the tubing for the expanders was. So, expanders = not fun.

Fast-forward to July, when I had my second surgery -- I hadn't expanded in a while, since I reached the maximum amount for the left side and nothing I did for the right side seemed to work. (I asked my primary care doctor when I saw her, but she didn't seem comfortable giving advice on it, understandably enough). I had hoped that I would be able to avoid a third surgery and there would be just magically enough skin there for Dr. Meltzer to insert both of the permanent implants. But no; I'll need a third, hopefully final, surgery to insert the second permanent implant, and I'm still going to have to expand on the right side (once I'm healed up). Fortunately, though, Dr. Meltzer started using expanders with external ports -- now I have a tube hanging out of the right side of my mons with a small, round port on one end, which is what I'll inject water into once I start doing that. It's a big relief to not have to worry about finding the port under my skin again.

I'm getting ahead of myself again, though. For this surgery, I wanted to be able to do something fun beforehand if I was going on a long trip anyway, so I'd planned to go to Valley of Fire State Park, near Las Vegas. To make a very boring story short, the airline screwed up (never fly US Airways) and that didn't happen. Instead, I got to Phoenix a day early, on Saturday, and headed to the home of my friends J. and D., who I was staying with. On the bright side: flying out of Monterey (MRY) is still an awesome, nude-scanner-free, molestation-free travel experience, and I highly recommend it. After the travel fuckups, I was pretty much happy to hang out in the air conditioning for the rest of the day and evening and half-watch tv while doing stuff on the internets (we did end up going to a dive bar in the evening to see a band play that J.'s music teacher was in, but the sound was too ridiculously loud to appreciate the music much). Sunday, I went to a coffee shop in downtown Mesa (which is about as downtown as downtown Oregon City is) to try to do some work, and then hung out with J. and D. later on.

Monday, J. dropped me off early at Dr. Meltzer's office, since she had to work, and I killed time for a while in the waiting room (kind of challenging since I didn't want to bring my laptop to the hospital). I had my pre-op visit, which was very... short. Meltzer always asks "do you have any questions?" and doesn't really go into a big spiel unless you ask, but I... really didn't have any questions. I knew what was going to happen was pretty straightforward, and I wanted to get it over with.

After a boring interlude of taking the bus to downtown Scottsdale (past lots of Republican political signs, and an awesome sign saying "Re-Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio" -- awesome because someone had covered the "Re-Elect" with "Arrest" in spray paint), filling my prescriptions, going to the Scottsdale library to see if I could steal some internets without having a library card (answer was no), and walking to the hospital from there, I got checked in by the same guy who checked me in for my surgery 5 months ago, amusingly enough, who at the time had raved about how much he loved Firefox when I mentioned I worked for Mozilla. This time, when (in answer to a question about problems with anesthesia) I mentioned that I had woken up during the surgery last time and remembered it (which isn't supposed to happen with IV sedation), he shared an anecdote about waking up during his colonoscopy. Which is not quite the same thing, but again, common ground, I guess.

I didn't remember having to do this last time, but the nurse asked for a urine sample, presumably to do a pregnancy test, which is hilarious because unless you can get pregnant from sucking dick, the only way I could be pregnant would be if I'd been pregnant for 25 months. I didn't mind peeing in a cup anyway, but the thing was, I'd already peed while waiting, because I didn't think they were going to ask me. Shockingly, it came up negative. Just like before, all the hospital staff were really respectful; no weird questions. One slightly weird one (not as weird as being asked if I could make sperm): one of the nurses asked if I'd had a hysterectomy, which was a vaguely reasonable thing to ask (although this was after they did the pregnancy test!), but when I said that not only I hadn't had one, I wasn't planning to anytime soon, she seemed weirded out by it. Yeah, I know cis people think there's a schedule that all trans people follow and we're legally required to do everything in the same order, and... but, no. I haven't ruled out the possibility that I might give birth someday, since I still technically have everything that's necessary to do so; it might be impossible given how long I've been supplementing testosterone, but other people have done it. It's not very likely, but it could happen, so I'm not rushing to get a hysto yet. I didn't feel like explaining all that to her, though.

After watching some bad courtroom TV show (which seems to be my pre-surgery ritual -- I remember watching some show with Gloria Allred while in the pre-op area in the hospital last time), I got taken in, and the rest is mostly a blur except for waking up towards the end and correcting Dr. Meltzer about the caption on the Bud Clark poster, like I mentioned before. (I also remember having my crotch shaved at the beginning, though at that point I was probably supposed to be drugged out to oblivion. I must say I'd already done a pretty good job myself at home.) IV sedation is weird. The whole "you're not really unconscious" thing doesn't bother me, but I can see how some people might find it creepy.

And then the recovery room and the best part: GETTING TO DRINK SOME GINGER ALE. Seriously, eating and drinking nothing from 5 AM to 3 PM sucks, especially when you have to be outside in hot weather for part of it. Most amazing ginger ale ever. I was still feeling no pain at that point, not even when J. arrived and I got in the car; good drugs are good. And I was still feeling fine when I got back to her place; then proceeded to be horizontal on her couch for most of, oh, the next 12-13 hours.

I'd been told that recovery from this surgery would be easier from the last one, and so far that seems true. I only took the full dose of Percocet during the day after; the next day, Wednesday, I only took one pill at a time so I could get some shit done, and that was fine. Today, I've only taken two pills (one early in the morning and one around 7 PM). I was a little uneasy about taking the train home two days after surgery, but that worked out just fine, especially since I had a roommette and could lie down.

Now to the more subjective stuff: post- Monday's surgery, I love getting a glimpse of my crotch in the mirror. Yeah, I have to make sure I look at it from the right side, but it looks right. Which is a weird thing to say, since my penis is hella swollen at the moment (and no, that's not really a good thing, since I know it's temporary and anyway, touching it just feels weird right now, a little bit numb, not exactly pleasurable -- I know that'll subside, since it did last time). It's not that it looks perfect, just that there's this flash of recognition. Dealing with having one fully-expanded ball and one that was just sort of flat and floppy was odd... more uncomfortable than I would have thought, because I had to be in this intermediate stage for quite a while where I couldn't exactly get used to my body because it was going to change again. And anyway, I wouldn't have wanted to have asymmetrical balls forever. No offense if you do... it's just not what I wanted. Anyway, it's nice that I can already tell this is better, even less than a week after surgery.

I haven't even compared pre-any-surgery to afterward, though. And what I have to say is: it's great. It's so worth it. Having one side of my penis not permanently attached to my body makes so much difference in my life, it's basically like omg. For one thing, let's talk about sex. Actually not, since the only sex I've had with someone else since having surgery was pretty soon afterward, so I didn't want my genitals to be involved, so as not to compromise healing. But let's talk about masturbation. I can actually, reliably, in a reasonably short amount of time, get off just by jacking my dick (sorry, terrible reference to the "Best Porn Comments" twitter feed) now, which was almost always impossible for me before. This didn't require any retraining or anything, it just basically worked the first time I tried. I still use vibrators a fair amount because they're fun, and also feel amazing (in ways that are different from with my old anatomy) with my new anatomy. I feel pretty lucky, since I still have all the nerve endings that the phalloclitoris that I grew on my own had -- none of those went away -- but I'm now able to use it like a phallus, to penetrate someone's mouth (even if not a vagina or anus). In theory, anyway, I haven't yet found any volunteers for trying it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't prefer that it was bigger, and that it was of a dimension for penetrating a vagina or anus with, and that it could ejaculate. Sure, I'd still love for all of those things to happen, and if the technology happens in my lifetime and I'm lucky enough to be able to pay for it (or if, insha'allah, we decide that health care is a human right and trans people aren't an exception to that), I'll go for it. But I'm pretty damn happy with what I have now, given how much better it works for me than what I had before. I was a pretty creative masturbator before, but now I feel like there are so many different ways I can get off, omg... and that's even without involving somebody else! I'd like to rave more about how great masturbating is with my new equipment, but well, it's hard to find the words for it beyond what I've already said, really. Orgasms feel different (better). I'm not unabashedly sex-poz anymore, but one thing I do appreciate about sex-positive writing is that it's given me the tools to affirm that even when it doesn't involve anybody else, having sex is meaningful and important.

One glitsch is that I haven't been able to pump that much (yes, trans guys really do get additional length by pumping, but it has to be really regular and consistent) because after the first surgery, I still had a lot of extra skin around the top of my penis, sort of like a moat, and it was hard to fit the pump around my penis and inside the "moat" without sucking in a lot of extra skin (and not getting a good seal). Dr. Meltzer said he'd fix this as part of the second surgery, and while my whole mons is still too swollen to see much, I can already tell it's going to look different, So hopefully pumping will be easier. (Also, whether or not I get any permanent gains in size from pumpings, the temporary ones are pretty sweet; by pumping I can make my penis much bigger for about 20-30 minutes. I don't know if it works this way for people who were born with more of the "phallo" end of phalloclitorides too, or not.)

Sex is important, being able to function sexually in the way you're wired to do is a basic human need (unless maybe you're asexual, but I'm not), but there's more to this than sex too. Seeing that I have a penis and scrotum all front-and-center is just right. Washing it when I'm showering is just right. When I pulled on a pair of tight-fitting briefs yesterday and saw that for the first time, there was an actual bulge (that didn't come from a packer), that was so right. If you're trans, I probably don't need to describe this sense of rightness, and if you're cis, I probably can't convey it... but it's pretty awesome.

The sex stuff is the aspect of having surgery that it's easiest to talk about it because it's, well, tangible. Other things, though -- I was hoping that making my body shaped more like what my brain expects it to be would decrease my overall level of background anxiety. It's possible it already has. But this year I've had plenty of real things to be anxious about, so it's also possible that any change got cancelled right out. I'm hoping that in the long term, though, I'll find it a little easier to relax and be at peace. We'll see.

One thing that's sucked this year is not being able to exercise. I could during January and part of February, and during the brief period when I was recovered from February/March but hadn't had July's surgery yet; but I pretty much haven't done any good bike rides this year, except for one weekend in July when I went bike camping with a friend and it was awesome. That's been no fun, and I think, has not been helping me deal with stress. Still, though, I have several more decades, at least, in which to exercise -- the great thing about cycling is that people who are serious about it often keep doing it until they're very old (barring bad luck) -- and I'll be doing it with a body I can actually love.

And while i'm being honest: while I'm thrilled about my surgery results (both current and hoped for the future), I've been somewhat depressed over the past six to nine months, not getting-up-at-3-PM level of depressed (though I've come close a few times), just... the kind that turns down the volume knob on everything good. I think it's because of reasons (major financial stress partly but not entirely due to that $27,000 ER bill I got hit with; dealing with a difficult situation with a friend; and dealing with a hostile environment at work), rather than my brain just deciding to fuck with me, and so I hope it'll blow over soon and then I can really get down to enjoying what I have (and not caring about the rest).

So tl;dr:
  • The health insurance system sucks and as a result, I'll have no disposable income for the next two years (unless I can win a lawsuit, which nobody from the Transgender Law Center to any other lawyers I can find seems to have any interest in helping me do), but we all knew the health care system sucks.

  • Having a penis if your brain contains a mental map of one is awesome! (I hear it's not so awesome if your brain contains a mental map of a vulva instead.)

  • Given that I've survived having a needle shoved into the most sensitive part of my genitals while fully conscious, I'm pretty sure that I can survive anything.


ETA 2013-06-09: I've made this post public, and retroactively screened all the comments since the commenters may not have meant them to be public. New comments are not screened.

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Tim Chevalier

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