Penises and Vaginas!
I bet that got your attention.
On November 24th 2018 the New York Times ran an opinion piece from a Transgender woman named Andrea Long Chu called My New Vagina Won’t Make Me Happy. And as you can imagine, with a headline like that, it wasn’t long before the counter opinions and right-wing negative narratives latched onto this piece like a blood-hungry leech. Having just had my own Gender Reassignment Surgery (GRS) on November 7th, 2018, this piece resonated with me quite a bit. It highlighted a fact that I too came to realize prior to my GRS; my vagina can no-more make me happy than a new sports car.
The piece was a very raw telling of life experience after having begun the process of transition. Chu talks of increases in sadness, depressive episodes, suicidal ideations, and even refers to her vagina as a “wound” that will require regular, painful attention to maintain. She started with this narrative right out-of-the gate, and it quickly became a bone of contention for writer’s on both sides of this issue.
The idea of her vagina as a “wound” isn’t altogether inaccurate. Most Trans women responding to her piece know why she used this term, but reject it because it fuels the overtly negative counter narrative. What she’s actually politely talking about here is an act that I was oblivious of prior to coming out as Trans. After a couple of my first support groups, I remember the group leader talking about the need for “dilation.” This was something I’d never heard of before, and it’s something that those struggling to understand the Trans community likely never knew either.
Dilation is the repeated daily act of inserting a medically prescribed dilator (dildo) into the new vagina. The process is absolutely not pleasurable, and it’s as painful as it is annoying. For people such as myself and Chu, having a new vagina means repeating this process up to four times daily. The purpose of this act to maintain the depth of this new anatomy. Failure to comply can result in a shallow vagina or the permanent closure of the vagina altogether. So it’s true, that for a period of time a Transwoman’s body will attempt to close this opening because it is regarded by the body as a “wound” needing to be closed. This however is not as bad as Chu implies. With the progression of time, the need to dilate becomes less necessary and allows for greater time between dilation times. Within a year it becomes a weekly chore which can easily be circumvented by sexual activity.
Unfortunately Chu’s choice of words and blatant honesty regarding the timult of transition did not serve our community. Many of us understand why she said the things she said, and many retorts took special care not to invalidate Chu’s feelings. Transition is a very personalized journey, and her experiences are not endemic of the Trans experience; they belong exclusively to Chu. That being said, the naysayers didn’t care about the individualization of our respective journeys. Instead they took Chu’s comments as proof positive that act of transition is one that enhances suffering to everyone who embarks upon it. This cannot be more untrue.
The sadness that Chu describes experiencing is very reminiscent of my own experience with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Quite simply, all the churning emotional tumult of puberty reemerges. That combined with the angst and anger of a world that seems bent on snuffing out the Trans community makes for a very hostile internal narrative. This is not an indication of self-inflicted suffering, but an indication of the sociopathy of those who seek to destroy individuals whom they do not understand and make no efforts to understand.
As I often butt heads with those who clearly have no understanding of the process of transition, it becomes increasing disheartening to know that instead of opting to learn about that which they hate, they choose their internal opinion as being perfect and infallible. This is the same kind of stalwart behaviour that people who consider the Bible as empirical truth stand on when verifiable evidence doesn’t support such “truth.” So it’s not surprising that the more religious a person is, the more they live in denial of our existence; the two views often go hand-in-hand. This is a huge point of depression and sadness for anyone walking the path of transition. The fact that we carry on despite such opposition should be plenty of evidence that what we are doing is necessary for our survival.
This can’t be stressed enough; no one would choose to transition given the resistance to it within society. I never wanted to be Transgender, and the fact that I personally wasted 39 years trying to be a man should be proof of my attempt to resist this identity crisis.
Our detractors like to spill lies about “Transition Regret;” as though everyone who does transition will immediately suffer from some form of remorse. Statistically 2–3% of people will have this issue. That being said, 97% of transitioners will be better, happier individuals after they transition. My question for the 2–3% who regret their transition would be: If society didn’t hate Transgender individuals or you never lost the love of your family and friends over the course of your transition, would you regret the change?
My follow-up to anyone who would still regret their transition would involve their own mental health.
The woefully ironic part of the anti-trans narrative has a lot to do with pegging us as “Mentally ill,” and that we need mental health. The irony, of course, is that those making such a statement are often too ignorant to understand that most Transgender individuals are in counseling. The WPATH standards of care have guidelines for counseling as it pertains to transition milestones; it is almost always necessary to further a medical transition because counseling letters facilitate hormonal and surgical authorizations. So when we’re told we’re in need of counseling, we’ve actually already entered counseling, and in most cases, transition is recommended by our counselors to alleviate the stress of the body/brain incongruence.
This brings me back to that 2–3% anomaly of transitional regret. Were these individuals properly diagnosed in the first place? It would seem to me that such a low statistic of transitional regret could easily be relative to the competency of some of the mental health professionals involved. While there are Transgender individuals who do actually have personality disorders, there are undoubtedly some who simply had their personality disorders misidentified as gender dysphoria and thus began to transition at the suggestion of their counselor.
Regardless, it’s disheartening that so many uneducated people seem to think that this small pool of regret should be weaponized against the 97% whose lives will be better off after transition. With our suicide statistic at a whopping 41%; denying transition would have a significant and measurable impact on the Transgender community. For a conservative individual to fight for the rights of an unborn child but seek to deny the right to transition when doing so can circumvent suicide seems woefully hypocritical to me.
Now, to be totally fair, I have met one person who has told me they regretted transition and would go back if they could. Their reason for this has nothing to do with their comfort in their skin. No, their distress is entirely based on how they’ve been treated by society. From assault, sexual assault, abuse by law enforcement, and the disintegration of familial bonds; it was abundantly clear to me that just living in a loving and accepting society would have spared this soul from much superfluous distress. Unfortunately for many it would seem that being cruel is far easier than treating others as they’d like to be treated.
As one can glean from Chu’s article, the sadness and depression is not standing in the way of her furthering her transition. It’s clear that for her the rewards of GRS will outweigh the risks. For as much as the right-wing seeks to make her a poster child of trans regret, I am sure they will fail. It’s just unfortunate that during the tenancy of such an anti-Trans administration, Chu opted to offer fuel for their fire by seemingly furthering the belief that Trans people will always be broken. I dare say that the fact that Chu’s article paints the community so poorly is the very reason that the New York Times opted to post it. There are many positive transition stories to place in such a mainstream publication, but it seems as though suffering is always more palatable than triumph; this is especially true when it comes to stories depicting this community.
Chu and myself are actually very similar; prior to my surgery I had the same epiphany that my anatomy wouldn’t bring me happiness. I’d be lying if I said that it had. Let me be clear, I do not have surgical regret; I have surgeon regret. Given the limited resources at my disposal I was never going to be transitioning under the care of a top surgeon such as Dr. Marci Bowers or Dr. Christine McGinn. My limited choice of surgeons has left me with esthetic and depth issues which, while bothersome, do not leave me an emotional cripple trying to get their manhood back. Simply put, I do not regret my Transition, and I swear I never will.
All things considered, my new vagina didn’t make me happier; but I am happier now than I have ever been in my whole life.
I’ve never felt more complete, and transition made that possible.
Please Note: I deliberately removed the right-wing commentary regarding Andrea Long Chu. The sites attacking her take their hatred to places that do not deserve to be exalted; even if to prove my point. If my readers want to see that point-of-view they’re more then welcome to do a little Googling.
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