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Girl Reconfigured: A Trans Woman's Thoughts on Bottom Surgery

Girl Reconfigured Part 1: A Glimpse into the Mind of a Trans Woman One Month Before Bottom Surgery

On March 24th, 2021, a just slightly over 2 years after having my first dose of estradiol, I will undergo bottom surgery. Don’t worry, I’ll tell you more about it later. For now, what you need to know is that I’m getting a vagina.

The Surgery ™ is probably the most famous topic any trans girl fields questions about. “Have you had the surgery yet?” There’s a massive fascination with, and obsession with, what’s in our pants. Antagonists and casual observers alike seem obsessed with our genitals. And they think we’re obsessed with them too. After all, who gives more thought to their genitals than someone who feels disgusted by them?

But amidst all the obsessing over labia and nerve endings comes a fascinating philosophical question: “are you going to be a virgin again?” And now I’m realizing a lot of that talk about our genitals isn’t so silly. It’s not that we’re obsessed with them, it’s that in the same way we trans folks spotlight gender, we draw attention to something that others feel is innate in their identities. For many people genitals are an important interface through which they connect to others, not just sexually but in the language they use and how they view themselves.

And trans people flip the script. No. Wait. We don’t just flip the script. We flip the script, the mimosa, the untouched cosmo magazines full of bad sex advice, and the whole damn table on all these things that people have associated themselves with unquestioningly.

And from this comes the fascination. Have you had the surgery? Will you be a virgin again? So, this is Part I of a multipart series about my assumptions, experiences, and results in having bottom surgery. You’re going to take this journey with me, live it as I process it, and hopefully understand me and other trans folks better at the end.

Before we get further into this though, a brief warning: This post contains discussions of sexual trauma, kink, nudity, objectification, surgery, genitalia, and more. If you are triggered by or squeamish about these topics, you may wish to read something else.

Hitting the Restart Button

Ignoring all the possessive and patriarchal nonsense that comes with the concept of virginity, it’s fair to ask if having this fresh start means something in a greater sense.

When I started to transition, I hit a reset button on many things in my life. My position in the world changed, and I was treated differently. I had to learn all new rules for fashion and communication and etiquette. And that only tells a portion of the story.

I changed. I was different. When I peeled back the layers of masculinity I had been buried under I didn’t find a complete woman there, ready to go — I found a scared little girl who needed nourished, supported, loved, and taught. I had to change. I had to be different to support her. She was a fresh start. At every step in this process she has not been the person I expected to find or become. Not in any way.

She was brave and new and bold and fragile in ways I could never have predicted. As I’ve sloughed off more of the role I played, I’ve seen more and more just how much she was actually new, refreshed, and green. In much the same way as I couldn’t predict her, or me rather, I have no idea who I am as a sexual being on the other side of this surgery. I’ve surprised myself too many times to feel confident in predicting.

So in the respect that I am entering a new, restarted, phase of my sexuality… I am absolutely virginal yet again. All the assumptions and ideas about my sexuality that I have going into this surgery might as well have come from the aforementioned cosmo magazine. I have no idea if they’re going to apply to me after I wake up from this surgery. I can’t know anything.

Just like I thought I knew who Evey was underneath all that, only to be wrong, I’m starting even more behind the curve when it comes to my sexuality. Because I’m buried under the weight of 20+ years of sexual activity, not all of it consensual, that is going to be useless to me.

For more than twenty years of sexual activity, I was taught how the penis worked. I grew familiar with its sensations and the way friction and touch could send lightning into my toes. So much of what I know about my sexual pleasure is entirely wrapped up in my learning about a penis that I will no longer have.

And it’s absolutely fair to think that losing all of that knowledge sets me back to square one in many ways. My surgery healing guide includes instructions for how to explore my body and find my new erogenous zones as I heal, and they develop. It’s hard not to conjure up in my head the idea that I will be quite like I was when I was younger: fumbling around with my body awkwardly exploring it and learning it.

When it comes to my body, I can only make certain predictions. I presume my other erogenous zones will more or less continue to be as they are now or grow more sensitive. So, some aspects of my sexual knowledge about this body will still be useful. I think? This lack of certainty is part of the open question though — isn’t it?

There’s another factor here too, which is that I consider this change in my body to be a reset button in other ways. Finally, after all this effort and trial, I’m going to be rid of the last remnants of “him.”

At every step in my transition I have been haunted by the ghost of the man society thought I should be. And that includes my pre transition life. When I go to get laser hair removal on my face, a part of me views it as a ritual where, fetter by fetter and follicle by follicle, I am freeing myself of his sweaty grip.

I’m a big horror movie buff, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I didn’t view this upcoming surgery as a sort of exorcism of that ghost. He has haunted me my entire life and for the first time in my entire existence I am going to wake up, and he won’t be there. Just another bad memory. A dream I will be further and further away from every day.

And so in a way this talk of virginity as a reset and a renewal appeals to me because in many ways I truly am starting fresh. I’m not entirely certain what that means for me, but I can take some guesses.

Upgrading The Firmware

I guess if we’re going to talk about this it helps for us to know where we started, so we know what’s changed. What follows is a rather intimate description of my sexuality pre-op, but we can use it as a baseline to compare against. Keep in mind all this is self report and not every trans woman is the same as me.

So let’s talk about where I’ve been and how things are right now. When I started transitioning, the hormones hit me pretty hard. My sex drive plummeted to almost nothing, but something else happened too. For the first time in my life I felt control over my body. I was making decisions about what would happen to it. I felt empowered. And for the first time in my life I started to say “no, thank you” to sex.

My partner at the time graciously accepted my boundaries without complaint. Although I feel that our being polyamorous helped her to be able to scratch that itch in her. I didn’t know if my sexuality would ever come back, and honestly, I didn’t care.

When you’ve had your body misused like I have, out of control like I have, no orgasm could have compared to the total and complete relief that being able to make decisions for myself about my body brought me. I’m still riding that high to this day. Sometimes I still stop and think, “this is my body now. I own me.” And that’s truly incredible.

For about 6 months, I had no sex. I didn’t masturbate. I did nothing. Thanks to my hormones even nighttime erections had disappeared. I just had zero interest and for the first time in my life I had the ability to say no, even to me. So I took it.

But then my sexuality returned —Revenge of the Sith style —but a lot sexier. Now I was making choices for ME about my cravings and everything going on in my body was new and exciting. My penis was still my primary erogenous zone, because of all those nerve endings, but the ways I could derive pleasure from those nerves were GREATLY enhanced.

I no longer had productive orgasms, and now I could have multiple, and even rolling, orgasms. And those orgasms were different. They washed through my whole body like waves of static electricity that shut off my brain, carrying me away in an undertow of “holy fuck this feels amazing.”

Penetrative sex was just not an interest of mine. I’ve tried it once since then, and it made me super dysphoric, so I haven’t since then. Vibrators, light rubbing, etc., were all perfectly fine ways to get me where I was trying to go.

My whole body had become a giant erogenous zone. Simple scrapes of nails along my back send electric through me. I’ve discovered that extremely light touch and even temperature changes are intoxicating. I can, and have, had orgasms entirely from nipple play.

And my appetites had changed. I didn’t have to appear to be dominant anymore; I didn’t have to play down my femininity as a “kink” anymore.

I had (and have) wonderful partners where I felt comfortable and empowered to express my desires and things I wanted to try. And much like HRT had changed my taste in food, it’d changed my taste in sex. Things that used to be amazing were less, but I became adventurous and insatiable. I wanted to try everything I could, every touch I could sample, and every sensation I could have. And my partners were amazing and when I asked they were almost always willing to indulge me.

Lost in all this conversation about rolling orgasms, caresses, and mechanics though is that I could connect with my partners. I wasn’t performing for them. I didn’t have to put on masculine airs. I got to be with them. Nothing feels as good as that. In that way HRT and my “reboot” started me almost totally fresh.

And yet, I was running the right firmware on the wrong hardware. Touches that felt good to me made me dysphoric. My body was doing the best it could with what it had. I had to mentally check myself into a more feminine body in my imagination to stay at the moment; which is sort of ironic I know, but we do what we must.

Upgrading to the Latest Model

So, let’s talk about upgrading the hardware, huh? This is always the first question folks have for me when they find out I’m trans. “Have you had… THE SURGERY™?” The answer, at least until March has been a short lecture on the importance of not asking strangers about what’s in their pants because that’s incredibly rude. It’ll probably continue to be that, but at least silently in the future I’ll be able to offer a resounding “YES” (Please picture Anna from the end of the first Frozen movie here.)

I think the reason we care so much about the surgery is the dramatic, fixed nature of the thing. To have bottom surgery is a monumental production involving teams of people, months or years of preparation, and an irrefutable truth: this is it. There is no turning back.

Taking a pill each day? That’s not drama. That’s routine. But surgery? Especially one this big? Oh my gosh. Compared to the day by day growth of breasts, softening of the skin, lengthening of the hair, and more a surgery is just… Boom.

I think this is why people love before and afters of trans people. They love the drama. They love seeing the beginning and the end without the drudgery of it happening in tiny increments over hundreds of days. There was this, now this, and they are entertained. Surgery is the ultimate in that.

The Pink Sacrament

So let’s talk about The Surgery ™, or as I like to call it “The Pink Sacrament.”

I know I have usually presented the surgery as an unholy dark ritual where a team of wizards cleverly disguised as doctors summon forth my celestial vagina to take its corporeal form, having adequately prepared my body to serve as a vessel after years of HRT. But it’s just a surgery and far less suited for an anime, unfortunately. Although if my life is ever adapted into a movie or an anime, I absolutely insist on this being made into a dark ritual.

The actual procedure I’m having is called peritoneal pull through, and it was invented (or first documented) in Russia originally to create a full-length vagina in people who were born with a congenital absence of a vaginal canal. That’s not a clever euphemism for trans women, by the way, that’s a thing called [Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome].

The procedure has been modified to work well in transgender patients, but this use case is relatively new. The resulting vaginal canal has the potential to be more self lubricating and more self-cleaning without the limitations of penile inversion (where the skin of the penis is used to create the entirety of the vaginal canal) or colon-based methods that may yield unpleasant side effects.

The surgery involves sourcing most of the material for the vaginal canal from what’s called the peritoneum. That’s a lining that surrounds and protects your intestines. The results all look great on paper, and I’ll be able to help contribute long-term data about its efficacy as a consequence of having this particular operation. That’s super valuable to me because a lot of younger trans girls right now will never go through their natal puberty (mercifully) and as a consequence their penis would not provide enough source material to create a vaginal canal. By having this operation I can help normalize and standardize it as an option for those girls.

The remainder: labia, clitoris, etc., are all manufactured from nerve endings and source material used by the penis and scrotum. Yes, I’m actually going to have a clit, and it has TONS of nerve endings — so I should be able to achieve orgasm through clitoral stimulation.

The moral of the story here is that this is a new, very cool surgery that yields results that get maybe as close as I can hope to get to a vagina equivalent to my cisgender female friends. Science!

But what do I expect from all that science? The real answer is an enthusiastic shoulder shrug. At every stage in my transition I have been surprised, by… just everything. I feel like I was trapped inside a gilded tower only capable of imagining the outside world and now, thanks to the unholy machinations of dark wizards I can finally test my assumptions against reality.

And my assumptions are almost always wrong. And honestly, my view of pretty much ALL sexual pleasure is that I’m just happy to be included, ya know?

Even when it came to my sexuality under HRT, I thought I had an idea of what I was to experience and I sort of did, but in the same way that someone who reads the TLDR on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can claim to have actually read it. Experiencing the work is entirely different. Everything that follows here might as well be my attempt at placing bets on how to describe a color I’ve never seen.

Good Vibrations

In terms of sensitivity, I’m going to have a clitoris but even then it’ll be different than before. I suspect there’s going to be a lot of time and probably money invested in new toys.

When you have a penile reproductive system, regardless of HRT, a lot of the pleasure derived comes from friction. In cis women, a lot of the pleasure comes from combinations of friction and pressure. I’d imagine that my sensations and responses to sensations will eventually mirror my cisgender female friends more closely than they do what I have right now.

Internally, I do not expect a lot. My understanding is the prostate continues to serve as a source of internal/penetrative pleasure but that this is different for each individual and I may not find that to be the case for me. I doubt I will actually be able to feel much sensation internally aside from that. I have no expectations here.

Less “Oh” and more “OH MY GOD.”

Alright, let’s talk about orgasms. If I retain the ability to even have orgasms (which isn’t guaranteed), I’m expecting the nature of those orgasms to change. Even now, body as it is, I still feel those pulsing, pressuring movements in myself that would, formerly, have been part of ejaculation. Now, they’re kind of useless. Post op though, that entire part of the mechanism will be gone and as a consequence, I will not experience that sensation.

What will happen without it? I suspect my other senses will compensate, and I’ll experience more full-bodied, complete orgasms once I can learn to have them again.

Oh, right. I’m going to have to completely relearn how to orgasm. And masturbate. And pee. And clean. 32 years of training all down the drain just to get the latest model, the price of modernity. I expect at first I’m going to be very frustrated as someone who’s really come to love sex in her transition to find out I’m essentially starting at square zero.

I already have some pretty amazing toe curling, body doubling, turn-Evey-into-a-weeping-ball-of-emotions orgasms, so I’m hoping that removing the last vestiges of old hardware will just make them more like that.

But this is all physicality. Raw mechanics and nerve endings. What about me? How will I change when such a major way of interfacing with the world, and such a major part of my appearance, has changed?

Madonna, Meet Whore.

I’m going to level with you. Nothing about my styling or sexuality has made sense to me since I’ve transitioned. My body is beyond anything I could have dared draw for me. I went from hiding in hoodies to literally modeling for lingerie brands for crying out loud.

I’ve been doing a LOT of work on being body positive and growing in comfort with my body, even nude. It’s been a wild ride, and I’m really proud of me for leaning into that.

It’s sort of hilarious the way that during the day I love vintage dresses and cute jewelry and friends have described me as “aggressively [cottagecore],” but at night I’m here for super sexy lingerie and being choked.

And I’ve been FAR more expressive and communicative about my sexual needs and wants since my libido came back as well. I haven’t been afraid to ask for sex from my partners, to move their hands where I want them, and to give myself over to them in a way I couldn’t before. It feels really amazing to be able to let go as much as I do already.

So, I sort of expect that I’m going to be even MORE that. I’ve got a lot of body to explore after this surgery and I have so much learning to do about how everything works and also who I am without all that doubt and disdain for my body.

Dating Myself

I’ll probably add to my dating pool a little more than I do now. I’ve been terrified of even really involving myself with men or bothering to be invested in them. Since I’ll have fewer fears about being clocked or them not knowing what to do with, or being bothered by, my body then I’ll be more comfortable dating them, I think.

I think there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want my body to be like theirs. I think that would make me feel very dysphoric. Honestly, there have been very sweet men who knew me pre-transition that have expressed interest in me, and I’ve turned them down because I can’t handle the idea of a man who’s seen me in “the before times” being intimate with my body that way. I don’t know if that’ll remain true.

I like men, even the cis ones, and I find them attractive, but I’ve just been too nervous to engage with them much. I really feel like after my surgery I’m going to be more comfortable interacting with them in a dating and sexual context.

I hope that I’m more available in that way to my current partners as well. We still have to navigate dysphoria together, there are still times I don’t want to be touched or seen. It would be really great for me to feel comfortable entirely in my skin with them, to let them explore me and enjoy me (and I, them) without the shadow of that “man” lurking in the back of my mind, weighing me down with doubt.

In the fantasy theater of my mind I am a more passionate, giving, and frankly thirsty lover after I heal from my surgeries than before. I will exude all the confidence of Emma Stone in Easy A and effortlessly flit about in my vintage dresses and bright colors before going home to slip into something incredibly skimpy. Wink.

A big part of that is going to come from my fashion options expanding. I’m not going to concern myself with tucking any longer, I’ll wear what I like. As part of the whole process my therapist asked me what I imagined I would do after these surgeries and my one, overwhelming, thought was that I would have a worry-free day at the beach.

I would stroll up and down the boardwalk in my bikini eating Thrasher’s fries and having my Carolina reaper ice cream and playing in the waves, shivering the whole time, and not have a care in the world about if my tuck has come undone or if people are checking out my crotch. I would finally, for once in my life, be in my body in front of all those people and just get to be.

That’s the point, isn’t it? To get to be.

The Point

I want to get personal and speak to you directly for a moment. If you are cisgender (the gender you were assigned at birth), please read this carefully.

When we have these conversations about trans bodies, it’s easy for you — and even for me — to forget that there’s a person behind these words and this story.

That same woman I found in me, nurtured, and cared for, she exists, and she’s real, and she doesn’t care about genitals and trans narratives. She wants to dress cute, feel loved, stop worrying so damn much, and love others. That’s it. Her ideal life isn’t some treatise in transhumanism, gender philosophy, victimization, and exhibitionism for majority groups. There is a real, living and breathing woman behind these words who cries when she accidentally steps on her dog’s tail, wants to marry her partners and raise children, and loves spicy food.

My experience is novel and unusual, for sure, but all of this work and effort and pain and surgery and suffering and worry and crying and weeping and hormones and politics and advocacy and fearing for my life has but one actual goal for me, and for others: to have the life any cisgender person does.

I shouldn’t have to do all of this, worry about all of this, philosophize the very core of my existence every waking moment, all for the sake of having a life like you probably do, if you’re cisgender. But I do have to do that, and I need for you to understand, even if I am spelling it out directly, that I am putting in all this monumental effort and rearranging my entire body all to have the sort of existence you do.

I know from behind your screen that my story and the stories of others like me are somewhere between hopeful and inspiration porn. The reason I am sharing myself with you this way is so that, at the very core of it, you will understand that we want the same things. We all want to be content, to have space to breathe, and to feel loved and accepted.

Stay tuned for Part II.

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