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I had a sex change. I guess.

June 4, 2014

By the time this goes out, I will be coming round from a knockout induced by “dancing bear” drugs, after having undertaken what is, I hope, I most important operation of my life.

I am having a large amount of breast issue surgically removed from my chest. This is known to people like me as “top surgery” and is something nearly every transgendered man wants.

I know to some people, my operation seems extreme. To call this “a sex change” is to misunderstand what they entail and how long in the making they are. They’re ongoing, to the extent where they never really end. I’ll have to take in hormones artificially for the rest of my life after all, and watch out for transman specific health problems.

For generations now, regular people have had this vague idea that, when you undertake gender reassignment, you just sort of wander into the hospital, slap your various bits down on the operating table and request the surgeon lop ’em off and stick other stuff on. “‘Morrow, my good woman. I believe today I’ll have one 9 incher and two medium bollocks, please.”

In actuality, the process is so slow that trans people get depressed by the process. My story is typical; I decided to transition, tentatively, at the age of 18. I started to tell people about it at 19 when I couldn’t conceivably put it off any longer. I started hormones at 20. I got the go-ahead for top surgery at 22. I will be 24 this August, two months after this operation. That makes a total of about six years psychological transition time.

During all this, a lot of trans people get frustrated. They give up hope of ever having the body they crave. My advice to all transmen is not to put life on hold for the 2-6 years it takes to get that surgery. In the interim, you learn to grow in other ways. You get a stronger sense of how much of what you feel is inherent, and how much it is due to problems in your environment that you must either accept or change.

Transitioning has taught me a lot about gender perceptions and differences, open mindedness, adulthood, relationships, the importance of valuing your health and body, and above all, patience. Patience sounds like that nagging voice from your childhood that asks you to wait for sweets, but in reality it is the logical slow burner that allows you to put your life into perspective and think about long term goals. Patience is a loyal friend that belongs only to you and that no one can take; if you part with it, it will have been your choice.

If it didn’t take a transman six years to get to this state, he would skip out on his most formative years. We have a wonderful opportunity, not merely to wake up looking how we want and trot off on our merry way no wiser for experience, but to slowly and carefully decide where we want to take our lives in the grand scheme of all the choices we have – and indeed, all the choices we do not have. This is why the waiting, and accepting the wait, is so important.

When you’re about to have an operation, you get irrational thoughts sometimes. Yesterday at dinner with my wonderful family (no Dad, unfortunately), I couldn’t shake the melancholy feeling that it was the last time I would be doing so. I didn’t really expect anything to go wrong; it’s not that kind of surgery, and my faith in doctors thus far has rarely been misplaced.

I wanted to say, as frankly as possible, that even if the risks were considerably greater, I would still take them. That makes my decision sound irrational, but on the contrary; if gender transition was a desire or a whim (bless my old Nan, I think she thinks it’s like getting a tattoo), this long determination would not exist. I want people to know that if by some absurd freak accident I die on the operating table, it would still have been worth it. Before now, life has been practice for this new life, a learning experience that I appreciate but can’t wait to graduate from.

People who are against trans surgery might take this hypothetical death which-will-never-happen-in-a million-years as proof of the extremity of trans surgery and what a tragic waste it is. What they don’t understand is that our lives are dependent on pivotal moments like these, and without them, all the patience in the world would mean nothing; we would have no lives to get on with. Like most people, our lives don’t simply exist or pop into being, they build, slowly. The obstacle to that is our bodies, so with every nip, tuck and hormone injection, we become more able to live.

The beginning of my puberty kick-started my gender dysphoria in earnest. Twelve years, half my life, is a long time to live with any one thing. I won’t accept the condescension of suggesting that, after such a long time, I don’t know what I’m doing. When one dedicates half one’s life to anything, it’s safe to assume they’re serious and have given it some thorough consideration. I should think it is uncommon to spend twelve years meditating on one specific problem and still be uncertain as to what to do about it.

Some kind and well-meaning people sometimes tell me how “brave” I am. I don’t mind, but it feels like an unearned compliment. Whenever I hear this, it makes me think of the The Hours; an aged mother whose son committed suicide had, in her youth, left her dependent children and husband in order to pursue an individual life, at a time when such a thing was simply not done. What she said about it resonated strongly with me : “What does it mean to regret, when you have no choice? It was death. I chose life.”

I think the same thing about bravery. What does it mean to be brave, when you have no choice? I could have gone on as I was, not enjoying anything that this one life has to offer, or I could take whatever opportunities I have to enjoy it as best I can. I don’t consider that a real choice.

 

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From → Gender Politics

5 Comments
  1. My prayers for a safe and successful operation and joy for your newly found happiness. Don’t let the world define what only you can. That is why they call you brave. You aren’t content relegated to a life of unhappiness. Instead you are grabbing the bull by its horns and taking charge. Weather you believe it or not that takes courage and is brave. So many today deny who they really are inside. I am pleased you aren’t afraid to let the world see what you know you’ve been all along. Live long and live well. Many blessings to you.

  2. Howard Childs permalink

    Good luck with the operation Adrian, great post, great news.

  3. Not too far in the future you will wake up one day and be unable to imagine ever having breasts. And you be amazed at how much energy you used living with them. And relieved you will never have to do it again. Speedy recovery.

  4. Beautifully written. I admire anyone who goes against extreme odds to be their true self I think that trans people are often wiser than their age, and have a unique perspective, because they’ve experienced life as both sexes. It’s a shame that we cisgendered people can learn a lot from trans people but most of us choose not to.

  5. androguyandcat permalink

    This is an amazing blog … Come check mine out

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