Friday, 6 March 2015

Surgery - its contemplation and aftermath

T-Central is currently featuring a number of bloggers who are discussing surgery as a possibility, and the question of whether it's worth it. And quite rightly. Any transsexual person realises that you can't be 'part-time'. It's not a hobby or passing interest. You are transsexual 24/7 and forever. You'd rather have been born 'right' in the first place. It didn't happen. So, if MTF, you have an issue to be coped with: being female inside, but looking male outside.

Some lucky people remain quite blissfully unaware that this is their problem. The rest are all too horribly conscious of it, and all the many, many implications.

Implications, because nobody grows up in a vacuum. Everyone has a place in their family of birth, schooling, personal friends, and if adult, work colleagues and residential neighbours. Everyone lives in a definite place, and are affected for better or worse by the prevailing local culture and all its attitudes. Most people commit to a relationship. Many become parents.

Coming out and disturbing all of this for a personal reason, no matter how urgent, is a huge thing to do. I have never yet read any believable advice on how to accomplish it without pain or loss. I have never even glimpsed the secret myself. But the answer must be there, somewhere. If enough people chew it over, some consensus should surely emerge, a list perhaps of some basic things to do that work - or at least mitigate the distress on all sides. So it's good to talk it all over, again and again and again. Every individual take, every single one, is another insight into a shared challenge.

Some manage their gender problem with a range of straightforward palliatives, ranging from escapist fantasy, to continuous therapy, to a launch into structured medical care and carefully-programmed hormone treatment. And, by all accounts, being highly distracted with work, or strenuous physical activity, or concentrated creative endeavour of some kind, certainly helps. But of course the ultimate 'cure' is genital surgery, and possibly a range of additional surgeries to feminise where hormones have proved insufficient.

In reply to one recent post featured by T-Central, I said this about genital surgery:

Surgery provides an enormous feeling of authenticity, so that you not only feel female (if MTF) but the right physical appearance is now there. It’s a rearrangement of your own flesh to make you look different, and not a brain operation, although the post-op psychological effects are very strong. The op is also a one-way ticket, and, even if you could afford and obtain a ‘surgical reversal’ you could never be restored to how you once were. So it is indeed a life-changing event, and requires careful weighing-up.

I’d hope - given the wealth of information and advice now available on the Internet - that it would be straightforward to assess the risks of the surgery itself and the quality of the outcome, and avoid unrealistic expectations. The picture is not one of uniform success in every aspect of post-op living. Having one’s genitals changed doesn’t in itself make you ‘female’ - they are hidden anyway under clothes. A convincing transformation requires a change to everything about you, your entire look, your voice, how you move, how you think and react, who you relate to and whether they sense a woman. No operation is an instant fix.

On my own trans friends’ experience, the op is an essential element in bringing about hugely increased contentment. Most of them have understanding partners or close acquaintances, trans or natal, and a proper life. Nobody I know has expressed any post-op regret, and certainly nobody has sunk into clinical depression or suicide. But almost everyone has had their old world turned upside down, and has known some kind of heartache.

Me? I found out what to expect, took a calculated risk on surviving the op, and today still marvel at the outcome. But I also studied my subject, and put hard work into feminising myself in every way. I can now live the normal life of a socially active older woman, which was my goal. I did not want to seem thirty-something and superbly attractive because that was pointless and dishonest, and likely to lead to disaster.

I love my post-op life. But my precise outcome is unique to me. It is no guide to someone else’s outcome. It is just another positive statistic on favour of looking seriously at the possible benefits of surgery.

Lucy

I could perhaps have added that background circumstances matter enormously. Not everyone was placed as I was. I didn't shipwreck at work, for instance, for I had already retired. I had no children. I lost or spent a small fortune, but acquired an inheritance to tide me over.

I wasn't typical, and remain untypical. Some would even say irrelevant to that trans concensus I mentioned above.

My own act of coming out blew my world up - not all at once, it was a slow-motion explosion - but discovering and then admitting that I might be trans was the trigger for a series of seemingly-inevitable destructive events. The pain and losses followed the usual pattern. But the background position was ultimately going to work in my favour, so that survival was assured. So that now, six years down the line, although I am without many of the things that some would regard as essential for a happy life, I am nevertheless happy. And if we look at how I want to live henceforth, what life within my own terms can be, I am undeniably well set up. I am truly looking forward to the years ahead.

My background circumstances have placed me in charge of my own destiny. That's really what makes my present post-op life enjoyable. Without it I'd be miserable. I positively appreciate my personal freedom and control. There is nobody I must consult, nobody to say no. There is - obviously - nobody special in my life. If that mattered to me, then I'd be frustrated and probably distraught about it by now. As some of my friends actually are. But thankfully it doesn't matter. And so I can go my own way, make all the choices, and follow all my plans through without compromise. I am the sort who never really believed in 'compromise'. It felt like 'surrender'. I believe in the concept of 'no surrender'. I'm a very stubborn person, where my core concerns are concerned. I will concede only to serious illness now, and to the slow tightening grip of old age. There's no escape from that. Meanwhile, I intend to implacably maintain my life-boundaries, and jealously preserve my independence and freedom to choose which way to go.

Has my surgery made me this way?

I think there is at least a connection. The surgery was a very important way of asserting who I was. I certainly didn't seek surgical intervention merely to have female-type sex. I wanted to feel 'authentic'. I wanted to feel that even if I were whirled naked there could be no argument, because my trump card, or the main one anyway, would be revealed.

After the op, I steadily noticed other effects. I walked differently - it was easy and natural to do so. I walked taller too - now why? Was it because I was making an effort to maintain good posture, or a certain new self-assurance? As I said in my post comment above, the psychological effects of surgery are very strong. It stiffens your resolve, increases your self-valuation, and fills you with a determination to succeed. It also lifts your horizon.

2 comments:

  1. I too changed later in life though had tried much earlier without finding that there was medical support...

    With the feeling of rejection still in mind I assumed that GRS was never going to be offered and changed as much as possible without it and found a comfortable new life. It seemed that perhaps GRS was not essential after all and I could live out my days at peace with myself.

    To get HRT on the health service I was forced to attend a gender clinic to be assessed, it took me a while to understand what "help you as far as you need to go" meant, just a two year wait!

    By that stage I thought it would just remove all ambiguity and possible embarrassment, make clothes fit better especially in flimsier summer wear.

    How wrong I was! Once recovered I felt reborn, outwardly to those I knew there would be no discernible difference but for the first time in my lifeI actually felt like I had an authentic and honest self to show to the world...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Lucy,

    You reflect a great many of my thoughts regarding surgery. There is a massively varying degree to how much importance people place on GRS from just a finishing touch to life-saving treatment.

    Myself, I found myself in the life-saving category. I was full socially comfortable in my female gender role so was well aware it would offer no extra ability to "pass" (how I hate that term). However I found my genital dysphoria was incredibly distressing to me. I sadly had to endure the NHS situation which means you are in the power of the gender clinics and despite all this talk of being empowered in your treatment, the reality is they hold the keys to the gates. In retrospect, knowing what I know now, I would have started saving back in 2010 and self funded my own surgery.

    There have been bumps since my very recent surgery and I am trying to even them out. However, these bumps are more to do with longer term realities of transitioning and the effects of being complete are phenomenal. It has had a more powerful effect than I ever dreamed of. I no longer feel I have gender dysphoria, it is completely gone. Ok, so I have the reminder of dilation, but I have managed to embrace that and make it a part of my life so it seems normal and not something I do because I am different. I have no regrets whatsoever and would happily do it all again, it was that powerful and experience.

    Lucy x

    ReplyDelete

This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

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Lucy Melford