Why I want “the” surgery…

I am in the process of preparing for Gender Confirmation Surgery, and a frequent question I get asked is why I want to have the surgery.

Some ask for curiosity, others just can’t contemplate why anyone would ever put themselves through such an ordeal. Some see the surgery as elective, not medically necessary, and very risky. However to me its not elective, and no matter how high the risks are, I’d still be willing to do it anyway. This can create some misunderstanding, even amongst loved ones.

So I decided to write this piece to help explain why I personally feel this way. Hopefully it shed some more light on the subject as the answers to these and other questions around the subject are somewhat complex and multifaceted.

The mind/body disconnect

When I was very little, I do not recall this being a problem. In the very early stages of life, my mind and body were still OK with their relationship with each other. The bigger issue at the time, was how I was simply perceived by others. So, you may understand why I thought when I was little I could simply fix my issues with just a wardrobe change and maybe some longer hair. However, as I grew older, I lost this simple solution when my body started to change and created a conflict with my mind/body relationship. I had originally thought puberty would save me, when my perceived inside female parts would start to develop. Instead, to much my horror, I started to develop into a young man. It was during this phase of my life, that a new problem emerged; body dysphoria!

Some relatively minor body modifications took my gender identity issue and made it much more complicated. My body started to look a bit alien to me. Some would just chalk this up to the changes we all go through in development, but I believe this was a bit different from what others experienced through their puberty. To me, it simply didn’t look right, but the larger issues was that it wasn’t what my mind was expecting. This was the start of what I refer to as “the mirror problem”. (I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror, because each time I did, it reminded me of the reality I was living in.) My mind thought my body was going to go in one direction while my body was headed in a completely different direction. My mind and body essentially disconnected.

From that point forward, I had to live with a form of body dysphoria that didn’t start to get fixed until I finally started HRT. When I started taking hormones, I experienced some of what I would consider some of the strangest side effects. It felt as if my body was yelling at me, internally, as I was overwhelmed with the feeling that it was …”about time” and “we expected this a long, long, time ago”! Its really hard to put that in words and its likely an experience that only trans people go through, but to me, it was a feeling of biologic acceptance (if such a thing even exists). After being disconnected such a long time ago, I felt as though my mind and body were quite literally reconnecting. If this was the way puberty was supposed to go such a long time ago…I would have loved it…instead of the misery I was left to deal with in its aftermath.

I now catch glimpses of myself and I am much more content with the image I see. I had finally found the cure to the mirror problem! It amazes me how things could come together and it quite literally makes me ecstatic! (Could be some of the basis behind why so many transgender people are also selfie queens.) It sort of explains why people think I am obsessed at times with my appearance. I reflect back on the progress I have made and I can still recall from where I came. I quite frankly kick myself in the butt and wonder why (I know why) it took so long to start the process.

People state that they see the positive changes this has brought as a result and wonder what more I would want? I now blend better in public. Isn’t all of this enough? Eg, to be now treated and seen as the woman I am? The quick answer is NO! The problem is that all that body dysphoria comes back when I view a certain area of the body. Its still very alien to me and now looks even more out of place than it has ever before. In fact, if anything, dysphoria for that particular area has actually gotten worse!

I had desperately tried to come to terms with my dilemma because I was not aware of anything that could be done to fix it. This was simply the horror I had to deal with, as I settled into a routine of private behaviors that I tried to keep from others. These were never fully satisfying because all they did was remind me of my predicament. I was always desperately looking for a solution. HRT cannot reverse all the areas that developed in other directions. Its true that it has had effects in the genital area, as it got smaller and completely useless in regards to its old function. Now, don’t get me wrong, I never consider these side effects to be a problem at all! I always saw the function of it somewhat equivalent to the sentiments of “when in Rome, act like a Roman” sort of thing…nothing more. I don’t miss one bit that it won’t function any more like it did.

Now that I am on a path of correcting my issues, it is very important to me to bring this area into alignment as well. It will be a very joyous day when I can look in the mirror and see nothing that looks out of place. I have never really known this for the majority of my life, so as you can imagine; I can’t wait for that to happen!

Note — I still have the same notions that every other woman has looking in the mirror. There are forty million little things I would like to change (be bigger here, smaller there, lose weight, etc..), but they are not in same category as above…

The other simple fact, in regard to that area…is that my mind thinks it already exists.

Its kind of hard to explain that concept to people that you feel like you have organs/structures that you never have had…but I imagine that people who have lost of limb know exactly what I am talking about. And besides just thoughts, this has been readily prevalent in other areas for me as well. For example, in dreams. I can not even count how many times I had dreams of being complete, and its always a bit disappointing when I wake up and return to my reality. Some day, I hope that this too will no longer be a dream and transition to reality.

Feeling Awkward and sometimes embarrassed

Knowing where I have come from, I can’t help but feel a little like I am still strange and somewhat of an outsider when talking with other women. Some say that this is part of the socialization I missed out on skipping the experiences of growing up female (and may play a role), but is more about that I still have a secret I don’t necessarily wish to expose. The physicality of having different parts makes me feel that I am betraying those of my own kind. It happens all the time going through normal life. When I am in the bathroom, when I am walking alone in a city, etc. I fear that something is going to happen to cause me to be exposed or someone is going to blurt out my secret at any time. (When a family member miss-genders me, I get the same vibes…) Truth is, that while having the extra parts I shouldn’t have, I am vulnerable in so many different scenarios.

God forbid I am ever put into any bad situation, but I have some serious concerns for certain situations. I get deranged feelings that I could pass out (or get drugged) at a party, when a deranged rapist takes advantage of me only to find extra body parts that he was not expecting. All of a sudden, a sexual assault has a good chance of changing into murder or other life threatening mutilations. Will having the right body parts help to save me in such a situation? Possibly… Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to experience any such situation, and it feels really strange to feel that way…but I do.

But it goes much further than that, into situations that are real and happen every day. Things can occur with certain types of clothing. Girls like me limit themselves from wearing leggings or other potentially exposing clothing. But there are some that can not be avoided. For me, being a cyclist, its the tight fitting outfits known as kit’s, or the ever so famous skin suit. As you can imagine by the name, they leave very little to the imagination. Every bodily flaw and feature is exposed, or at a minimum known. Now, there are techniques to assist a girl like me in situations like these, but with the effects of HRT, things down in the genital area have gotten a lot harder to control. The fact that you are performing movements as a part of your efforts, potentially over a very long period of time, I never know how things are going to look down there when I get off the bike. I think men cyclists sometimes strut around proudly knowing this fact, but for me it’s the last thing I want others to perceive!

This situation always has the potential for making me feel embarrassed. It’s, at a minimum, a constant reminder that I am different. And to others who don’t know my story, it can come as completely unexpected. Of course other areas are also exposed (breasts, long hair, feminine muscular structures, etc.) but while those areas have been coming into alignment, the genital area is still at odds with the rest of the presentation. At a minimum, it can create awkward situations that can invoke feelings of trickery. It amazes me how quickly a simple conversation can transcend into something else simply from a bump in the wrong place.

The internal peace that will come as a result of not having to worry about this any more will be priceless!

Freedom to be….

It is those things that I have discussed above, that keep me on guard, as well as not trying to expose myself too much. Therefore, I police myself to attempt not to put myself into situations that could become very dangerous.

Realize, that it also means that I don’t have the freedom to really be my true self. For example, who has not been a bit flirtatious when they feel attracted to another or just want to get a reaction from another of the opposite sex? It simply plays out in society in all sorts of ways. It can be somewhat expected in certain situations and considered odd when someone is not participating.

Take this situation as an example. You get together with some girl friends for a drink at a bar after work on a Friday. You feel some camaraderie within the group as you discuss kids, clothing, and other general life challenges. A good looking guy walks by your table and presents a nice smile as he walks by. The conversation immediately turns to wonderment and love. Some curious ribbing occurs as the group knows you are single. They may or may not know your entire story, and there is no reason to bring it up. You are just being one of the girls, enjoying a night out with friends. Later, an offer to buy a drink comes in as an opening for an introduction…and immediately a whole scenario plays out in your mind. It never ends well, at least not at this time. Immediately, you will have to make a choice to decide when to expose your past. And certainly that can not involve any sexual based relations at this point in time to avoid any potential hostilities. The best approach to me at the moment, is to decline any offers and lie, if necessary, when they are presented.

However, this comes with it’s own set of problems, as I feel torn due to the constraints on being not able to fully participate in life. How much would it have hurt to accept? Accepting a drink or conversation simply doesn’t have to end in some romantic encounter; this is something that happens all the time. Simple scenarios like this are likely playing out in some bar in the world right now. So, at some point, this has to end. Being alone and single, I am of course lonely and desire some companionship at some point in the future. The only way to resolve that is to once again participate in these scenarios. Although I will try being upfront and truthful about my past, there's a freedom and confidence level that comes with knowing that I can meet all the expectations of those that I am attracting. I really don’t have that right now — being pre op, so I feel I have to remain on guard.

Death by a thousand pricks….

When you are different, there are a lot of things that can hurt you, expose you, and make you vulnerable or embarrassed. The overall feeling is one of a slow death by a thousand little pricks. Yes, each situation hurts, but can be dealt with at the time. It’s truly the combination of all of this, that runs you down over time. All these situations have a tendency to dominate my experiences, thoughts, and concerns. I can not wait until it I can put it in my past.

Making my own miracles…

When I was younger, I can’t tell you how many times I desperately prayed for a miracle to happen. That I would fall asleep and wake up the next day fixed. Of course I thought if I prayed harder, was nicer to others, and lots of other things God would have to grant my wish. Of course, it never happened. But will it?

I spent most of my life trying to conform and live up to other’s expectations. I eventually reached a point where that was killing me. I had to stop and do something different. I had to take control of my situation and after starting transition, I came to realize that I was starting to make my own miracles come true. Maybe this is how God was answering those prayers? Maybe I had to endure this due to some grander plan I was not aware of? Of course, if I was not made the way I was, I would not have met my wife, had my kids, and met many of the people I once had in my life. Some of these were not only good things, but great things. So, I guess I can’t really complain. His timing may have not been what I wanted, but he also gave me the courage and tools to make my own miracles happen. So, one day in the near future, what I have prayed for so many times is going to become reality. I am quite literally going to go to sleep one day and wake up as complete a female as the doctor’s can make me.

So meet the real me; I am Christine Anne Penn —my own miracle maker!

Some will think this is selfish, and maybe it is, but I am still doing this for me whether you like it or not. I have to!

Conclusion

There are many reasons why I want to have the surgery. A feeling of completeness, a sense of feeling part of the group, and removing concerns about being exposed. But in the end, it is really about the fulfillment of a long outstanding dream that started as a child when I first realized that I was different and had a problem. The emotions surrounding that are incredibly powerful!

Now knowing some of my motivations, I hope you can understand why having the surgery just feels like the right thing to do and why it will make me very happy to do so. Just know that some things in life are worth every cent of the cost and risks. And other things…priceless…

Trans woman, cyclist, software engineer, author, chef, and many other things.