In a couple of weeks, on Tuesday, July 26, I’ll be having a little bit of outpatient surgery, a procedure that is officially known as an “Orchiectomy”, but is probably more clearly understood by its colloquial name, castration.
I’m really excited/nervous and have been having a conversation on Facebook about what would be the proper celebratory rituals to commemorate the occasion. The discussion has ranged from serious and heartfelt thoughts on the writing of liturgy, to the very not serious, but maybe just as heartfelt, throwing of a “Ball Voyage” party at which no nuts will be served.
As good as the conversation has been, my Spidey senses are tingling about the possibility of a trap coming up.
The trap is to think of this procedure as something that will make me more authentically a woman, that I will emerge from the surgery like a butterfly that has finally finished its metamorphosis.
I will be no more authentically a woman on Wednesday the 27th than I was on Monday the 25th, or really, than I was on March 17, 1965. Sophie Labelle, who writes the “Assigned Male” comic put it like this a while back, “I am not a girl trapped in boy’s body, I’m a girl, girls have all kinds of bodies, this is a girl’s body.” (Girl is one of those words that look wrong when you’ve typed it a bunch of times)
There are two dangers to this trap that made me want to bring it up. The first is a danger to myself. If I think of this surgery as The Thing That Will Finally Make Me A Woman, then I’m setting myself up for pain and disappointment. It’s important for me to remember that I am not “becoming” a woman, I am and I always have been a woman, it’s just a matter of learning that truth and living into it.
There are two reasons for this surgery. One is about drugs and hormones. For the last several months I’ve been taking a drug that does chemically what this surgery will do mechanically. That drug is ridiculously expensive, my insurance has been paying all but $150 dollars of the $1,000+ the drug costs each month, which means it’s not a long term solution. The advantage of either the drug or the surgery is that it lowers the dosage of estrogen that I’m required to take, which is safer and healthier for me. (high dose estrogen increases the chance of strokes, blood clots, and cardiac problems)
The second reason for the surgery is legal, once I’ve had what is quaintly referred to in legalese as “irreversible genital surgery” I’ll be able to get my birth state to issue a new birth certificate, and with that I’ll be able to get rid of that pesky “M” on my driver’s license. I’ll also be able get a passport with an “F” on it. Squee.
The second danger of the trap is larger than just me. I want to say very clearly and carefully that, just because I am choosing to have surgery, that doesn’t mean that surgery is normative or even desirable for other trans people. Many trans people will never have, nor even ever want to have, any kind of surgery. And that’s fine. They are not any less authentically trans than someone who has all the surgeries. Their experiences and lives are not lesser because they are on a different path. Their experiences are just as real, just as valid and just as important as anyone else’s.
When Caitlyn Jenner came out, I worried that the general public would take her experience and her ability to have fabulous clothes, hair, and makeup to be the way trans people “should” be.
Passing is not the way trans people “should” be. Surgery is not the way trans people “should” be. Femme is not the way trans women “should” be. Butch is not the way trans men “should” be.
The only thing they “should” be is themselves. In exactly, perfectly, and only the way they want to be.
Update August 1: The surgery hasn't happened yet. The insurance company is still making up their minds about whether they will pay for it or not. Currently looking at August 9, but don't know for sure.