Being Dana… Do I need a vagina? And other questions.

  • Do I need a vagina?
  • Will I survive the procedure?
  • Will I survive/thrive not having the procedure?
  • Will I finally feel complete?
  • Will I still be discriminated against?

These questions are ones that form in the minds of nearly all who identify as transgender female. A few of these are often questions that we don’t allow others (those who are not transgender) to ask or have much input on. This is because they are of a very personal nature. Why does the general public or anyone outside of my partner(s) and medical providers need or want to know what my genitals look like? The short answer is THEY DON’T!

Through my transition process I have become a very open person. I am choosing to share with you information that deals with the very core of who I am. I’m going to try my best to answer these questions. I’ll work from the bottom of the list up.

Will I still be discriminated against?

Yes, I will be.
This question, unfortunately, is somewhat rhetorical in nature. Until we as humans learn to treat each other with love and kindness, those of us who are different for any reason will be subject to discrimination. Specifically I feel I will always be judged as I enter women only spaces. This is mostly due to my stature. I am over six feet tall. Yes, I know there are many cisgender women who are tall. These other tall women do not usually have the more masculine features that years of testosterone have cursed me with. The ones which make people wonder things like… Does she have an adam’s apple? Is that a beard shadow I see?
I want to also draw attention to the recent US Supreme Court case which made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace against transgender people. While this is a huge victory it is only one part of the problems we face. An administration who actively attempts to make rules to limit our basic human rights is still in power. I fear these actions will continue to escalate as long as this administration is in place.

Will I finally feel complete?

I have chased an elusive feeling of being complete for most all of my existence. In my youth before life got in the way I tasted it briefly. It was in the few times I played in typical feminine gender roles. Now as an adult transgender woman I live closer to this feeling now than I have ever before. However, I’m not sure I will ever feel complete. I do hope to feel content with myself and my body. One area I doubt I will ever feel complete is with my lived experience as a woman. The fact that I was not born equipped with female genitalia and the accoutrements has limited my experience as a woman.

One example of this limitation is that I will never truly experience a monthly cycle. I do, however, have some monthly symptoms thanks to my hormone replacement therapy regimen. I am also of the age where most women my age are entering menopause. I will likely be on female hormones for the remainder of my life. If I remain on my current dosages it is possible I may never experience menopause. Many cisgender women think this may be a blessing. I, and a number of transgender women, see this as a curse.

Another example is that I was not socialized as a female. I do not have the experience of my older sisters or friends teaching me how to do makeup or how I should act in a specific situation. While I have learned a great deal regarding the safety concerns all women face, their importance will never have the same bearing on my actions. I also have missed out on the multitude of the smaller things which shaped younger girls into the women they are.

Will I survive/thrive not having the procedure?

Wow! Is this a loaded question?!

I began hormones over a year and a half ago. Shortly after that time I began presenting as my true female self. The differences in how I feel on a day to day basis are astounding. I no longer suffer from extended periods of depression. I do feel down from time to time but the extremes are nowhere near as severe.

The part of transition which I now despise is dealing with dysphoria and dysmorphia. That is the anxiety and distress I have knowing that my mind and gender are not congruent with my body. When I first began transitioning, my two largest sources of these were the existence of facial hair and the nonexistence of breasts. Hormones are slowly taking care of the breasts for me. The painful process of electrolysis is taking care of the facial hair. Not worrying about these being incorrect for my mind has left an opportunity for another source to take more processing cycles in my brain. Enter genital dysmorphia.

This is a relatively new thing for me. In my male history, I never really had an issue with the ownership and use of a penis. I do know and understand I over sexualized a great many things in my youth. Some people including my therapist have suggested this was an overcompensation method I developed to block out my dysphoria. If I constantly made sexual jokes from the male perspective that I would convince myself I was just a regular guy. I find myself thinking that my anatomy is incorrect. These thoughts are so pervasive that I am unable to look at my male parts in a mirror, while showering, or when I am naked without discomfort. These feelings are intensifying every day. Will they reach a similar level like those that forced me into depression cycles before I came out? I am of the belief they will. Would I be able to manage these levels? Should I have to?

More and more the answer I am finding to this is no. I should be allowed and encouraged to take advantage of a medical method that may relieve my mental anguish.

Will I survive the procedure?

A gender confirmation surgery is a major surgery. There are the usual risks associated with any major surgery. Am I healthy enough to survive? I think I am. I try to eat well and exercise some. I have lost quite a few pounds since coming out and beginning hormone therapy. Many of my transgender sisters gain weight when on hormones. I have had a history of heart conditions, specifically AFIB and SVT. These are both heart rhythm abnormalities. I have not been diagnosed with or had any symptoms of these for a few years now. I am now 53 years old. It has been proven that in general older patients do not fare as well as younger ones. Barring any unseen events or conditions I would expect to make it through surgery successfully.

Do I need a vagina?

There are so many factors to consider on this answer. Here are only a few I’ve considered. Will it be covered by my insurance? Will I be eligible for FMLA leave and have a job to return to? Which one of the many variations of the surgery do I want and why? Do I want to have the medical upkeep of dilation? If I don’t would I be satisfied with a zero depth procedure? Will I be able to really select the surgeon I want?

Since I began thinking about the possibility my surety rate has only increased. If I had to answer this question right now I would say I am about 95% sure I do. This percentage varies with the day and my current mental state. Usually it climbs to near full commitment then slides back to my holding pattern level of 95%. My current circumstances afford me a little time to make my final decision.

Do I need a vagina?
Well Maybe…

Let's Do the Time Warp Again