Tag Archives: transwomen

Me and My Surgically Created Vulva: A Love Story

My own pride n’ joy was created under the gifted and extremely skilled hands of Dr. Pierre Brassard of Montreal, Quebec Canada

A NOTE FROM RACHEL’S MINISTRY OF PUBIC AWARENESS

Before we *ahem* delve into the delights of my female anatomy you’ll probably want to move on if you are a younger person and/or are offended by words beginning with the letter V. I really do try and keep this site as family friendly as possible despite dealing with the nitty-gritty of transgendered life—but at times it’s simply impossible.

Okay, now that that my debt to social responsibility has been paid, I’d like to discuss the realities of life when one possesses a surgically created vulva. I’d use the more commonly used word, vagina, but apart from sounding like a certain Swedish automobile, vulva is the more accurate term insomuch as it encompasses more of the female anatomy including (but not limited to) the clitoris, and labia majora and minora—all of which I now possess.

Some may wonder why I would chose to discuss such a private and intimate subject in a public forum but the reason is quite simple. There remains a lot of misinformation and curiosity surrounding transsexuals—especially post-operative ones such as myself. So in the interest of furthering our collective knowledge and perhaps dispelling some falsehoods in the process I offer the following observations.

I was operated on by Dr. Pierre Brassard of the Clinique de chirurgie esthétique at 995, De Salaberry East Montréal Québec on Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008. So as of this writing I am 4 years post-operative. Wow! does time ever fly!

The name of the procedure is called vaginoplasty. Various techniques exist but I’ll simply focus on the specific procedure employed by Dr. Brassard. And what better way to answer the details of Dr. Brassard’s technique than to do a quick cut and paste from his own website:

The technique used is the one step penile inversion. It is done under general or spinal anaesthesia as an inpatient in the hospital. The duration is 2 ½ hours. The scrotal skin is removed along with the testicles. The neoclitoris is fashioned from the tip of the penis (glans) keeping its blood and nerve supply (neurovascular island flap).

The labia majora are formed with some of the penis skin, the hood and the labia minora with urethral mucosa and penis skin.

The space for the vagina is dissected behind the meatus (urinary tube) between the bladder and the rectum. The penis skin is inverted to line the vagina and the thinned scrotal skin graft is sutured to the end of the penis skin tube. Hair roots on the scrotal skin graft are destroyed with the cauthery. A urinary catheter is put into the bladder, a packing of cotton covered with a condom is put inside the vagina. The prostate is not removed.

Source: http://srsmontreal.com/2009/09/08/vaginoplasty-description/

Well, I certainly hope that got your juices flowing. Yeesh!

After a few days the catheter and cotton covered condom is removed. And it’s a case of getting familiar with your own portable sitz bath and walking awkwardly (what we called, the Montreal straddle, hobble, waddle, etc…). The days immediately following surgery are not much fun to say the least. The most obvious challenge was sitting down to eat. I confess I did a lot of eating while standing at the dinner table. 🙂 Nonetheless, the near euphoria obtained from finally looking like a woman down there; not to mention the effect of post-operative medications contributed to a general state of well being.

The operative expression here (pardon the pun) is no regrets!

Obviously, the most frequently asked question about all this is can you orgasm? The answer is an unqualified, yes! I had my first inkling as to how things were going to work in this regard during the flight back from Montreal. Knowing I’d be out of commission for some period of time during my stay in Montreal I wisely brought along a few books to read. Notable among these was Holly Black’s excellent “Tithe” Trilogy (I blog about Melissa Marr and Holly Black elsewhere on this site). It’s an epic romance fantasy adventure seated within the urban faerie genre.

Holly is a great writer and there’s some mild but undeniably hot scenes in Tithe. Well, I came across one of these erotically tinged vignettes and reacted pretty much as you might expect a woman to react. My new anatomy responded with an involuntary spasm that sent an unmistakable signal of pleasure to the dopamine receptors in my brain. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I contentedly thought, “So this is how this is going to work!”

Just over a week post-op I was able to experience my first full-blown orgasm. The things I am aware of when it comes to my female orgasm as opposed to the ones I had as a male is that now I tingle all over my body and I’m aware of extra sensation both in my nipples and toes. While I have not had sex with a man post-op I have tried out a little vibrator I picked up at a sex-toy party one of the girls from work hosted. My only complaint—I should have purchased a larger model!

My clitoris is gloriously sensate but it can be super annoying if a stray pubic hair happens to come in contact with it; which has happened on occasion. Fortunately, it’s mostly just a little pleasure bud awaiting some gentle stimulation in order for it to perform as intended.

With regards to sex with men—I am in a permanent life-long committed relationship with a loving, attractive female so in my case that admittedly tantalizing prospect is off my bucket list. However, I welcome my post-op sisters who have had that experience and do not mind discussing it to post their comments here.

With regards to a related question: How deep is your vagina? In my case I have a depth of 5 inches which according to my gynecologist and Dr. Brassard is entirely satisfactory for male-female coitus. Of course, I can hear the comments of some men from here:

Not deep enough for me baby!”

These are the guys that show up at the local drugstore determined to buy the product designed especially for them:

Vanity marketing? Do you have these in XXL?
All Prices are Canadian 🙂

My vagina also lubricates. Part of the reason for that is the presence of my prostate gland. Does it bother me that the prostate wasn’t removed? Frankly yes, but the rationale for its presence postoperatively is that it does help lubricate my vulva. Keep in mind, my trust in Brassard’s expertise when it came to entrusting my self to his care was pretty near absolute. Therefore, his insistence on maintaining the overtly masculine gland was accepted albeit with a tinge of regret.

Does my vagina smell like a cisgendered woman’s? Yes. However, I lack some of the naturally occurring bacteria that help keep a woman’s vulva fresh smelling. Therefore I have to be more vigilant with regards to my hygiene. It’s not overly concerning, but something I need to be aware of. In my case, disposable wipes handle any outstanding issues nicely.

Does my vulva look like a cisgendered woman’s? Again, the answer is yes. My wife can certainly affirm that but so can my gynecologist. Yes, I get one of those now too 🙂 I see him only infrequently but I must say I was delighted with his comments following my first appointment. I guess he did not have many post-operative patients but what he said warmed my heart—if not my vagina—those instruments are cold!

He looked up from where he had been inspecting Dr. Brassard’s handiwork and he said to me with a voice that resonated with a respect that bordered on awe.

“I want you to know that the man who did this was extremely [he then paused for dramatic effect] extremely skilled.”

Of course I had to ask outright—does it look like other vaginas you see?

The answer was an unqualified Yes.

Well, I think I could have floated out of the room at that point. I was certainly on cloud 9.

Again, I try and keep this blog generally accessible for all  but you can see examples of Brassard’s surgical outcomes at the following website:

http://www.annelawrence.com/brassard.html

Dr. Lawrence takes a critical and objective analysis of Brassard’s work but generally rates him highly. I know I certainly do!

In order to maintain my vagina’s depth I am required to dilate a recommended time of 15 minutes once a week, but life being what it is generally results in a more frequent schedule of once every two-weeks. It’s a bit uncomfortable as I have to insert a stent inside my delicate lady bits.

Ahhh… The Stuff Dreams are Made of

The dilators come in a variety of widths and you generally progress from smallest to largest as your new anatomy continues to heal. Since I have been post-op for so long I get to enjoy the company of “Mr. Big” the number 6 in the set I was given. Of course, when not in use they make lovely candle like decorations when displayed to effect! I’m joking! I’m joking!

Am I glad I had the operation? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Again, I have “no regrets” at all. If I had to do it all over again, I would—but sooner! For me the whole process of transitioning has been like Goldilocks finding that specific bed, porridge, and chair and concluding just as she did that “this one is just right!”

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Jenna Talackova and the Miss Universe Pageant: Who Wins and Who Loses?

On the eve of the Canadian leg of of the Miss Universe Pageant, all the media attention remains fixed on Jenna Talackova, the transgendered contestant that took on Donald Trump’s glittering showcase of feminine allure and won. Well sort of. The problem is that Jenna has been forced to dance along a rather narrow and extremely slippery runway. On the one-hand her presence and the knowledge that she is transgendered has brought the world’s attention bowing at her pretty feet. On the other, she is not viewed simply as a woman but rather as a transgendered woman.

While all the attention is undoubtedly welcomed from a career perspective and as an opportunity to promote transgender awareness, the negative impact for Jenna on a very personal level is the very real challenge to her identity as a woman, albeit as an extremely attractive woman.

For most male to female transsexuals the ultimate goal is to simply disappear and take our place amongst our cisgendered sisters, shoulder-to-shoulder as it were, completely indistinguishable from any other woman. It’s a difficult challenge for most anyone born with an XY chromosome combination and made even more difficult for those socialized in the gender role normally associated with that particular pattern.

Jenna is one of the fortunate few for whom “stealth” living could have been a viable option. By stealth I mean the ability to live beneath the world’s scrutiny with regards to her surgical past. She “passes”; that is she looks and acts just as she appears to be, a beautiful woman indistinguishable from any other aspiring beauty queen. But, she was “outed” and so has had to run the gauntlet of media scrutiny suffering the transphobic barbs of Donald Trump, and the hateful ignorant put-downs of a largely misinformed public.

For many transgendered women stealth is not an option. It certainly isn’t for me. I do reasonably well in that regard but still, escaping the scrutiny of the public at large remains a decidedly unrealistic goal. So to some extent, Jenna is “wearing one for the team” taking the criticism in graceful stride while promoting transgender awareness and furthering tolerance in a world reluctant to be so.

Of course the big winner in all this brouhaha is Donald Trump, himself. The Miss Universe Pageant and others like it are viewed by many as antiquated spectacles out of touch with women’s rights and new millennium sensibilities. Ratings have been down in past years and Ms.Talackova’s arrival on the scene could not be more welcomed. She has been a media winfall for the pageant and even Trump with all his millions must be thinking: “You can’t pay for this kind of publicity”.

Jillian Page of the Montreal Gazette recently lamented:

We’ve talked about this before: the word “transgender” is not necessary. In fact, it is considered to be discriminatory by many people. But the media are having a field day with the Jenna Talackova story, and as several senior editors have told me, the “transgender” angle is the hook — they would not be reporting this story if Jenna had been a “natural-born woman,” whatever that means.

(source: http://blogs.montrealgazette.com/author/jillianpage21/)

Sadly, I am forced to agree with Jillian’s editors. One need only look at Alex Nino Gheciu’s National Post article emblazoned with the provocative and oh so delightfully salacious title: “Jenna Talackova: Buying Undies and Stealing the Spotlight” to understand all one needs to know about the media’s take on all this.

Gheciu’s article is a blow by blow account of a Miss Universe sponsored shopping spree in which Ms.Talackova’s transgendered presence is clearly seen as the glittering jewel in the crown of whatever media coverage the pageant has been able to generate:

4:15 p.m. The media swarm continues to follow Ms. Talackova through the mall, almost shoving other contestants out of the way in the process.

4:35 p.m. Majd Souti, 26, and Kuyan Elliot, 19, take their time shopping at Sephora, ordering around employees who scurry to find them just the right shades of blush. They’ve been left mostly left unnoticed by reporters, but harbour no hard feelings toward Ms. Talackova. “As long as the judging is fair and we’re all treated equally,” says Ms. Souti. “It’ll just make winning that much better and losing not too bitter because you’re losing to strong competition.” Adds Ms. Elliot: “I’m proud of her for having the strength to do this. She’s honestly, like, a really amazing person.”

(http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/15/jenna-talackova-toronto/)

Sadly, the actual judging will not be fair regardless of outcome. Simply put, the knowledge that Jenna underwent sex-change surgery is too big a hurdle for most people to overcome. Even with the most positive spin: “Wow! I can’t believe that absolute fox used to be a guy.” it remains a case of “she used to be”. Can the judges dispel all thoughts regarding Jenna’s past given the media exposure she’s received? Let’s face it even criminal trials have been ruled mistrials due to media exposure influencing a jury’s decision. Will the Miss Universe judges be able to overcome media influence in this case? I sincerely doubt it.

Will we ever see a time when the words trans-woman or transgendered woman fall into disuse? Honestly, I can only see that happening when medical science and social consciousness reach a level where transgendered women are “completely” indistinguishable from their cisgendered sisters—in every dimension: menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, menopause and all that attends those functions as well as in presentation and sociopsychological expression.

So who wins here?

Donald Trump is the obvious winner. His biggest hope has to be that Jenna wins the Canadian title so he can reap the benefits of her presence in the big show. Even if she takes the Canadian title and puts in an appearance for the Miss Universe Pageant it’s a one off and things will settle down once Jenna passes through (barring the unlikely event that she wins the whole thing).

For Jenna, herself, it’s book deals, fashion photo-spreads, and offers from certain men’s magazines. If she wins the title, critics will say she only won because she’s a transsexual. If she fails to place high enough it will be thought she faced unfair discrimination because of media exposure. The truth is, Jenna is not seen and will not be seen in the same light as her competitors.

And on that account, no one wins.

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