[This post includes frank discussion of my body.]
Growing up trans created a catastrophic rift between my mind and my body. Years into transition, I can recognize myself in the mirror, but I’m still healing the split. Little bridge over a great chasm, I cross it slowly, slowly, over and over. Someday I will actually trust it to hold.
An important and intimate part of this reconnection is my relationship with my junk. As I’ve written before, I have no plans for bottom surgery. I have a dick and I am quite content with it.
For years, I was told that I didn’t have a penis, never would or could have a penis, except maybe through (expensive, painful) surgery, and even then, I was told, it wouldn’t really count. I still encounter content on a routine basis that states that trans men who have not had bottom surgery don’t have dicks, which really bugs me. I’m realizing how deeply this psychological castration has affected me. And I’m learning about how my miraculous reverse castration (if you will) changes the way I inhabit the world.
It’s weird to have atypical genitals, a body that doesn’t fit perfectly in either box. I’m not thrilled about sitting down to pee. But I really don’t care that much, because what I’ve got now is such an improvement in terms of my comfort, identity, ability to be naked without vomiting, etc. And I am able to recognize and experience my body as male.
It occurred to me recently that, were I a woman, my body would create intense dysphoria. I’ve been aware that my voice, face, body shape, etc. are clearly male. But I’d held out on acknowledging how clearly male my junk is. My junk is a bit surprising for a man, sure. But, cissexism being what it is, my junk would be way more surprising for a woman. This was a weirdly comforting realization, a confirmation of how far I’ve come.
My doctor remarked on the changes in my genitals after a recent physical. Several years ago, while I was in a storm of changes from testosterone, she asked me how much my “clitoris” had grown. I felt pretty irked by the language–that’s my penis, thanks–but I answered, holding my fingers a couple inches apart. This recent check-up was the first time she’d seen me naked since I started hormones, and afterwards she made a rather confused comment, “There’s been a lot of growth in your, uh. Whatever you call it.” She couldn’t bring herself to describe my junk with female words any longer; it just doesn’t fit. I felt pretty delighted by this. Doctors are so often the arbiters of what words “really” describe our bodies, and mine had just acknowledged that it’s impossible to examine my groin and use female terms with a straight face. I felt like my dick was finally official.
People make a lot of noise about size, but personally, I just don’t give a shit. I’m happy with myself, and I have a partner who loves me and is attracted to me the way I am. So my dick is more like a baby carrot than a regular carrot, more like a baby zucchini than a large zucchini, more like a baby dill pickle than one of those giant pickles they sell at the movie theater…you get the idea.
Edible metaphors aside, the growth I’ve experienced surprised me. It’s tough to find reliable information on this sort of thing, but I had the impression I would grow a lot less. I don’t know if I’m bigger than the typical trans guy, or if I just got the wrong idea, or if I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Probably nobody knows; again, lack of information. For any trans guys who are wondering what to expect: I noticed growth in the first month or two, and it continued through the first two years. Today, my dick is similar in size and shape to my thumb; it ranges between about 1″ and 3″ (I haven’t actually measured, ha) depending on the temperature, whether I have a hard-on, etc. Most importantly for me, my dick is the most, er, prominent feature of that part of my body.
What’s really surprised me is how much the growth has shifted my sense of my body. I lived for more than 20 years with the constant pain of a phantom limb I didn’t know I had. I really feel like I’m slowly healing some deep wound as I relate to my penis. It’s not so much through sexual stuff–though I very much enjoy that–but more through ordinary experiences of my body. Changing clothes, taking a shower, crossing my legs–just seeing and experiencing myself. It’s important to me on personal, emotional, and sexual levels. But what strikes me most is this other, primal level, which feels like it’s rooted very deeply in a subconscious level of my mind. Beyond my wishes, transition goals, sexual desires, etc., is a preverbal part of me that knew what my body was supposed to look and feel like. A part of me that wanted to be whole.
This post includes frank discussion of sexuality and my body.
It recently occurred to me that, although I have not had genital surgery, in a lot of ways, I no longer feel like someone who has not had genital surgery. I have had surgery once as part of my transition (chest reconstruction) and plan to have surgery once more (hysterectomy, at my doctor’s recommendation). If you had asked me early in my transition, I would have said I wanted to have bottom surgery (probably metoidioplasty) as soon as possible.
What’s changed? Going into this journey, I underestimated two things: how much other transition steps would affect my relationship with my whole body, and how much surgery sucks.
Let’s take the unpleasantness of surgery first. Chest surgery was a great experience–if I had to, I would make that decision again in a heartbeat. It was also a reality check. Pain, recovery time, needing help while healing, taking medications, going under anesthesia, numbness and scarring–all these things real to me now. I have also felt the impact of the financial costs. If genital surgery procedures were comparable to chest surgery in terms of risks and costs–including healing time, dangers of any surgery, possible loss of sensation, dollar cost, etc.–I might consider it. But that’s not the case. Bottom surgery is more dangerous and much more expensive, healing times are much longer, and I would likely need multiple procedures. Considering the price-tag, healing time, and other risks of bottom surgery, it’s just not worth it to me.
It probably would be worth it to me, though, if I still experienced acute dysphoria. That brings me to the other thing I underestimated–how big a difference all the other aspects of my transition have made.
I am now able to move through the world as a man with ease. I am able to feel comfortable during sex. I still have some dysphoria, and it’s not pleasant, but I think it’s now within the range of ordinary body image insecurity that many people experience. I’d say I’ve gone from a 10 to a 2 on a 10-point gender dysphoria scale.
I also underestimated, quite literally, the changes testosterone would cause when it comes to my dick. I had extreme dysphoria around my genitals pre-T. I considered myself stone and always used a strap-on during sex. This has totally reversed–today, using any kind of prosthesis would induce dysphoria, not alleviate it. Though my genital configuration is definitely not average, I am able recognize what I have as male. I have a dick, plain and simple. I still experience dysphoria around that part of my body, but it is manageable.
I also have a partner who perceives my body as male, and I am able to engage sexually in a way that feels right to me–to have intercourse and do all the other fun stuff straight dudes tend to do. I did not know that would happen, and I did not know how much it would mean to me.
Pretty much the only thing I can’t do is pee standing up in a convenient, splash-free fashion. From my observations in public restrooms, it appears that a large proportion of men have this problem.