I’ve been processing the prospect of a hysterectomy for the past year. I’m at the point where I definitely want the surgery and will probably schedule it as soon as I don’t have a bunch more urgent stuff demanding my attention (i.e. when the semester is over). I have to say it’s been an excruciatingly painful aspect of my transition. A few thoughts on where I’m at and how I got here.
1. Sterility is a really big deal. When I went in to get a prescription for testosterone, my doctor asked me if I wanted to preserve the possibility of having a biological child. I was like, um, yeah, hell no. I was also 21 years old and way more concerned with paying for beer that night than with being a parent someday.
Letting go of the possibility of having a biological child has been the hardest and most heart-wrenching aspect of this experience. I don’t want to use any of the options available to me for having genetic offspring. There are so many reasons for this, I don’t even want to get into it. Suffice to say that even though I don’t want to use what I’ve got–just the prospect makes me queasy–it’s still hard to let it go. It means letting go of the fantasy that I could ever be a biological father. In confronting this reality, I have felt disappointed, cheated, and humiliated. I have felt left out of the great dance of life, a lonely alien. It feels strange to be so sad, yet so repulsed by the options that are open to me.
2. I am in profound denial about my body. I have never accepted the fact that I was born with a female body. I have to admit that I just straight up do not believe it, to this very day. There’s some pretty solid evidence for my view in that I am, you know, a man. Again I ask, WTF God? WTF?
This is a very deep-seated belief that is beyond all logic and is extremely resistant to change. As far as I can tell, I have always carried the worldview that I am male and it seems I always will. This is the reason approaching hysterectomy has been so painful–it has forced me to experience the cognitive dissonance of being transsexual in a whole new horrible way.
My take on this is, to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, when you can’t accept, accept your non-acceptance. I accept that I am a trans man, that I have a view of my body as male that is not going to change, and that the thing I can change is my body. I accept that I cannot be a good custodian to female reproductive organs. It’s just not realistic for me at all. So a hysterectomy is something I can do for myself and for my health, out of love.
3. Grieving is necessary. I spent a good while feeling heartbroken about my status as soon-to-be-sterile and never having the option to be a biological father. This was an absolutely essential process for me. It’s normal to grieve over this kind of thing, and we need to allow ourselves the space and time to fully go there.
I can now see that a lot of my grief is about lingering shame and pain around being trans, rather than about parenthood (though of some of it really does have to do with parenthood). I have an ingrained belief that being able to father a child has something to do with being a “real man.” I’m still dealing with this; cultural ideas like that are just hard to shake off.
4. Planning a family is about a lot more than gametes. As I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel of my grief, I got a reality check about my hopes to be a parent. Having a child is something I want to do with my wife, obviously, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to really consider her feelings. In retrospect, I’ve been pretty myopic and selfish about the whole thing; but at the same time, I really could not have gotten to this point without moving through my grief.
Alma has always wanted to adopt and has absolutely zero interest, or really less than zero interest, in ever being pregnant. I can now enjoy the wonderful match we have in this area and feel good about supporting her in her bodily autonomy.
I’m enjoying my new-found clarity about my own feelings, hopes and fears. I’ve come to realize that I actually do not care about having a biological descendant or sharing that connection with a child. I do care very much about being a father someday and I hope to adopt children with my partner. There is a scary vulnerability in this, as I have no idea if it will work out. But it’s real and it’s honest, a genuine dream.
How has your transition impacted your feelings and choices about fertility and parenthood?
Thanks to Lesboi for teaching me the term “middle surgery” for hysterectomy.
I finally got my birth certificate amended. I’d been putting off dealing with it and finally sent in the papers a couple weeks ago. It arrived in the mail, shiny and official. I was born in Massachusetts, and I’d read online that I could expect a birth certificate with my birth name and assigned sex crossed out, and the correct name and sex written in. But when it came it was complete and perfect, just my name and the word male, no nonsense. Opening that envelope had a real thud of finality to it–the very last piece of paper to get changed.
I’m jumping directly into another legal transition of sorts and changing my name again. Alma and I have put a lot of thought into what to do with our last names now that we are married. I’ve decided to take hers. I’m pretty excited about it. I really wanted us to share a name; she is very attached to hers, and I’m not that attached to mine; and we’re not that into hyphenation for a few reasons. Any why shouldn’t a guy take his wife’s name?
So soon I will have changed every single name from what I was born with–first, middle, and last. I’ve managed to keep the same initials, SLB. Taking her name also allows me to make a gesture of cultural solidarity, as she has a very ethnically marked name. She’s converting to Judaism; taking her name is kinda as close as I can get to “converting” to be Chicano.
I’m finally getting ready to seriously pursue a hysterectomy. It’s been a long emotional process–I hope to give it a proper treatment in a post soon. At this point, I feel at ease with my body and my circumstances, and I want the surgery. I’m hoping to get it this summer.
Between these things I’m feeling like my transition is really ending, maybe over. My paperwork is all changed; I’m getting ready for my last surgery; the big changes in my life now aren’t about my transition; shame’s appearances get rarer and rarer. It’s a good feeling, a spacious absence, very quiet.
We have to get out of this idea that trans=a particular style of transition.
There is no point at which we become transgender – it isn’t because you have changed your name, or taken hormones, or had surgery, or legally changed your gender markers. You were transgender before you started your transition, you’d still be transgender if you never transitioned. If you feel that you are not authentically the “sex you were assigned at birth” then you are trans.
I love this apt reframing of what it is to be trans. Jamie Ray’s words are a powerful case for solidarity and respect among diverse transgender people. They are also an antidote to the some of that crippling shame we so often feel as we attempt to be our whole selves.
I talk about my transition in the language of choice, and I have made choices. Yet that’s really beside the point, isn’t it? Whatever gender my ID says, whatever clothes I wear, whatever medical treatments I have–I’m trans, and I always will be.
My transition has gotten to a point now where the steps I desperately wanted are behind me. But loose ends remain. I’m moving step by step towards getting a hysterectomy, at the suggestion of my doctor and pleading of my mother, because of the unknown risks of living with male hormones and female internal reproductive organs. I’m less than thrilled about the prospect.
I recently found myself thinking, If only it weren’t my choice, I could accept it. Somehow I feel I got myself here, I am to blame, and now I have to make this difficult decision. I don’t even want the stupid organs–I just don’t want to be responsible for choosing to remove them.
It isn’t my choice, though, not really. I am choosing to take care of my health. That’s a choice I can feel good about. But all the other stuff, the stuff I sometimes feel really bad about, is no choice and is not affected by choices. I didn’t choose to be a guy who was born with ovaries. I didn’t choose to not produce enough testosterone. I didn’t choose to be a member of a group whose health the system blatantly ignores.
I am trans. I was before I started transition, and I will be til the day I die. No choice I can make will ever change or “fix” that. And by the same token, no choice of mine caused it, nor could have ever caused it.
In other words, I didn’t choose the situation. Observing the situation, my course of action is a simple thing. We make our choices within limits entirely outside of our control. One more reason to respect each person’s unique journey. And a reason, too, to give ourselves our full permission to do what we have to do. We’re doing our best with what we’ve got. What we’ve got is what we’ve got, and nothing more–not a reflection on us.
Sometimes the personal is political. Sometimes the personal isn’t even personal.
Love your neighbor as yourself; love yourself as your neighbor.
I’m planning to get a hysterectomy fairly soon. I always knew this would be part of my transition. Now that I’m here, it’s more difficult than I thought it would be.
It makes being trans much more real. I am a man who was born with a uterus and ovaries. What the fuck, God? It feels like a head-on collision with the absurdity of life.
I have always wanted to have a family. I feel a profound longing to be a parent, and I have for my whole life. I don’t feel strongly that I want to be a biological parent specifically, and I don’t want to use what I was born with. Still, there’s something really sad about surgical sterilization at the age of 24. I feel shut out of an important experience that other people take for granted. I know that many people can’t have biological children, but nobody talks about it.
My fiancée and I want to adopt. I am terrified we will face discrimination that will make that impossible. I am not interested in reproductive technologies, for a variety of reasons. I have been fortunate to meet a number of trans people who are parents, but none who have adopted.
There are some major silver linings here, of course. I won’t have to worry about the elevated cancer risk I may have as a transsexual man (the reason my doctor recommends hysterectomy). I won’t have any female-specific health care needs. I will have an excuse to lay around watching movies for a week. And I think I will feel a satisfying peace that my transition is complete.
So it’s not that I don’t want a hysterectomy–it’s that I wish I didn’t need one.