Answering queries about surgeries could easily be a full time volunteer gig for most of us. While many questions are fine, too many are redundant, posed by people expecting to be spoon fed the information already available before they arrived, if only they scrolled back through entries or searched the archives. Several will pose questions rudely, while others expect a single person to have all the experience relevant to their specific circumstances, which is seldom the case. No one has to engage in these conversations, they require time, and energy, and the latter can be in especially short supply during recovery. For those who choose to, here are 5 strategies for post-op people desiring to contribute within their abilities without taxing their mental well being.
[Paper on a window ledge, which reads mindfulness in cursive writing by Lesly Juarez on Unsplash.]
Check in with yourself
There will always be more queries. If you’ve had a crap day, whether it has anything to do with surgeries or not, scroll on. Pass on contributing until you’re in a better head space. If you’re convinced, or know for a fact, that you’re the only person in a forum that can answer, or you received the inquiry via DM, it’s fine to save it to answer later. Your contributions are only as good as your head space is, take care of yourself first.
[Photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash. Description: a man sitting on a brown couch in a dark room, holding his head, suggesting he’s unwell or unhappy.]
Leave badly facilitated forums
If the needs of information gatherers are prioritised over the well being of post-op guys: spare yourself the headache. This is most likely if the forum is moderated by people who haven’t had surgery yet, or are in the early days of recovering from their first op. The longer you stay, the more you may find yourself shocked at the language that information gatherers are permitted to use, and the lower surgery stigma considered appropriate. If the person or people in charge of creating and imposing group norms isn’t/aren’t invested in your well being, make sure you are, and that may include leaving the forum.
[Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash. Description: a white guy looking at his phone while leaning against a garage door. The door reads: KEEP CLEAR offenders will be towed away.]
Don’t feel obliged to accept friend requests from randoms
The scene: someone you’ve had zero interaction with suddenly sends a friend request. At most, what you appear to have in common are membership to a trans forum and/or trans acquaintances. Check in with yourself, especially if you’ve recently been sharing about your surgical experience where they could have come across it. Odds are, they are strictly interested in asking you queries they could just as well pose to the whole forum. But they want unlimited access to you, whenever they have queries, and zero interest in anything else to do with you. Don’t feel bad if you opt to ignore the friend request.
[Bitmoji of a white guy looking at his phone with concern. 3 dots in a speech bubble indicate someone’s typing a message.]
Don’t respond to questions over DM
Some will skip the friend request, and simply ask on a thread to or directly proceed to post questions in a direct message. Many will insist this is necessary on the account that the topic is sensitive and therefore requires privacy. I want to give that merit, what with many queries being about sensation or sex. It seems reasonable on the surface, and mutually beneficial, since it’s your genitals that are being discussed. But…
If you answer private questions, the best case scenario is responding to the same 10 questions, over and over:
Who did you surgery?
Why did you pick that surgeon?
Why did you choose that surgical technique?
What’s your sensation like?
Can you perform X penetrative sexual act?
How did you get insurance coverage/fundraise?
Did you have any complications?
Are you happy with your results?
Can you send pictures?
How can someone avoid complications or loss of sensation?
Only these are seldom asked neutrally, many will position you to start off from a defensive stance. If you’re in a forum, share what you’re comfortable sharing. Save the link to that post. Paste it as necessary.
On average people are w-a-y more respectful with their queries when there’s an audience. That’s my #1 motivation for not wanting surgery queries over DM. The redundancy is annoying, but I’m mostly wanting to avoid piss awful behaviour that many will permit themselves if there isn’t a 3rd party around.
Frequent bonus: If someone asks you a question you can’t answer (for ex: I have zero experience with US private health insurance) or acts offended you won’t answer their specific iteration of the aforementioned questions, point out that if they ask in a forum, others who may be able to answer them can see the query, whereas those same people don’t have access to your inbox.
Don’t apologise for not sharing pictures or other boundaries
Whether you’ve shared pictures in a forum (anonymously or not) or don’t want to answer queries about X for whatever reasons, stick by your boundaries. Don’t apologise, this can fuel the most entitled to follow up the request with utter bullshit pressure or shaming for not catering to their every whim.
[Black and white picture of an index touching a mirror and its reflection from Unsplash.]
No one making queries should matter more to you than you do.
Take care of yourself.
Only contribute what and when you’re comfortable and have the energy.