I recently passed the decade anniversary of having phalloplasty. I feel oddly nonplus about it.
Partly I think it’s about how thoroughly I take having a dick and balls for granted. That’s a healthy outcome of having healed, to be so at home in my body, ergo the anniversary is a non-event.
Partly I think it’s from the 4.5 year process that it was to go from the day of my stage 1 surgery to healing from stage 3. This was followed by a brief (~8 months, give or take) moment of “normality.” Then for roughly 4 years, my life revolves around taking care of relatives with grave illnesses, half of whom died along the way. Everyone still alive is now doing as well as they can, things are as “normal” as they can be for us, pandemic related limitations notwithstanding.
There were some positives along the way. Namely, I got to be a stay-at-home parent to the twins for the better part of 2 years, I met my now spouse, and we got our first dog together!
The last year has been pandemic-levels of strange and eventful, as I’m sure most of you can relate. Coupled in there for me was the start of a working diagnosis with my urethra that “on paper” is not caused by urethraplasty, but coincidentally became an issue shortly after I healed. It’s managed well-enough for now, further investigation await health care services not saturated by a pandemic. It’s hard sometimes to not think perhaps it is an issued caused by not healing quite right from urethraplasty even though I have had the tests done, and I definitely don’t have a fistula, necrosis, a stricture, or an infection. It’s increasingly clear managing stress is the key to managing this, which is true of all my autoimmune stuff, and that has me leaning more and more towards accepting the working diagnosis. But it’s tempting to entertain the possibility that one more surgery could address the ailment and I’d be done with it for good.
I never had the idea that lower surgeries would be a silver bullet to solve all my life problems. I hoped it would resolve my dysphoria, and that it did. My body image has been steadily improving since stage 2 (nearly nothing changed in terms of appearance as a result of having stage 3.) My fitness routine was at its peak pre-covid. Though it’s not been obvious to adapt workouts to be done in a home under major renovations, I have a modest exercise routine going on, and I’m loving the progress it affords me. On my worse body image days, since lower sirgeries, my desires stop well short of wishing I could crawl out of my skin. Most days I have a neutral or good body image.
Through the flare ups with my probable autoimmune condition, and despite the grief of losing multiple family members, along with related set backs, my mental health has never been more stable. Perish the thought of how I would have managed over the last 5 years if I hadn’t already healed from lower surgeries.
All the same, I have experienced moments of incredible frustration and at times a sort of defeat about my own prospects. Increasingly I feel as though I missed out on getting my career ahead in the ways I previously hoped it would earlier in my career, because I was balancing managing my dysphoria, and the sacrifices to eventually access surgeries. Between my age, what I’ve accomplished by it, the huge gaps in my employment history over the last 5 years, and the number of employment agencies, opportunities that wouldn’t give me a second glance because of x, y, z reason, it’s hard not to think that at best my professional life peaked 5 years ago, whereas now it’s destined to be mediocre at best. A lot of it has to do with fallouts at different jobs whether I opted to disclose or not. Being obviously estranged from my family of origin, because I was always available for stay holidays, seldom mentioning them, etc raised the eyebrows of several HR and manager types where I didn’t disclose. The jobs where I disclosed waffled between resenting I would eventually take time off for appointments, multiple surgeries, and framed the time off as “vacation” from an employee not prioritising work enough.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the time since transition milestones feels less and less significant to me. Also I cherish the intimate element of my genitals, so as much as I entertained doing an AMA on Reddit as part of sharing that I was a decade out from phallo for a moment, the more I thought about it, the less it seemed appropriate. Admittedly I’m one more missing narrative missing in the forums where people hope to get “update” pictures and testimonials from down the road. Also true is how little of my experience is relevant to anyone gathering information on current options and experiences. The process for surgical approval has completely changed where I reside, WPATH is one another set of SOC, I had phalloplasty before the most popular surgeons of today we’re practicing in North America, and most who go to the surgeon I saw in Europe have far fewer options, if any, in selecting their surgeon under their countries’ health care system.
In conclusion, I would get lower surgeries all over again. Perhaps sooner, and slightly differently than I did, but without contest the quality of my life is better for them. My instinct says that it’s a good thing I didn’t do any of the sort of celebration things I once did for hormone therapy and chest reconstruction milestones, or an AMA. I’ve had the dick and balls of my youth dreams for nearly a third of my life. I’m grateful I met my spouse and the twins were born after being done healing, that the three of them have only ever known me as I am now, both in terms of bodily configuration and mental stability. I wonder if my feelings about the time since a surgery will change when it’s time to get my penile implant replaced. To be lived…