Don’t ask trans people about their surgical status.

I’m Trans. I Don’t Discuss My Surgical Status. Here’s Why.

I’m Trans. I Don’t Discuss My Surgical Status. Here’s Why.

Outward
Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
June 8 2015 3:56 PM

Salacious Personal Details About My Sexy Trans Body, or Why I Don't Discuss My Surgical Status

Christin Scarlett Milloy
Our bodies, our business.

Photo courtesy of Christin Scarlett Milloy

I've covered many trans topics, but unlike some other trans writers, I have shied away from sharing personal thoughts and feelings about my body (even when asked).

In particular, I've insistently avoided publicly disclosing my surgical status: Whether I am post-, pre-, or non-operative. In other words, whether my trans body includes its factory-original penis and rage-inducing gonads, or has been up-, down-, or side-graded with a vagina and assorted vulva surgically sculpted by the careful hands of our world's most ambitious plastic surgeons.

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The trans experience is too often misrepresented as being that of a woman "trapped in," or living with, a man's body (or vice versa). Acknowledging that this stereotype erases and invalidates the experiences of genderqueer and non-binary people, it's also incredibly frustrating to deal with in my own experience of gender as a reasonably binary-compliant female-identified trans woman.

Today I'm ready to talk about my body, and my relationship with it.

Since early in my transition, long before I faced life-altering medical and surgical decisions about whether and how to permanently affect my body, I have known something: My body is a woman's body, because I am a woman, and it's me. And while I have pursued what physical changes I desire, I always felt secure in the knowledge that no physical condition would ever alter that inalienable fact of my identity.

My body isn't perfect. It's not always in the shape I would prefer. It often does things to me that are inconvenient and undesired, and it frequently imposes unwanted limitations on me. After growing up and (eventually) becoming a woman in this society, there are definitely still a few things I would change about my body if I could. And even though I know I shouldn't have to feel that way, I still do, which paradoxically converts into additional guilt about feeling that I'm letting feminism down by having my own body issues.

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I have a woman's body, and I experience it as a woman.

Now let's consider what exists or doesn't in my pelvis and the space between my legs, as trans people's greatest critics and admirers alike so often do. Why have I been unwilling to deal publicly with this? Especially when sharing my experiences, my decisions, and their consequences might help other trans-fem persons?

In order for me to accomplish my political objective—to better the world legally and to generate acceptance and understanding for persons of non-cis gender experience—it's critically important that I be accepted at all times in the manner I present myself or be rejected as such so that each rejecter may be publicly exposed and judged by the growing social conscience. 

If you judge or classify a person by any factor outside their control, or even just identify them by it without their consent, you're committing an oppressive act. If you radically accept them, you're committing a revolutionary one, and that's one revolution I intend to be a part of.

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My right to decide who gets to know about intimate details of my body, my so-called "private" parts, was robbed from me in what was literally the most vulnerable moment of my life. By assigning me a gender at birth based on my sex, and forcing me to live that gender without my consent, the very first act the world committed upon me was one of unconscionable violence of a sort that I still struggle to have others comprehend.

But now, your legally enforced knowledge of my genitals has been obfuscated by the passage of time, and by the privacy with which I've guarded my decisions. The unreliable M on my birth certificate is nothing but a mockery of the entire bureaucratic registry and its backward rules, because throughout the medical aspects of my transition, I have refused the government's ultimatum to provide the dignity-violating medical documentation it requires from me in order to legally acknowledge that I am who I say I am. I've chosen to fight instead, on my own terms. I have chosen to live by the principle that I should be the one to decide with whom I share these intimate physical details of myself, not some bureaucrat, or even a doctor.

So, if I were to come out today as post-op, some cis people might then accept me as a woman—consciously or subconsciously—on that basis alone. This is unacceptable: You must learn to accept each person without knowing, or expecting to know, about their genitals. If I were to publicize being post-op, it might silently reinforce the stereotype that every trans person wants surgery, or that a trans person is legitimized through surgery, or that a trans person is required to talk about or share details of their surgical experience. If surgery was an absolute critical necessity as part of my transition, in order to relieve terrible dysphoria, then that's my truth. But that condition and those circumstances are not true for all trans people, and I am sick of seeing that meme reiterated over and over in hackneyed trans narratives and popular culture. So I wouldn't contribute to that by joining in the choir.

On the other hand, if I were to come out today as non-op or pre-op, there are jerks out there who would claim I'm "not a full woman" or even a "true transsexual." There would be oppressive speculation, rife with negative implication and false assumptions about the motivations behind a complicated personal decision regarding the complex balance of one's physical, mental, and sexual health. So that just wouldn't do, either.

What it all comes down to is this: I'm perfectly able to combat all those prejudices without spreading gossip about my sex parts all over the Internet. And by maintaining my privacy in this regard, I may even be better "equipped" to do so.

So I'll share the most important fact about my body: It feels OK. After all I've done to it, and all it's done for me, at this point in my life I feel OK about it. That might not sound like much, but it's not an easy place to get to for many women, let alone for trans people. But each individual medical decision I've made has been deeply personal, and very difficult, and isn't for strangers to evaluate and review.

You will accept I am a woman and a human being, with equal dignity and rights. In the 21st century, knowledge about my private parts and my health decisions is for me, and for those with whom I consent to share: my lovers, my friends, my doctor. Not the government, not the general public. We must join together and demand the world restore to every person that same respect and dignity.

Christin Scarlett Milloy is an activist, writer, and journalist based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter.