CommunityPam's House Blend

“Ow,” But “Yay!”

Well, “Ow.” And by that, I actually mean physical pain in my genital area due to gender affirmation surgery.

Seriously, my scheduled bilateral orchiectomy (“orchi”) with Dr. Tuan Nguyen was accomplished on August 17th. And, the surgery went well, and essentially to plan.

Image: Autumn Sandeen, about 30-minutes after completion of her bilateral orchiectomy ('orchi'), performed by Dr. Tuan Nguyen at the Lake Oswego Plastic Surgery CenterThe surgery itself was an uncomfortable experience — somewhat on par with my trips this year to the dentist. I wasn’t fully anesthetized for my surgery; my orchi instead was accomplished under a local anesthetic. Even now, post-surgery, the experience is far less painful than that dry-socket I experienced at the removal of a molar a number of months back.

Dr. Nguyen told me I was a good patient, which I took to mean as saying that I took to the surgery well, and I wasn’t a particularly difficult patient for him to work on. I just figure physical pain related to transition (e.g. electrolysis, laser hair removal, various surgeries, etc.) is just a byproduct of the process of being a transsexual.

What was difficult with the surgery related to surgery I had back in spring of 2000 — a few moths before the of my U.S. Navy career. I spent the first 4 of my last 8 months of my Naval career assigned to the Medical Hold unit at the Navy Medical Center San Diego, being treated for depression related to the sexual harassment experienced near the end of my 20-year Navy career, as well as — of all things — surgery for a varicocele.

A varicocele forms when valves inside the veins along the spermatic cord prevent blood from flowing properly. This causes the blood to back up, leading to swelling and widening of the veins. (This is essentially the same process that leads to varicose veins, which are common in the legs.) A varicocele is sometimes referred to as a “sack full of worms” because these swelled blood vessels can break free of, or stretch, the ligaments that hold these blood vessels in place which results in the blood vessels dropping into the scrotal sack. When the scrotum and testicles are touched by the patient or physician, the grouped blood vessels can feel like “a sack full of worms.”

My varicocele had been in my scrotal sack for quite a few years prior to my surgery for it, but in early 2000 began the “sack full of worms” had become more that just a little bit painful. I had surgery in spring of 2000 to tie my blood vessels back up in my abdominal cavity.

But on the 17th, about eleven years after that surgery for my varicocele, Dr. Nguyen had to deal with the scarring from that varicocele surgery when performing my orchi. And, during and after the surgery, the most pain associated with the surgery were in the scarred area of my abdominal cavity — just below my right side kidney.

Prior to the orchi, I felt some tension related physical symptoms in anticipation of the surgery. Emotionally though, I was feeling pretty flat before the orchi. In other words, I wasn’t feeling joyous or afraid about the then upcoming surgery.

After the surgery, I didn’t feel strong emotion related to the surgery either. It was just something related to the transition process.

I know a lot of gay and straight men who would shudder at the thought of having their testicles removed…it’s a cringe worthy moment. But that’s a difference between genital surgery for transsexual women and genital surgery for gay and straight men (such as losing one or both testicles due to testicular cancer). Transsexual women feel no sense of loss at having their genitalia reshaped, and most often feel joy, a sense of relief, and/or no significant emotional response at the loss of one’s testicles and/or the inversion of the penis to create a vagina.

Where I’m beginning to feel some emotion is at the reality that in my birth state of California, I’ll now be able to petition the courts to change my legal sex, and once the petition is granted be able to change my name and sex marker on my birth certificate. Per the state of California records, I’ll be a female-born-female. That is an wondrous, amazing, and welcome outcome I’m really, really looking forward to.

So the short term “ow” is for long term benefit on so many levels, the most important benefit in my mind being the soon government recognition that my female gender identity is my sex…that I’m a woman. That gets a ‘Yay!” from me.

* What Genital Reconstruction Surgery, And When

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen