All posts by Bridget Liang

Mixed race, disabled, fat trans fangirl. I'm into fandom, representations in the media, porn and sexuality, kink, polyamoury, video games, sci fi/fantasy books, and queer/trans YA lit.

Months 3-4 Post Op

gesundheit-gesundbleiben-geistige-gesundheit-burn-out-therapie

[Description: a human figure with breasts and long hair wearing a red long sleeve and navy blue pants, has grey skin, a wind up key in their back, and they’re flopping forward with their arms hanging down. Above them is a battery icon with only a small amount filled in all in red. This is supposed to signify “low on power”.

Taken from: https://www.liebenswert-magazin.de/burn-out-dann-hilft-eine-therapie-mit-vitaminen-499.html ]

The third month post-op was exhausting. I wasn’t informed how exhausting it was going to be. After two months at home with the occasional exertion outside, I was expected to be healed enough to start working again. And still be dilating three times a day. While I was overjoyed to be finally out of the house doing stuff and back to work, I would often come home and collapse into bed or on the couch and veg because I was so exhausted. And it was a struggle to get 3 dilations in a day.

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Dear Trans Men

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[Pic taken from: https://www.buzzfeed.com/jonmichaelpoff/profoundly-beautiful-disney-quotes-that-will-inspire-you?utm_term=.rx00o58Z1#.csabDmE9G

Description:

Dear trans men,

My relationship is complex with you. You are my coworkers. You appear in a lot of the community activities I’m a part of. You are part of my inner circle that I let see my weaknesses and guard my secrets. You are in the media I consume. You are the fan fic writers I sob over. And sometimes, you are the humans I develop crushes on. But my relationship with you is one of ambivalence.

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First Couple Months Post-Op

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[Description: A monarch butterfly emerging from a chrysalis against a blue sky background. The monarch butterfly is still furled up and half emerged from the chrysalis which seems to be attached to a branch.

Taken from: http://ewebarticle.info/xtenbinfo-butterfly-emerging-chrysalis.html ]

The biggest issue I’ve faced coming home was that my nurse practitioner, the trans healthcare specialist at my clinic, was away and I had no idea when she was going to be back. Because of this, I didn’t have the best healthcare I could have gotten. My family doctor, although aware of trans issues and was able to help in some ways, wasn’t a specialist when it comes to post op trans healthcare. It has led to my healing process taking longer than anticipated.

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Trans Autistic Presentation from Congress

Since only my friends came to see me present, I thought it would be prudent to post the presentation I worked hard on here. Citations can be asked for upon request.

This should not be taken as something peer reviewed that can be cited, but as an introductory conversation. While I’ve done research, this piece could have been researched better and could have also been generally written better.

~~~~~

Trans autistic people have been in the spotlight of the media over the past year. Much of this attention has not been positive.

In the recent BBC documentary, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” there is a section where Zucker discusses autistic trans youth. He says that autistic children wrongly convince themselves that they are trans due to fixating on their gender.  

Quoted from the Daily Wire, Zucker said, “It is possible that kids who have a tendency to get obsessed or fixated on something may latch on to gender,” and that “Just because kids are saying something doesn’t necessarily mean you accept it, or that it’s true, or that it could be in the best interests of the child.”

For those who don’t know, Dr. Zucker is a psychologist and sexologist who formerly headed up the Gender Identity clinic at CAMH and is still a tenured professor at the University of Toronto. He is well-hated by the trans community for his aversion/cure-based techniques in treating gender non-conforming children and gatekeeping adult trans people’s access to hormones and surgery. In order to access hormones and surgery, some people had to lie and say that they were aiming to become heterosexual and conform to gender norms. And he used these results to publish his theories on what trans people are like. He’s still considered a leading expert on trans health in some circles.

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Surgery Diary 3 – The Journey Back to Body Autonomy

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[Source: https://uswlawethicsandpolitics.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/is-there-such-a-thing-as-patient-autonomy/

Description: a white humanoid figurine in joyously raising their arms as chains fall away from their body]

Day 5 of post-op, the vaginal mold aka the crusty bandages were removed. They were sewn on and saturated in a ton of fluids I’d rather not think about. There were only four stitches holding it in place and so it pinched a little each time a stitch was cut. Then the pieces were picked off and tossed into the garbage like pieces of grisly eggshell. Afterwards, I had to shower, wash, and look at my crotch. This terrified me.

Touching my crotch for the first time almost sent me into a panic. There’s still a catheter still in my bladder and a condom filled with cotton (called a stent) sewn into the vaginal cavity. And there’s a tuft of gauze where the clitoris is probably to protect it from infection. It doesn’t feel like me, it feels like one of Frankenstein’s experiments and I have to touch the prickly, squishy, swollen flesh. After showering, I had to apply polysporin to the twin scars, the only thing I could find cute about my genitals. It took a bunch of people calming me down to be able to accept my genitals in their current state.

As the day went by, I reveled in the increased freedom I had, but I also learned that the leak in my catheter is now free to just dribble all down my thighs when I have to pee. My catheter also kept on making this gurgling sound all the time and the sensation was getting to me. And the stitches holding the stent in were pulling more often especially whenever I had to find ways to use the bathroom.

This day was characterized by how done I was with the things inside me. I needed the catheter and the stent removed yesterday. I wanted to be free of all that nonsense and start dilating already.

Day 6 was an emotional roller coaster. I was reminded that I have a lot of body trauma that hasn’t been dealt with. The stent was being removed which was very exciting for me. And I’d learn how to dilate and douche as well. The body trauma reared its head while the stent was being removed. Up to this point, I’ve had a lot of difficulty letting anyone touch my genitals. Even with my explicit consent, I couldn’t let my doctor touch it for examination purposes. This was only marginally easier. I had to be reminded a number of times to spread my legs out so the stitches could be removed. Then the stent was removed and there was some gauze was present that needed to be removed. That sounds moderately easy, but it wasn’t for me. I kept on squirming away, talking too much, howling, and generally being difficult.

I was reminded that I’m a survivor.

The first and second dilations weren’t too bad. I was hesitant to engage in penetration (because that’s what dilation really is…) but I did it. I tried to think of it as erotic, but it just felt strange. But it was the third dilation that something different happened. I started crying.

I was reminded that I’m a survivor.

I mourned myself, the one who was coerced into sex at the hands of an older trans woman. I mourned the death of my innocence. I mourned my shitty family growing up. I mourned my failure to succeed life as a gay boy. I mourned the years I never got to explore my sexuality. I mourned the agony that my inner romantic has endured being untouched by the warmth of romantic love.

While and after dilating, I cycled through crying, vacant stares, and trying to call for my spiritual guides but only echoing into the void. I’m pretty sure this was meant to be a trial of sorts to help me grow as a person. I was forced to grieve for the things I talk about, but not feel in my bones. But at the heart of all this was the reminder that I am loved and cared for. That a lot of people have sent me well-wishes and sincerely hope for my recovery. And I got the distinct impression that a certain spirit was embracing me when I came to this realization.

Day 7 was pretty freeing and things looked up. I talked with people about how I felt and went through the day before. We came up with a small plan to ask the nurses to let a second person in to help hold my hand and ground me while the catheter is being removed. And thankfully, the nurses listened to my request. I mentioned that I was a survivor and they were okay with it.

The catheter had one stitch that needed to be removed. Then the balloon in my bladder needed to be collapsed before the catheter could be removed. I was glad that they brought in a second staff person to help me through the procedure. I was able to endure it with minimal squirming. Once the catheter was removed, I was completely free of all the tubes!

Learning to pee with my new genitals was interesting. t was a little difficult to feel where my urethra was due to swellin. It still feels like I’m about to drip pee and that my urethra and/or clitoris (I can’t even tell the difference between them yet…) feels like it’s submerged in water. I’ve learned that my urethra is still inflamed and also needs to heal.

It’s been so freeing to have my own body back, but there are changes I need to process. The biggest one is that my genitals are different from what they once were. It’s great in so many ways. I’m a lot more comfortable with my body and my sexuality feels more aligned. But it’s still major body trauma that I need to work through. While I hated my genitals intensely, I only learned to hate it because of social pressures. (People sexualizing it in ways I don’t want, people giving it meaning that I don’t agree with). I have to learn how to live with how swollen they will be for the next few months. My crotch feels like it’s swollen to the size of a large orange. And it looks more like a gash sewn together in the semblance of genitals. On top of it, I get random shocks as my nerves re-attach themselves to each other, have to deal with phantom genitals and the pain of an inflamed urethra. But at least I can sit (in some positions for some time) and have 95% of my mobility back.

While surgery hasn’t been too painful (getting the medusa tattoo was worse) it was quite the emotional journey. I feel like I’ve grown and matured in some respects since I began preparing to leave for Montreal. It’s been a long journey, but it leads to better things for me.

 

 

Being Fat Post-Op

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[Taken from: https://trainingbytarabrunet.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/health-at-every-size/

Description: A graphic with a title that says, “Body size is not an accurate indication of health” Below the title shows four silhouettes of people presumed to be women of various sizes and shapes. The only thing in common is that each one had their left hand on their hip and they’re all wearing what is presumably a suit and heeled boots. The silhouette is filled in with various fruits, vegetables, grains, and other food items.]

Going into surgery, I was terrified. Intellectually, I know that thousands of trans women have come before these doors and had their surgeries done. This is an exacted art. But I was still plagued with fears of bad results, death, dismemberment, and the gravity of what I was about to undergo. The message I got was that because I was fat, it was going to go badly. But still go and get surgery! Everyone is super nice and supportive!

When I met with the anesthetist, immediately he made me uncomfortable. He was brisk and wasn’t particularly patient. He (man)splained to me his preferred method, the spinal block. But it would be more difficult because of my obesity and that it would also make it harder to heal from surgery, but he was confident in his abilities in spite of my weight. I gave Cath a horrified look and turned to him to tell him to just knock me out. I didn’t want any memory of the surgery. (That way, he wouldn’t have to interact with my fat body beyond sticking an IV in me)

Then I was taken to the waiting room for surgery (alone). I met with Brassard, expressed my anxieties, and he reassured me to the extent he was able to. I didn’t really have any support or way to get calmed down in the waiting room since loved ones weren’t allowed there. But I somehow managed to at least not fly off the handles. When I entered the operating room, I focused on the nurses. Especially the male nurse who was beside me during everything and let me hold his hand. If it wasn’t for the nurses and especially this guy (who was incidentally, the only other person of colour in the room to my knowledge…) I don’t know if I could have gone through with surgery. The anesthetist was at least good at not causing much pain while he found a place in my hand to stick an IV.

I was woken up in the operating room after the surgery was done by another nurse. I promptly told her I was going to puke which she caught in one of those little plastic basins they have on hand for this purpose. I was informed about the success of my surgery and that I was going to be taken back to my room. The male nurse was one of the two nurses that helped pour me into my bed and I kept on thanking him for everything.

The day was spent in part, sleeping, drunk texting friends, and gaming. Unfortunately for me, the drowsiness wore off after a few hours and I had a lot of time to kill on my own after Cath left me for the day. I didn’t feel that much pain which was great beyond a general soreness in the crotch. I was helped up to my feet once in the evening probably for circulation reasons. That night, these two devices were attached to my legs that massaged my calves to help keep the blood flowing. They restricted my movement and were hard to sleep with going on the time.

The second day, I became more agitated after not sleeping much (again). I hated being cooped up in a bed and not being able to move or shift positions. I found out that I was healing well and that there hadn’t been much blood during Brassard’s morning visit. I was encouraged to walk which was both painful and exhilarating. After being stuck in bed, I had a lot of excess energy and I wasn’t nauseous or in too much pain. Each walk I took around the floor, I did without any support or much pain. I had to awkwardly crab walk and it was hard getting up, but I was able to walk. The stories I’ve heard about how horrible this walk was didn’t apply to me. I did feel tired after a walk, but I was excited to do it. I met up with the trans women who got surgery at the same time as me and found out that I was doing the best out of everyone. I didn’t have any of their pain complaints. I was the first to have my IV removed because I didn’t experience any nausea.

Day 3, we were moved to the resting house. I was anxious to leave having gone out and visited people during my early morning walk. I had a lot of frustrated, anxious energy to burn from being stuck for days without much movement or sleep. The worst thing that happened to me that day was that I overextended my capabilities walking around. In the house, some of the trans women were envious of my ability to just walk down the stairs without much trouble. I was also the first person to have a bowel movement at the end of that day. In post-op experiences, having a bowel movement so easily and soon is practically unheard of.

Day 4 was pretty uneventful. It was my rest day to get used to doing stuff on my own around the rest house.

 

In all my checkups, my vitals were all healthy. I haven’t bled much. I have excellent results. I don’t feel a lot pain. I’m active and eating well. And I’m the fattest person that has had surgery recently. Regardless of all the indicators that my fatness is unhealthy, distasteful, is diseased, I’m still the trans woman with the best health at present.

The fatphobia I experienced was gross. It terrified me and made me second guess my choice. My fat is not a disease. I may agree that it can increase the risks of certain conditions, but it also protects against others which goes unsaid.

I’m a pretty healthy person. I inherited my dad’s constitution. I don’t get sick nearly as much as my friends. I heal pretty well and usually pretty quickly. And I’m fat. The fact that I’m fat according to the doctors should mean I experience shortness of breath, heal slowly, and will likely have bad results. Instead, I’m healthy and fat. My fat has made me feel so strong during my healing. It makes me feel like I have a lot of energy and power. These scare tactics into weight loss are shitty and perpetuate more violence against many trans folks.

I don’t need to remind people that a lot of fat people are people of colour. A lot of fat people are disabled. A lot of fat people are trans women.

And I wish that the medical community would acknowledge that fat people’s perspectives need to be taken seriously. Fat is not a death sentence. Medical prejudice is a death sentence.

The narrative of fat as unhealthy needs to stop. As I’ve demonstrated, I’m hearty and hale. And fat. I don’t want to be put on a pedestal as a good fatty, I’m really not. I don’t exercise much and while I eat well, I also eat junk pretty often. The focus needs to be more about what’s going on in someone’s life instead of what their waistline looks like. While it has its issues, the Health at Every Size movement had some really good points. It’s possible to be healthy at any size. I want to see fatness and medicine divorced. I want fat de-pathologized.

What Surgery Could Have Looked Like

The anesthetist could have asked me what method I wanted and could have given me more information about the different methods. He could have talked about the risks and benefits of each one and his concerns. The reality is that fat bodies are bodies and thus he might not have the experience working with us and let’s say find a vein to stick a needle in. This way, the focus is more on what I want and what his capabilities are, not that my body is going to kill me.

They could have talked about my results differently. They might have concerns about breathing and healing ability, but that’s just it. They’re just concerns. It’s not set in stone. Fat is not a death sentence. All that negative talk didn’t help me feel good about going into surgery. Instead of focusing on weight loss, they could have talked about how better physical activity leads to greater lung capacity and better healing abilities without making it about being fat.

That Time Before Bottom Surgery? Yeah, it Sucks!

So I’m going to do the thing that a lot of trans folks do and document my process through surgery/transition. I didn’t really do much for when I started taking hormones, but I’m going to do it for my experience with surgery.

To kick this off, I’m going to talk about that time before surgery when I had to go off hormones. Yep, go off hormones. Before undergoing bottom surgery so I can get a vulva, I had to be off hormones for 3 weeks. I endured 4 weeks because my hormones ran out and I couldn’t be bothered to buy a single week’s worth of hormones.

One thing that people don’t talk about enough is how bad this time is without hormones can be. Going in, I was terrified. There have been times when I haven’t been off hormones. I think my record was a week. (Due to scheduling issues and spoons). By the time I reach about day 4 of being without hormones, I start experiencing mood swings and become lethargic. The prospect of going for a whole month without hormones was terrifying if after a week without hormones, I felt like going mad!

Obviously, I’ve survived it since I’m writing this blog post in the first place.

Continue reading That Time Before Bottom Surgery? Yeah, it Sucks!