Contentment and Gender Reassignment Surgery

One person’s challenge to achieve an elusive feeling that many strive for when reconciling one’s gender identity.


Photo of Amber Rose who discusses gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and contentmentI underwent gender reassignment surgery (GRS) May 28th, 2013. I chose to have the surgery done by Marci Bowers, M.D., because she also did a trachea shave about a year or so prior, I so desperately needed — and I felt that she did a wonderful job. I can no longer screech or hit really high notes, but without it, I would have never passed.

On the date of the surgery, I had been going to therapy for about two years. The surgery itself went quite smoothly, but going through the recovery process, as unstable as I was, was a nightmare; especially for those around me, in my immediate vicinity. Both my mother and father drove with me (they did the driving), and an incredibly close friend of mine, Joanna, arrived the night before the surgery. I’m grateful that they all came with me.

The surgery, I believe, lasted about 4 hours (or seconds, to me). It felt strange; I had a penis there for 28 years, and all of a sudden, it’s just gone… well, made into a vagina. I don’t remember initially feeling any sense of relief, happiness, or contentment. I was scared; mainly because what I now had down there was foreign to me. I also really did not want my parents there. If they, however, had not driven me there or paid for the surgery (especially the latter), it would not have happened; and I would still have a penis. Without going into detail, on the last day of my hospital stay, I had become psychotic. I never really was stable up to that point, but this was one of my hardest falls.

I generally have a difficult time seeing things as positive. What I’d like readers to understand, is that I was not happy, content, or relieved, even months after my surgery. It took about a year for me to be content with what is now down there. And even then, it was only contentment.

Two years have now passed since my surgery and I’ve learned a lot more about gender identity. It was not until a year ago that I rejected the binary, and saw it as the noxious poison it is. Because I had only been partially content — up until now — with my vagina, this rejection of the binary and understanding of gender identity, to some extent, made me want my penis back. In other words, I was experiencing moderate buyer’s remorse.

Had I never met Joanna or gone through therapy, I may very well have gone through the reverse surgery, to have the vagina made back into the original shape. Because of the internal work I had been doing, I was able to see a much bigger picture. Mental health, quite sadly, is still seen as a joke, and not taken seriously.

I was asked to write this, because there are many trans* individuals that are going through with GRS, as well as chest surgery and facial feminization surgery (FFS) — and still not coming even close to feeling contentment. These are major surgeries, and I do understand the rush to get them. Transition is a process. The hormones are going to do what they do eventually (which varies from person to person), but they take time. I was extremely impatient with the hormones, expecting changes to occur much faster than is humanly possible. I was even told by my physician that it would take 5+ years to completely ‘feminize’; or go through the second puberty. I’m quite pleased with the I’ve done with my therapist, as well as the work and effort my parents (and immediate relatives) have put into this entire process. I really do recommend psychotherapy from someone who knows what they’re doing. If I had not done so, I would still be living with my parents, in an on-edge relationship, and I would still have my penis. I probably would not have even started hormones. I would not have met Joanna, without whom I could not even imagine living. In other words, my own neglect would have continued to tear me apart.

Gender reassignment surgery is not a cure-all; and neither are the hormones. They cannot resolve issues completely unrelated to one’s gender identity. If an individual is not content or working towards contentment before having the surgery, just having the surgery will not change how they feel about themselves.

Amber Rose is an occasional contributor to this blog.