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How I Feel About My Vagina, As A Trans Woman

This article was originally published on The Queerness, a critical collective giving a platform for queer voices.

I want to talk about vaginas, specifically trans vaginas. My vagina, which I received sometime in my late forties. I want to talk about the way it looks, the way it feels, actually feels, there between my legs and the way it exists as a place of pleasure.

Often it is the first thing people ask me about if they find out I’m trans.

“Have you got one?” they say.

“Does it work?” they say.

“Do you have sex?” they say.

I never answer their questions unless we are of course in bed getting intimate. That’s rarely the case so the conversations never happen or never happen with intimacy.

I think it’s a crying shame that I don’t get to talk about my vagina and that other trans women don’t get to talk about theirs. We should have post surgery vagina circles and pre-vaginal classes.

Our vaginas are different, unexplored, created, surgical, magical, mysterious and too often untouched by outsiders. I spent many years dreaming about mine, imagining how it would feel to reach down and discover an opening, to feel right. I had sexual dreams about having a vagina from my teenage years onward.

I dreamed that a hand would slide into my knickers and find a moist slit. That a finger would push in and then a phallus – plastic or real, would push in slowly and deeply and make me gasp.

I carried on dreaming that dream until the night before surgery. The same faintly naive dreams that my vagina would work like any natal female's.

My surgeon told me he would make me look realistic, with a vaginal opening, a sensate clitoris and lips; inner and outer. I was told I couldn’t have sex for at least three months.

For four days after surgery I didn’t have sex dreams as I fell in and out of morphine-consciousness. I only wondered what my vagina would look like once the packing and bandages had come off. People post photographs but they tend to be the ‘butterfly’ ones.

“Look at me they” they say “I’m a beautiful pussy fuck me.”

On the fifth day the packing came out and a nurse, a specialised nurse, gave me a small hand mirror to inspect their specialist work.

“Pleased?” She asked.

“It looks like an angry monkey’s arse” I wept.

“The swelling will go down,” she replied.

The swelling did go down but I had months of problems; tightness, dilation, scar tissue, erectile tissue, peeing, infection. The list goes on. But it’s not the full picture because I love my vagina. I mean I really love my vagina. Which is lucky because it’s one of one.

But I’ve never felt confident enough with it to have sex. It’s still, a few years on, quite painful to dilate, it’s got much tighter and the depth has been lost. It still bleeds occasionally and I’ve stopped having my dreams about simple uncomplicated sex.

I masturbate sometimes and it feels wet, but wet from where? And why did nobody tell me about the wet? What is the substance? And why does it go hard in the very centre of my vagina, hard enough that it feels impenetrable ?

I went to see my surgeon and they are going to stretch me open and have a look. I feel like an old cow, I mean bovine, being checked for calf.

I don’t have my sex dreams anymore about my beautiful puffy vagina, swelling around a finger or a phallus.

I spend too much money on handbags now, a substitute I think, and a temporary measure.
But I’d rather talk about us, about our vaginas, our sex lives and really talk with authenticity, not in a way that aims to mimic or settles for greyness but talk in a way that leads to us understanding our bodies, our surgeries, our desire and our options and limitations in regards to sex. I think we at this point have a duty to open up the discussion for younger trans femmes looking up and rushing towards the ever growing waiting lists without fully appreciating what it may mean to not orgasm. What it means to dilate as an ongoing weekly ritual and what it means to have so many people, medical people, tell you that they don’t know about your vagina. It seems odd but there doesn’t seem to be a map of our sex- lands, no shared knowledge that can answer simple questions.

Like what happens if someone pushes hard inside, will it tear? Can it tear? If I stop dilating will it close up? And where is the lubrication coming from?

I’ve long felt that we should have a grown up system where we encounter our vaginas before we have them, that our questions be answered and problems talked over. In the rush to please a system built on gatekeepers we never stop and say how will it feel to have dreams answered?

I have to reiterate that I love my vagina. I mean really love my vagina which is lucky because it’s one of one.
I have to keep saying that because the truth is that as trans women we are taught, by a largely transphobic history written in chat rooms and on social media by cis men and women, that we are not allowed to own our sex, or even our vaginas really. We have to prove we need one, prove we deserve one and then prove that it gives us a sense of authenticity in relation to our womanhood. So stressful is it to have to walk through this minefield that we never stop and create good healthy spaces to discuss our sex lives, our desire and our surgeries.

Go to any GRS ward and you find women talking at length about their fears, their hopes and their desires, they laugh, cry and support each other. They listen and they are heard.

And then off we go to fight for the right to exist. We go off into silence, often, and shame about not having sex and not having an easy time.

I did some research earlier this year where I asked trans women a set of questions about their vaginas (part of an ongoing series of works called ‘Finding our T spot’), amazingly lots of women said to me in public (social media) that they were entirely happy and having copious amounts of deep orgasms and feelings they had never experienced and a whole heap of sex.

I thought then, it’s just me. I’ll do the survey, but it’s just me, this is only my experience. Only I am having a tough time.

But then anonymously in the survey the same women told stories of suffering in silence and of having such little expectation that they didn’t feel like they could complain. Women, an awful lot, spoke of having very little sensation and of real problems dilating. Of pain and discharge and endless follow up appointments littered with silver nitrate.

It wasn’t just me after all, but we were all alone with these feelings, in isolation.

I reiterate I love my vagina, I really love my vagina, which is lucky because it’s one of one.

I knew, or I strongly felt that my experience must be common, that somehow the dreams that were entirely based on a natal vagina and the surgeon's words preceding surgery (it will look as real as possible) hadn’t equipped me for the reality of my rather unique pussy.

My pussy (see I’m owning it now in colloquial terms) needs dilating and surgically stretching, it lubricates from some unknown place and hurts a little when I stand, it could be hair growing inside, it could be scar tissue. I’m saying this because I want to share it in the hope that we don’t feel such shame and such isolation when our dreams become reality. I just feel that these words need saying aloud.

But I reiterate I love my vagina, I really love my vagina, which is lucky because it’s one of one and I want to find my T spot.

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