Between the Neck and the Knees

strike-zoneFor most of my life I paid as little attention as possible to everything between my neck and my knees. I was shocked each time I got my period. I didn’t track it and I didn’t prepare for it. It arrived, I dealt with it, and then it was over. I was in so much denial that I left no room for dysphoria.

Between the ages of 21 and 42 I never went to a doctor for a check-up. Or to a gynecologist. I had a superficial physical each time I was promoted at work. Other than that I only went to the dentist and the ophthalmologist.

I didn’t want a doctor to tell me to lose weight. I didn’t want to spread my legs for a gynecologist. I scheduled a routine physical (in 2000) only when I realized that I was the same age that my Dad was when he dropped dead from an aneurysm.

The week before my doctor’s appointment I bought a new cotton futon for my bed. The old one was 12 years old and lumpy. I sleep on my stomach, but I was having trouble sleeping through the night. The nurse practitioner examined me, and told me I needed to lose 40 pounds. She asked me how long it had been since I saw a gynecologist. I told her the truth. She insisted on doing a pap smear and a pelvic exam. After the exam she asked me if I’d noticed a lump in my abdomen. She guided my hand over my belly from the left side to the right side. I felt it. She said it was probably a benign fibroid and that I should get a sonogram and then consult with a surgeon about getting a hysterectomy.

When I went to sleep I felt the lump again. It was big. It wasn’t the mattress.

The first surgeon I consulted wanted to do a complete hysterectomy (uterus, cervix, and ovaries) and put me on estrogen replacement therapy for the rest of my life. I knew that if I had the hysterectomy I would never get my period again, but I also knew that many hysterectomies were unnecessary. The women’s health movement critiqued gynecologists for urging women to get hysterectomies once they were past childbearing age, and for prescribing and promoting estrogen as the fountain of youth even though it had potentially harmful side effects.

I did some research and read about myomectomies, a surgery where the fibroids are removed, but the uterus, cervix, and ovaries are left intact. Sometimes fibroids grow back, but there was a good chance that I’d make it to menopause intact and that I would be able to go through a natural menopause. I also considered a partial hysterectomy (only removing the uterus). I did not ask myself what I wanted to get out of the surgery, I only thought about the best way to remove the fibroids.

I had the myomectomy. Everything was “good” for about five years. My period came and went, and I pretended that it wasn’t happening to me. Then, I started bleeding heavily and irregularly. I became anemic. I found a gynecologist who was willing to try to get me through menopause without a hysterectomy. I tried Lupron, but hated the side effects. I had a D&C to remove a hanging fibroid. Eventually we agreed on a partial hysterectomy; leave the cervix and the ovaries in, take the uterus and the fibroids out. No need for estrogen replacement therapy. No more bleeding or periods. I felt better immediately after the surgery.

I felt so good, that I didn’t go back to a doctor or a gynecologist for another eight years. Not until I’d lost the 40 pounds and come out as trans.

I regret not getting the partial hysterectomy the first time around. Other feminist paradigms (love your body shape just the way it is, love your breasts no matter how big/small they are, and be mistrustful of synthetic hormones) made me question getting top surgery (2014) and taking, or not taking, testosterone (still on the fence).

One thing I’ve learned during my transition is to ask myself “What do I want to get out of this?” instead of “What should I do?” For top surgery, the answer was that I wanted my pre-puberty chest back and I wanted to stop binding. If I still got my period, or had a lot of estrogen in my system, I might want to take testosterone, or some other drug, to stop it. But, when I ask myself what I want to get from testosterone now, I struggle to come up with an honest or compelling answer.

Notes: I generally don’t read a lot of articles on menstruation, menopause, or uteri. I still ignore my lower half. However, I do like this piece from Spacious Perspicacious “On being nonbinary and having an evil uterus“. I also like this piece “I Use Hormones For Things You Might Not Approve Of‘ by s.e. smith.

7 thoughts on “Between the Neck and the Knees

  1. Lesboi

    I definitely had an evil uterus and I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to send it to the trash heap where it belonged. One of the best things I ever did for myself was getting all that crap removed from my body. Never wanted it. Never needed it. Like you, I did my best to ignore it well into my 30s.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Strangely enough, as soon as I stopped menstruating, it seemed like I had never done it at all. I completely stopped thinking about it. It might be that it is because it was internal rather than external (I think about my top surgery every time I throw on a T shirt and give thanks), but I believe that the denial about reproductive stuff was so deep that I just continued not thinking about it.

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  2. halitentwo

    Ugh, I can so relate! Just reading the word *gynecologist* makes me squeamish. Yech! I like the asking “what do I want from this”. Or maybe even, “what can I expect from this”. Because very often I find myself wanting something that is more fantasy than reality. When I stopped shaving my legs I envisioned hairy masculine calves. What I ended up with is old-lady scraggly patchy weird-looking tufts of hair on my still-scrawny legs. When I ask myself what I want from testosterone (like you I am in limbo here), I want the mental and emotional congruity so many trans-guys describe. I want my body realigned – fat redistributed. I want a square jaw and more muscle mass. I want to be stronger. And mostly I want to feel integrated. Perhaps that is too big an order. I don’t know.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The desire to feel integrated is critical, and whether it is possible to feel that without T – or whether it is possible to feel integrated inside and live with a somewhat contradictory exterior. And throw in the issue of accepting that by the time we transition it will be to a middle aged transmasculine body, not the body we desired as children or adolescents.

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  3. Curious and Curiouser

    Would you mind saying something about the side effects of Lupron? My trans teen takes it, and although it’s promoted as having zero side effects, I’ve wondered. I don’t think there was such a thing as a synthetic medication with zero side effects.

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  4. Jamie Ray Post author

    The side effects I experienced from Lupron (Depro) were that I got hot flashes so bad that I could only put my coat on (during the winter) once I got outside. If I put it on at home (or at work) I got an immediate sweat/flash and turned bright red. My co-workers thought it was really funny but I didn’t. I also got night sweats and sometimes hot flashes if I was sitting in a car with my back touching the back of the seat. Besides that I felt very cranky and irritable on it – not exactly depressed, but very quick to react negatively or get annoyed. I was taking it to stop bleeding, and I was already peri-menopausal at the time, but I don’t think I would have accepted taking it for more than 6 months. I did not feel like “myself” on it.

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