Notes on Gender Role Transition

Anne Vitale Ph.D. Editor

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Ten Years After: An update on Living with a Rectovaginal Fistula

February 12, 2004

 

It dawned on me the other day that it had been over a decade since my gender reassignment surgery.  I was somewhat surprised that I had let the date go by, but when I first started my transition, I thought I would always mark the anniversaries of the day I went full time and the day I had surgery.  The reality is, though, that I always forget, sometimes for years.  When I finally realized that it had been over ten years since GRS, I figured that maybe it was time to take stock of my life and evaluate how things have gone.
 

If you have read my first article, about the fistula, you no doubt realize that things were quite difficult for me the first couple of years after surgery.  Only one suicide attempt was mentioned in the article, but I made another one a couple of months later.  Fortunately, I survived it (although I became quite ill), and finally began putting my life back together.
 

I think the episode with the fistula taught me the hardest lesson of my life, and a lesson that I think we all have to deal with sooner or later.  For those of us "afflicted" with gender dysphoria, no doubt the question has crossed our minds many times:  "Why us?  Why did we have to be the ones to deal with this?"  I asked that question in therapy many times, and then when the fistula came along, I thought I had won the Bad Luck Lottery.
 

In my anguish, I constantly asked myself why these things had to happen to me.  Hadn't I tried to make the best of my life?  Hadn't I done things the way they were supposed to be?  Thoughts like these led down the slippery slope to the attempts at suicide.
 

So what was the big lesson?  Well, it's this:  Life is unfair.  Period.  We all get dealt our cards, and some people get much better cards than others.  We can scream and cry about this until we are blue in the face, but the fact still remains--life is unfair.  It's the acceptance of this fact that changed my life.  I resolved to make the best out of what I was given in life, and forced myself to recognize that I wasn't my gender dysphoria, and I wasn't my fistula, but that I was a complex, intelligent human being.  I had to let go of that crushing desire most of us have to look and be perfect (in a way, it's not much different from what born women have to face, what with society's complete fascination with female beauty and the "perfect" female form).  If I was so intelligent and such a great person (I told myself), why was I trying to kill myself over a surgical mistake?
 

I originally had my fistula repaired eight months after GRS.  However, the closure meant that I had no vagina to speak of, and this continued to bother me.  Years later (in the year 2000, to be exact), I finally went in to have my depth restored via a skin graft.  This was a huge step, and it did wonders for my self-esteem.  I finally felt whole again.  Gone were the thoughts I used to have, that even with a skin graft I'd still be denied what those who received good surgeries got.  I was happy with who and what I was, and where I was.
 

So, here in 2004, where do I stand?  Well, I met a guy shortly after my skin graft, and we were married in October of 2000.  It was a great wedding, and my Dad, ill with cancer, demanded on making the trip up here to give me away (Mom passed away the year before, and Dad died six weeks after the wedding).  I have a stepdaughter now who is about to graduate high school.  She's a musician, and is currently auditioning at some pretty nice institutions.  I have a decent, responsible job with a small firm.
 

Most of all, I really never even think about my gender anymore.  I think that has been the best thing of all.  I can finally now live my life.