When we left the last episode on Jessica, she had just started to transition.
Here, Jessica tells me how Estrogen changed her orgasms, the various surgeries she’s had to achieve her physical transformation into a woman and things no one tells you about vagina surgery.
FYI: This post includes some Q-and-A formatting.
Me: Tell me what it felt like to start taking Estrogen as part of hormone replacement therapy.
I’ve heard stories of what it’s like to take Testosterone (from women transitioning to men) and it sounded crazy: insane sex drives that made them want to bang everyone in sight, steroid-like rages and superhuman muscle growth.
I assumed taking Estrogen might feel equally dramatic. Bouts of unexplained crying fits, anyone? (Jessica would totally disprove my assumption.)
Jessica: “One analogy I like to use is that I felt like I was Dorothy waking up in Oz. I’d been in black and white land for a really long time. Then, with Estrogen, I was seeing life in living color for the first time ever.
I finally felt like my emotions had this crystal clarity, like they had a vocabulary to them, and like I could understand and process them without being so caught up in them. I could take a step back and look at them and be like ‘Oh! That’s what’s happening!’ rather than being confused and sort of flailing around and getting angsty and emo.
Prior to that, I knew I was an emotional being, that I was sensitive, but it was so much harder to do that. I just felt like things made so much more sense.”
But, of course, having permission to express emotions involves cultural pressures, not just hormones. Jessica also felt she had more permission to express herself as a woman than she’d had as a man.
“It’s just a horrible reality of patriarchy that men aren’t allowed to show emotions.”
Physically, she said, the lines of her face and body began to round out. Fat started accumulating around her hips. Breasts started to emerge on her chest. She also noticed her sense of smell had gotten stronger. She could smell men.
But there was another emotional component, too.
“I also felt that I was undoing a lot of what I saw as damage that was done to my body because of the first puberty that I went through — the first puberty that I didn’t choose.”
New Vocal Cords, Breasts, and Vagina
After she started doing hormone replacement therapy, Jessica took a plane ride all the way to South Korea, where a doctor was pioneering a unique type of vocal chord surgery and took her as a patient. Jessica’s original voice was a deep baritone that sounded very “manly.”
In order to get her voice to come out at a higher pitch, the doctor fused one side of her vocal cords together so that air passing through her larynx would produce a higher-pitch sound.
Jessica’s voice is on the deeper end of women’s voices, but it’s definitely a female sound. She came home very happy with the surgery.
So now Jessica had a woman’s voice, budding breasts and womanly curves. There were only a couple more steps to complete her transformation.
In a moment of intense ambition, Jessica decided to get a breast augmentation surgery and a vaginoplasty in a single operation near her home in the East Bay Area, CA. She now stresses that she does NOT recommend doing both surgeries at once.
“I woke up in the recovery room in a world of pain, unable to move,” she said. “I really underestimated how much the recovery from breast augmentation takes out of you.”
Luckily, she said, it wasn’t as painful as it could have been on her wallet. She paid for the boob job herself. But her vaginoplasty was covered by her insurance as mandated by California law (because a doctor deemed it medically necessary).
Jessica had an advantage during her recovery. Her partner, who was also born male, went through the surgery before her. But there were things that happened (for both of them) that no doctor had told them about (even though they damn well should have).
“There are are going to be parts of you that are going to melt off,” Jessica told me.
Here’s where I asked Jess to elaborate about a whole bunch of things about her new vagina, how it healed and how it works:
Me: Can you tell me more about your pussy “melting off?” That sounds horrifying:
Jessica: “It is really scary. But it’s also perfectly normal and most people recover from that completely as if nothing has happened.”
“Basically the furniture down there gets rearranged during the surgery. One of the many things I learned along this journey is that male genitalia and female genitalia aren’t that different. They’re arranged differently, but the individual parts are really similar.
So Vaginoplasty consists of a repositioning and folding of all these tissues using the existing tissues. When that’s done, some of the tissues might not get as much blood flow as they did before, so they get starved of nutrients and oxygen.
That’s when the surface tissue tends to die off — which is as gross as it sounds. It is really really awful. Everyone knows that their pussy is going to look like Frankenpussy after surgery. It’s red, there’s stitches and it’s swollen, you can see the stitch lines. You expect that. What you don’t expect is this yellow-y, clumpy, almost mucus-y, looks-like-someone-sneezed-on-your-pussy kind of residue.
So you might have a chunk of your inner labia just die off, just fall off, and it’ll just grow right back. It’s hard to believe because when you lose a limb or a toe it doesn’t grow back. But it turns out that your pussy does. It’s strange.
And it’s gross and it’s funky and it’s awful and you think, ‘Oh my god, What is happening? My pussy is melting. I’m dying.’ But it turns out that it is perfectly normal.
It’s something doctors should tell patients beforehand. Because you’re already dealing with so many changes, working with so many geographic changes on your body. Your clitoris, which used to be the head of your penis, is positioned in a completely different way.”
ME: Do you ever get a phantom limb feeling where your penis used to be?
Jessica: “There were times early on when I felt like I could feel my penis. I figured out what was going on though. Basically, my clit was telling me that it was still the head of my penis, that the most sensitve part of it was still there. It took a lot of adjusting and it was pretty weird at first.
Me: How does your pussy look? Does it look like a cis-gendered woman’s pussy?
Jessica: “I’ve been told by cisgender females, lesbians and bisexuals that it looks just like a pussy should. And those are obviously people who have had a good look — a face-full of pussy as it were. So yeah. They’ve told me it’s pretty and that the surgeon did a great job.”
Me: Let’s talk functionality … Does your new pussy function like a regular one? Can you have clitoral and G-spot orgasms? (This to me, was the most interesting question of all. For some reason, I’d been under the impression that vaginoplasty pussies weren’t completely functional. Turns out I was COMPLETELY wrong, and I’m super glad that I was!)
But the part that really fascinated me was that Jessica’s orgasms changed even BEFORE she got a vagina, back when she was initially taking estrogen.
Jessica: “I do have a G-spot. In fact, I still have a prostate, even though it’s much smaller than it was because of hormone replacement therapy. But it’s still there and it can still be stimulated. It’s still very enjoyable.”
Me: What about orgasms? How is an orgasm as a woman different from an orgasm as a man?
Jessica: “Orgasms are very different. Oh my goodness. They were different even before my surgery after I started hormone replacement therapy. That’s when I started having more full-body orgasms. The sensation wasn’t just concentrated immidiately around my genitals anymore. It was more like waves of pleasure throughout my body. So that started happening with just hormones. But then, of course, the surgery changes everything.
When I still had a penis, when I climaxed, it kind of had this punchiness to it, this moment of just intense pleasure, hitting you like a truck. That male orgasm pleasure just built and built and then BOOM it just exploded like a firework.
Now my orgasms are this gradual build to this raging fire that just blazes for like 15 to 40 solid seconds where I’m climaxing and my mind is just clear of any distractions. I’m just completely in the heat of the moment, my mind is empty and I’m just experiencing pleasure and it just lasts for so much longer than it used to. Coming down takes a lot longer than it used to. But I can have multiple orgasms now. Most of the secondary orgasms are energy orgasms, where I feel waves of pleasure through my body but not the intense contraction and pleasure that I get during my initial orgasm.
I also discovered that I’m a bit of a squirter … Or, I don’t really squirt, but I gush. I drench my hands every time I masturbate. It’s kind of amazing.
I didn’t think that I would get such good results from my surgery but there they are.
I definitely experience internal stimulation orgasms and they are different from the orgasms I get from clitoral stimulation. They’re deeper and they’re more intense — always gush from internal orgasms.”
Me: Wow, I’m so happy and amazed to hear this. Is this kind of experience you’ve had pretty normal? Or are you the exception?
Jessica: “Most of the trans people I’m close to have had similar experiences. They may not gush as much as I do or they may prefer clitoral stimulation over internal stimulation, but most of them agree that penetrative sensation feels really good. I think it also depends on the surgeon and when they got their surgery.
Surgery techniques now are a lot better than they used to be even 10 years ago. So some things are different for trans feminine people who had their surgery 10 years ago. Doctors have gotten to a point now where they can make a vagina that allows you to come and really gush from internal vaginal stimulation just like a cis-gendered woman does, if that’s something that you’re capable of doing. That’s a pretty common experience I’ve seen among people in my chosen family.
I knew that going into my consultation that things were really good now medically, and that was a motivation for me to get a full-sized vagina with a vaginal canal as opposed to a shallower one.
There are people who have chosen to get shallow vaginas or no vaginas at all, just a vulva. And their recovery process is much much simpler.”
Me: Is that why you decided to get a vagina with a full vaginal canal? So that you could experience penetrative sex?
Jessica: “Yes, that’s why. I also wanted to be able to relate to cis-gendered women in a way that I felt would have been impossible otherwise. So, I get it now, in the sense that I’ve had to wear a pad for months. I like to think of it as making up for lost time … Had I been born with a pussy I would have gone through all these periods and instead, after the surgery, I ended up having one really long period that lasted for months and months as my vagina was bleeding during recovery. I had to wear a pad every day and I get it. The struggle is real … I have this newfound respect and empathy for my fellow sisters. I get it now.”
Me: I heard that you just had your first penis-in-vagina sex. What was that like?
Jessica: “Yes! I just had my first p-in-v sex as a vagina-haver and it was different from what I expected. It was more intense than I expected. I had gotten used to the process of dilating my vagina, which I do with a medical phallus one to two times a day, to keep the new vagina from closing up. I’ve been doing that for 9.5 months since my surgery. So having something in my vagina is a normal sensation for me because I experience it every day.
But having a person inside my vagina was a relatively new experience for me. I’ve had fingers but I’ve never had a penis. It was a little overwhelming, but it was pleasant and fun and I would totally do it again. The person I had sex with was a preoperative trans woman. She still had her penis. And she’s just a sweetheart. And I’m so happy that my first experience was with her because she’s just super sweet and super attentive and very feminine and I wouldn’t have had it any other way, being that I’m a lesbian. It was pretty cool.”
Me: Do you tell new partners that you were assigned male at birth? In other words, do you “come out” as a trans woman before you sleep with someone new?
Jessica: “That was a conversation that I felt I needed to have before surgery, more so than now. But I feel fortunate because I’m a queer woman who’s mostly interested in women and I’ve never had an experience where people are grossed out or shocked and stunned. I’ve never come out to anyone and seen it change their opinion of me or their decision to be intimate with me.
But I can imagine that if I were to start dating cis-genderd, heterosexual men, it would be a much more daunting and scary prospect. Many transgender women suffer violence and sexual assault when they reveal to their prospective partners that they were assigned male at birth.
There’s a lot of transphobia out there and it’s a scary conversation for many trans women who are interested in men. Fortunately I have not had to deal with that in as scary a way. And I am not at all interested in cisgendered, straight men. I have been attracted to cisgendered queer men. There is something about queer men that is much more safe. Especially those that are in the greater LGBT community.
I feel like the prospect of telling a bisexual man that I was assigned male at birth sounds much less scary than telling someone who’s been cis and straight their entire life.”
Jessica freakin’ stole my heart. I can’t help but feel like trans people like her have a very special appreciation for what it means to be a woman. All I can say is, it’s damn good to have you. I’m hoping (and betting) that you and your vagina are going to have many years of happiness ahead.
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