How My Hysterectomy Helped Affirm My Gender Identity
I have always felt like I didn’t fit with other girls. I never felt like I quite belonged. In the inevitable “girls versus boys” competitions in elementary school, I was never comfortable on the girls’ side even though that’s where, biologically at least, I belonged. Growing up, I felt uncomfortable in my female body. It never fit as it should, but I didn’t have words to describe that feeling, let alone know what to do about it.
I came out as gay in my mid-20s and was, for the most part, accepted by my loved ones. Still… I felt uncomfortable. I was living in a female body and felt attracted to women. So, I identified myself as a lesbian and tried to push away the discomfort with my body. I have a history of eating disorders and sexual trauma, so I didn’t exactly have experience feeling safe in my physical self. I assumed that’s what I was experiencing. When I moved to a different state from my parents to attend grad school, I gained valuable distance and space to learn more about my sexuality and my body. After talking to a dear friend and trying to explain my physical discomfort, I bought my first chest binder. I loved it. I immediately felt more comfortable in my body. However, it was not a perfect solution. A chest binder cannot be worn all the time, but I was not ready to pursue anything further.
Throughout all of these experiences, I was living a nightmare with the most female part of my physical self. I experienced excruciating pain and extremely heavy bleeding with every menstrual period. I was prescribed hormonal birth control in an attempt to manage my brutal periods. It didn’t help much. I spent years just living with the pain. I have a fear of doctors and, I realize looking back now, I did not want to face this “female” problem. The chronic pain dominated my existence and I did not want to continue living like that. I decided to seek further help. After working with a couple of different doctors, I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids and endometriosis. My doctor also suspected adenomyosis. I opted to undergo a total hysterectomy and bilateral salpingectomy to treat these reproductive issues. I would keep my ovaries, but my uterus (including the cervix) and fallopian tubes would be removed. This decision was one of the best I’ve made in my life, for so many reasons.
First, I was free from the pain that I’d been living with since I was a teenager. After I recovered from the surgery, I felt freedom like I’d never known. Part of this was being free from pain, but it was also a new freedom to understand my gender identity. Because I don’t have a uterus, I no longer menstruate and this side effect from the surgery turned out to be critical to understanding myself. I was never meant to have periods because I am not a woman. I am genderqueer.
There is a feminine side to me, but my physical body is not where that manifests for me. I recently bought another chest binder and have begun wearing it more regularly, even around my family. I have not brought up my gender identity to them yet, but it’s a step that will happen soon now that I have it figured out for myself. I’m thinking about top surgery as well. I would not have found this clarity in my identity without the hysterectomy. That surgery and the ending of my menstrual periods was the key to unlocking my gender identity. I am proud to be genderqueer and I am so grateful to have discovered this understanding of myself.
Getty image by Ivan Moreno.