I Want to Be a Ken Doll
I have debated about writing about this topic because it is a sensitive issue for many transgender men, including myself. At the same time, I feel like it is the elephant in the room. In about one month, I will need to get a pap smear exam. I haven’t had one in three years. These exams are unpleasant for anyone, but I also despise being a man in an OB-GYN clinic. With a crooked pelvis, vaginal atrophy, and gender dysphoria, this upcoming appointment has consumed me with dread. So, for this post, I am going to talk about my vagina.
Before I medically transitioned, I did not experience much dysphoria with my genitals. My dysphoria came from my visible breasts, but even then, my dysphoria wasn’t bad. I am extremely grateful to not have breasts anymore, but they did not necessarily cause me a great deal of distress if they were bound, and no one touched them.
But lately, I feel more dysphoric feelings about my vagina, especially if anyone is going to touch it. Anything penetrating that part of me feels invasive. It hurts. I had one pap exam prior to my top surgery after transitioning. However, this one feels different. I feel more poignantly the incongruence between my genitals and the rest of my body. Worse, I need to get my IUD removed. The last time it was changed, I experienced a great deal of painful cramping for a few hours. The doctor also had to get a special tool to get it out, keeping the speculum inside of me for way too long. I fear this will happen again.
Then there’s the risk of an abnormal pap, which has happened to me numerous times since adolescence. The last time, I had to have a LEEP procedure, which I found a little traumatizing. Like this time, I had also gone three years without a pap to learn that my cells were in the pre-cancer stage. I fear this will happen again, too.
Right now, writing this and visualizing this exam, I feel jittery, self-conscious, and forlorn. Honestly, I also feel ashamed of it. I have never felt this bad going into these exams. Is this dysphoria?
This moves me into my next struggle: sex. As an asexual, sex is already difficult for me, but I am not sex averse. I would call myself sex indifferent mostly. However, ever since I donated a kidney in December, intercourse has been upsetting. It is uncomfortable and sometimes a little painful. Sometimes, I lay there wondering if I can take it. In these moments, I fight the urge to tell my husband to get off of me. Like the doctor, there’s a feeling of violation almost there. I wish nothing had to enter my vagina. Is this dysphoria? But I am scared to discuss this with my husband because I fear that he won’t have sex with me anymore. I don’t want him to lose that part of his life. Even if I do not enjoy the intercourse, I do value the intimacy between us when we have sex. So, I don’t want to lose that intimacy.
For me, the answer is not bottom surgery. I am considering it, but the process is just too overwhelming for me right now. Nevertheless, I don’t know if a penis would make me feel better. If I could have my way, I wouldn’t have any genitals. I don’t want to give up orgasms, but I don’t want genitals. I like to picture myself like a Ken doll: masculine but free from any genitalia. And if I still attract Barbie, even better!
Transitioning is a complex process. Initially, I believed that I knew exactly what I wanted, and I did not think bottom surgery was needed. Yet after feeling so much more congruent with the rest of my body, my vagina is causing me some grief. In a way, I don’t want to get rid of it. At the same time, I didn’t realize how uncomfortable I was with my breasts until they were gone. Now I am wondering the same about my vagina. What would it be like for it to be gone? Could I experience full physical congruence? Do I need it gone to be physically and emotionally whole?
This post has been difficult for me to write because I am sharing an extremely vulnerable side of myself. But I decided that I need to start talking about this. Some men have vaginas, and I don’t want that to be taboo. Also, maybe my feelings resonate with others. If it does, then I benefit because then I would know that I am not alone. I also want to emphasize that not all transgender men are unhappy with their vaginas. This post only reflects my experience.