A Diary of My Gender-Confirming Surgery: Let's Start From the Beginning

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Hi Readers,

My surgery is just 11 days away and it's starting to feel very real. I'm getting more excited, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't nervous too. As promised, I want to let you all know about where my journey started. Deciding to undergo Facial Feminization Surgery and Breast Augmentation Surgery was not a split-second decision. It has actually been years in the making...

A photo posted by SERENA πŸ’Ÿ (@serena.nyc) on

Ever since I can recall, I've always felt like a girl. There were definitely signs that I was different from the other boys when I was a child. People would often note how soft spoken and sensitive I was. Starting when I was around six years old, I loved to go through my mom's closet and try on her clothes. It didn't feel like playing dress up either, it simply felt right. I always played with Barbies and dreamed about being Princess Jasmine from Aladdin. And even though these were unconventional behaviors for a boy to display, I was young and free. No one could hurt me.

It frustrated me though that people would insist on referring to me as a boy when it felt so unnatural and even painful to hear. And as years passed, I began to suppress my female tendencies in order to avoid bullying and torment. It turns out that playing with your mom's makeup stops being cute after a certain age. I was even repeatedly told that I needed to "man up" and get into sports (LOL!). I was scared, confused, and wanted desperately to fit in, so I tried to make it work for as long as I could.

This became almost impossible when puberty hit. My body began to physically develop as male and I grew to be increasingly disgusted with myself. Looking in the mirror was jarring and emotionally painful because the boy staring back at me looked far more different than the person who I felt myself to be. But I didn't want to be a pariah, so I tried my hardest to act like a boy even though it meant going against every instinct and behavior that came naturally to me.

In middle school, I always wore baggy t-shirts and basketball shorts even though I wanted to wear skirts and dresses. I tried to go unnoticed by my peers out of fear that they might find out what I was hiding. I didn't even want to admit to myself that I was transgender. It was very difficult to acknowledge that I was a girl because I grew up in a conservative Dallas suburb and didn't know any other people like me. Every transgender character I saw on TV and in movies was depicted as immoral, unnatural, and deviant. I internalized these representations and began to feel deep shame. It didn't help that when I finally decided to research my confusion online, I saw that being transgender was (then) classified as a mental disorder. I remember crying that night because I felt like something was very wrong with me and that I was a freak. From that point on, suicidal thoughts flooded into my consciousness and I began to wonder which method of ending my life would be the least painful.

It was only when I began to tell people about this heavily guarded secret that my life actually became tolerable. The first person in my family to learn of my true identity was my twin brother, Milad, who is a cisgender man - meaning he identifies as the gender he was assigned at birth. We have always been extremely close and I am happy to say that he has been very supportive of my transition from the start (yes, straight guys can be allies to the LGBTQ community too). But it didn't help to be constantly compared to him when I was young. Although we were physically identical, we couldn't have been more different on the inside. When I was a child, I often felt resentment towards the fact that he got to be normal. He was able to enjoy his youth without cringing whenever someone referred to him as male. He didn't have to be constantly held to a standard that he could never measure up to. He didn't have to be repulsed by his own body. But I now realize that my struggles are no worse than anyone else's. Being transgender is simply a reality that I'm dealing with. And when I first told Milad that I felt like a girl and wanted to transition, he didn't even blink. He told me that I always seemed more like a sister to him than a brother, and that he would support me unconditionally.

#tbt to when I first got dopey and I was freakishly tan

A photo posted by Milad (@miladdin) on

Shortly after I turned 20, I decided that I could no longer live as a boy if I wanted to live authentically. I decided to come out to my parents as a transgender woman and they have been extremely supportive as well. On June 1, 2014, which I now consider my "unofficial" birthday, I started Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) which consists of estrogen and testosterone blockers. It was a remarkable experience because I felt like I was going through puberty all over again, only the correct way. My skin became softer, my body hair stopped growing, and I began to develop my own breast tissue and curves. People began to perceive me differently as well, calling me ma'am and miss instead of sir. But perhaps my favorite change that resulted from hormones was the complete and utter clarity I felt in my mind. I was no longer being bogged down by confusion and self-loathing. I was undoubtedly female, and my life was finally on the right track.

Fast forward to the present. I've been on hormones for one year (time flies by when you start living as your actual gender)! And although hormones have helped a lot in making me appear more female, they definitely have their limitations as well. It's hard to admit but I often look in the mirror and see aspects of my face and body that don't match my internal identity. No matter how many people tell me that I'm beautiful and don't need any work done, I still see remnants of my former life, a life I wish to erase. So after lots of soul-searching, I began to look into having surgery to correct what hormones couldn't. And although I'm terrified of going under the knife, I know this is what's right for me.

One whole year on hormones! πŸ’ŠπŸŽ‰πŸ‘ΈπŸ½ What a difference a year makes...

A photo posted by SERENA πŸ’Ÿ (@serena.nyc) on

Come back for my entry next week to learn about the challenges I faced in order to actually make this surgery happen.

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