I originally posted the piece below on June 22, 2012. Leslie St Clair who is beside me in the photo passed away July 5, 2010.
I will be 70 in a few days, fifty years ago I was in the process of leaving home. The Summer of Love was calling and I needed to fly, to see America, to do what I had to do.
Now I am one of the really old timers, one of the last of an era.
An old hippie dyke who dealt with being born transsexual so many years ago.
The version of Sex Reassignment Surgery they performed in 1972 was pretty primitive by today’s standards.
I was one of the people they perfected their techniques on. All of us who were among the first to get our surgery from one of the University Hospitals were the bodies they learned on and sort of experimented on.
I remember going into the OR and then waking up in pain.
That tiny basement room, hidden away from the rest of the hospital was hot and miserable.
I was stuck on my back with my legs tied together. They had sewn a large stent into my vagina. I was catheterized.
I had tubes in both arms and I remember a lot of pain.
Chope was sort of hard to get to and I didn’t have a lot of visitors.
There was a male respiratory therapist who grew up in Middlebury, Vermont just across Lake Champlain from where I grew up. We talked about growing up in the north country and skiing.
There was a nurse who was convinced that transsexuals were bizarre perverts and that I was trying to seduce him. Even though I was in pain with tubes going into me and coming out of me. My hair was filthy and felt physically filthy with sweat.
After a week they put me back under to change the dressings and pull the original stent. I made the mistake of having implants done at the same time.
I was still in incredible pain as I was developing a vaginal-urethral fistula.
They were limiting my pain killers and telling me that the pain was psychosomatic.
I developed bed sores from where my legs had been tied together.
When they discharged me from the hospital, ten days after SRS, I was still in a great deal of pain.
Several days later my friend Kim, drove me down to Chope for a check up where the doctors discovered I had a fistula and was peeing through my vagina.
They shoved a large needle in to my bladder above my pelvic bones, and inserted a suprapubic catheter. They gave me a large supply of pain killers at this point.
I was in pain and the results of my surgery looked horrible, I was black and blue with horrible swelling and stitches running every which way. Worse yet they were starting to itch.
Jerry had screened the mail from my mother.
He asked me if he could destroy a couple of the letters without my reading them. He told me not to read them.
In one my mother told me that if I ever came home my father would kill me.
Between weed and pain killers Jerry and my friends kept me stoned.
Between the stent and everything else I developed a vaginal infection.
This meant another trip back to the clinic, this time at Stanford where they removed the catheter.
Dr Laub told me I had a yeast infection and it was the first time they had ever encountered that particular vaginal infection in a post-op transsexual. He asked if I minded if he showed it to some of his interns as they were learning about transsexuals.
I translated some to be two or three and wasn’t ready for the twenty or so eager to see young doctors who crowded in to see my infected cunt.
I got better eventually.
I was expected to wear the stent full time for the first six months.
At first it was painful then annoying.
The surgery was ugly and primitive but was vastly improved when I got the follow up labioplasty a little over a year later.
I’ve learned to live with the fistula.
I answered all the questionnaires they gave me over the years.
I never sued and I ignored a whole lot of abuse that went along with being used as sort of an experimental subject.
Twelve years later on a follow up, after the movie Bladerunner, had come out I used the term “Replicants” to describe us and how they treated those of us who were among the first to get surgery done in the University hospitals.
This was after the Meyers/McHugh Report. Judy Van Maasdam chided me for using a slur to describe myself. I said, “Replicant is the term people use when they are being polite. The bastards at Hopkins probably call us “Skin Jobs.””
The thing is very few of us complained. Not because everything went perfectly.
Many of us tried to present a squeaky clean image not because the doctors required it but because we didn’t want to fuck things up for those who followed us.
I never sued, hell I probably signed away the rights to sue or even demand they cover the costs of correcting the fistula.
I laughed it off when they had all young doctors look at my twat.
I had friends in line behind me waiting to get their surgery and loyalty to them kept me from complaining.
Forty-five years later this is the stuff of my memoir.
Forty-five years later this was the price, those of us who got our surgery back then paid.
The doctors learned on our bodies and perfected the techniques they use today.
Am I envious of modern surgeries?
Honestly I am a little.
I wish I didn’t have the fistula and I wish I had a clit that looked like a clit.
But my cunt is my cunt, it is my body and the ball of tissue that lies hidden only to turn into a little knot when I get aroused, works the way it is supposed to, particularly with the Hitachi Magic Wand.
The only thing I wish I could convey to those who come along today and say that so few of the pioneers stuck around to give back to the community, is this, “We paid more than most of you will ever imagine.”
We put our bodies on the line with no guarantees and most of us did so with grace and care because we didn’t want to fuck it up and have them stop doing SRS.
Everything was so experimental in those early years in American University Centers.
The photo below is as close as any one is going to see of a before picture of me. It was taken about a month before I had SRS. I’m wearing the purple skirt and one of my very special BFFs, Leslie is the tall blonde beside me.