How Ben Got His Penis

I’m going to apologize as the article is paywalled, but if you get the New York Times it is well worth the read.

From The New York Times:

Phalloplasty — the surgery to make a penis — has grown more popular among trans men. But with a steep rate of complications, it remains a controversial procedure.

By Jamie Lauren Keiles
May 10, 2022

Nothing about Benjamin Simpson’s transition was inevitable, certainly not his penis. Though he did, in the end, grow up to be a man, he freely admits that in another place or time he might have grown into an unhappy woman, or the local eccentric, or a person who died too young from suicide. Raised in a village outside the Finger Lakes — a place, to this day, where cell service is spotty — he did not know what “transgender” was. As a young girl, he assumed he would become a man when he grew up. When he realized he would not, he forgot the whole idea and started collecting other evidence to explain why something in his life always felt off.

First, there was the way he wore baggy clothes in the summer. (Then again, lots of teenage girls dislike their bodies.) Next came the lesbian rumors at school. (Though Ben did know that he liked girls, he did not feel like a lesbian at all.) To combat the gossip, he started dressing girlier and tried having sex with boys a few times. His interest in their bodies was more appraising than erotic. Browsing a Myspace group for lesbians, he found himself yearning for a clear identity. Where did he fit in the scheme of the world? Incomprehensible to himself, he tried a few times to end his own life. Soon after, he went looking for himself at New York University.

Ben arrived at college in 2009. There, he started calling himself a “queer lesbian,” a term he used in an attempt to reconcile his attraction to women with his interest in men’s bodies. He joined a campus L.G.B.T. group and met people who seemed to know who they were, who called themselves things like “gender-fluid” or used “ze”/“zir” pronouns. Ben did not feel that these words applied to him, but for the first time he had community and language to help him disentangle himself. This was a stressful and exciting interlude. He went out in outfits from across the gender spectrum, in clothes he wouldn’t dream of putting on today. He had long debates over terms: What was the difference between a butch lesbian and a transgender man? What was the reason to use these words at all?

In the spring of 2015, Ben got happy hour drinks with two friends at a Midtown barbecue spot. The setup was the usual — sitting at the bar, dissecting sex and gender, putting the pieces together again. They had done this many times before, but this time something clicked, and suddenly Ben understood he was a man. He stood up from the bar and told his friends: “[Expletive]! I’m trans! I gotta go!” Out in the street, he took off his heels and ran five sobbing blocks to the train. That night, he began the bureaucratic work of transition: texting his mother, posting a Facebook status, scheduling a doctor’s appointment to start testosterone.

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