Seeing as how I’m probably one of the few NB folks who have had a hysterectomy and wish to continue to have PIV intercourse, it’s really no wonder I haven’t seen this addressed at all in the transosphere. (Granted, it’s not like I’ve really gone looking all that hard either.) But after you have a hysterectomy, and probably especially with a complete one (removal of uterus, tubes, and cervix), the vagina can narrow, shorten, and/or atrophy.
And, as I discovered a couple of weeks/months ago, that is exactly what mine has done.
Penetration, as brief and slow as it was, was so painful for me that I was sore to the point of cramping for the rest of the day. Now, I probably would have been warned about this had I not lost my insurance right after the surgery and actually gone to my follow-up appointment, so I had to find out the hard way. Please don’t find out the hard way. If, for some reason, you can’t make your follow-up and everything else about your recovery seemed to go just fine, a word to the wise: check to see if your vag has changed since the surgery. Do it with your fingers, because honestly, even just one might be too much anymore.
There are a few remedies for this, and it’s definitely not an unsolvable issue. If you do go to your doctor, they might do either or both of these things: put you on vaginal hormone therapy, or tell you to get a set of dilators. The hormone therapy is basically a cream and/or pill that you insert into the vagina that will help change the thickness and elasticity of the tissue, and as far as I can tell, it’s almost always used in conjunction with dilator therapy. Dilators, as I’m sure you guessed, are exactly what they say on the tin – a series of plastic tubes with rounded ends, that you insert into the vagina for a few minutes each day to help retrain your muscles. You start with the largest one that can be inserted without pain, and work your way up from there.
For some reason, dilator sets are ridiculously fucking expensive for what they are: 4-10, sometimes hollow, pieces of plastic. And that’s it. What’ll this run you if your insurance doesn’t cover it? Oh, anywhere from $50-100. Another bit of proof that the medical industry doesn’t give a shit about vaginas. Here’s a set that costs $90 for no good reason:
Like seriously, they’re little more than silicone tinker toys. I guess you’re paying for the box.
At any rate, because of this, and because I’m too broke to be able to afford even the cheaper sets and not get angry about it, I’ll be using fingers. (Though on second thought, there’s really no reason that you couldn’t use veggies or another similarly-shaped household object if you also have access to condoms. Just be sure that the thickness doesn’t vary, and that the end is ROUNDED. If it’s tapered, I imagine that it could be pretty painful if that tapered end hits the end of the vag where the cervix used to be.)
Oh! And one more thing: I read something about taking vitamin D supplements while doing the retraining/dilation therapy, as it has something to do with improving the strength and sensitivity of the vaginal walls.
At any rate, none of this is in any way ideal. But I can’t possibly be the only NB kid who has been left high and dry after a surgery, so here’s some thoughts and advice in that case from a very-not-medical professional. Oh, and good fucking luck.
[ March 2016 note: I’m no longer in the same place as I was when I wrote this. I no longer identify with the term “epicene” either, as I’ve come to find that any word that attempts to approximate a gender, either as a goal, space, flavor of embodiment, or social role, is insufficient and irrelevant to me. Even words like “genderless” are too much like soundbites to me and encapsulate nothing about my lived experience, which I actually do get into a bit here otherwise. Also, now that I’ve had my hysterectomy, and am off medications, I no longer want any more surgeries, let alone colpocleisis. ]
I’ve always had a pretty decent understanding of what the “inert nothingness” feels like within the context of myself; it’s just finding words to describe that experience that’s always been sucky. It’s made engaging with trans* spaces sucky.
But a word caught my eye the other day (two, actually, from different places, and they are related in a way): epicene. You can google it to get the jist of how it’s generally used. But it has this quality to it that really interests me. For one, it doesn’t have the word “gender” or “sexual” in it. And that is a HUGE bonus, seeing as how I’ve recently referred to myself as being not quite transgender, not quite transsexual, and not quite cis; over the course of about a month those words suddenly ceased to have any meaning for me, like a house of cards come tumbling quietly down. It wasn’t an identity crisis at all; I’d just become allergic to that sort of language almost overnight without having gone through anaphylactic shock. It was time for me to move on.