Against Vaginoplasty

Why would anyone consent to being mutilated by the removal of her genitals, if it were not right for her? Because of a complex set of cultural taboos and permissions, under which certain ways of being are OK, and others are Not.

Here I put the case against vaginoplasty. I am glad I did it. It was how I survived. We don’t live in the ideal world where femininity and masculinity are valued in both men and women, without being associated with either, and don’t know how we would react there. Could the culture have forced my choice? I don’t know that it did, but this is a possible way it might have done.

I had a desperate need to see myself as a good person. This is how Carl Rogers’ “Self-concept” works, which he thought universal; and the “Shadow”, those parts of the self you cannot admit which come out to bite you. Greater maturity comes with seeing the “Organismic self” as good in itself, but I am considering  how I was around 2000-2004, my mid-thirties. Not good in myself, I was only good for what I could achieve. Of course I am vulnerable to ideas about what is acceptable or not, including ideas about how transvestites are perverts but transsexuals have a medical condition, and how “Post-ops” have made it, “Pre-ops” are lesser, journeying towards The Op, and “Non-ops” are decidedly dodgy- do we really believe this individual can’t have it because of a heart condition preventing anaesthesia? These were the words used at the time, and the attitudes of the “Support” groups.

Like so many people, I found sex confusing and embarrassing. When I was 18 I met M, who was 27. We climbed over the railings into Hyde Park in the dark, and held hands, and it felt wonderful and amazing, with a huge erotic charge. Later we went to bed together, and it did not. I was not doing what I wanted to do but what I understood I should do. Being a man, I should be on top, waggling my hips up and down. I did not get far with it. I had similar experiences with two other women before 2000, never lasting long.

Rather than doing what I wanted for itself, I did it as a symbol of proper manliness, because I wanted to seem to be a proper man.

(Any Quakers who know me reading this? Why write this, On the Internet!!? Because I still find myself ridiculous and disgusting, and try to find a way through that.)

And I felt ashamed of wanking, yet did it, mostly to fantasies of presenting female or “forced feminization”. My wet-dreams were of cross-dressing. I loathed this intensely. Sex should unite people and it isolated me.

I had the operation because I chose it. Perhaps this is why I chose it.

This is not why I express myself female. I am feminine. Presenting male, I had to act like a man “should” be and expressing myself female I could be more me.

This sounds terribly gender-essentialist. Male and Female created He them. Man-masculine-pole and Woman-feminine-hole: between the two there is a great gulf fixed. However that attitude is prevalent in the culture: in this version of truth I am a victim of it, not a perpetrator.

How I want not to see myself as victim, constrained into action as if canoeing down rapids with the choice of only one course, or smashing into rocks.

Some legal systems require physical alteration before they will grant gender recognition. Some trans campaigners are fighting this. Yet in Britain, with Gender Recognition and protection from discrimination for those who decide permanently to change gender, and nothing for non-standard gender presentation, the social pressure remains.

Cis people might want to know your operation status- they are asking, “Are you a proper transsexual?”  Now, Trans campaigners are insistent this is unacceptable, and political correctness goes along with us.

Testosterone suppressors and oestrogen change body hair patterns and produce breast growth and impotence. We still take those.


I am playing devil’s advocate. I think I am more autonomous than that. At worst, it means that I made myself infertile and less able to participate in sex, because that was the price extorted by my culture which I had to pay in order to be authentically me, in the only way I could see how. I am better off, authentically me.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony, detail 2

3 thoughts on “Against Vaginoplasty

  1. It seems that Aotearoa New Zealand has made more progress than the the UK in acknowledging self identity of gender. There’s still some way to go, but progress is being made, Passports and driver licences require only a statutory declaration, and you can also choose a nonbinary gender. Birth certificates require an application through the family court, and it requires the applicant to have undergone medical treatment, but doesn’t specify reassignment surgery. There’s a pdf document that covers rights under NZ law at


    • In the UK there is a parliamentary committee at the moment looking at the position of trans people, including the right to define ones own gender. But yes, your position does sound better, depending on how complex the court petition procedure is: the Gender Recognition Panel here does it all by paperwork.


      • The family court here is quite informal, and in this case, I think all they would require is conformation that one is living as the gender requested, and that one has had/is having medical treatment. That applies only to a birth certificate. All other documents (diver’s licence, passport etc), all that is required is a statutory declaration.


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