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Trans woman describes what it’s like to have your vagina melt off after surgery

an origami heart with the trans flag painted on

Easy Origami / Flickr (Remix via Max Fleishman)

On the new blog Truth Speak Project, women tell all.

This article contains frank descriptions of vaginoplasty. 

What is it like to watch your vagina “melt off” just a few days after you finally get one?

That’s the fascinating topic of a new interview on a new women’s storytelling blog called Truth Speak Project. In the interview, a transgender woman going by the name Jessica speaks candidly about her bottom surgery and what it’s like to watch a penis be surgically transformed into a vagina and vulva.

So Vaginoplasty consists of a repositioning and folding of all these tissues using the existing tissues. When that’s done, some of the tissues might not get as much blood flow as they did before, so they get starved of nutrients and oxygen.

That’s when the surface tissue tends to die off—which is as gross as it sounds. It is really really awful. Everyone knows that their pussy is going to look like Frankenpussy after surgery. It’s red, there’s stitches and it’s swollen, you can see the stitch lines. You expect that. What you don’t expect is this yellow-y, clumpy, almost mucus-y, looks-like-someone-sneezed-on-your-pussy kind of residue.

So you might have a chunk of your inner labia just die off just fall off and it’ll just grow right back. It’s hard to believe because when you lose a limb or a toe it doesn’t grow back. But it turns out that your pussy does. It’s strange.

The interview, which is in two parts, is engaging not only for the shocking mental image of a melting, regenerating vulva; it’s also compelling because it responds to the curiosity many people have regarding the physical aspects of gender transition. Most of the time, asking a trans person about reassignment surgery is invasive and inappropriate. But according to Truth Speak Project founder Breena Kerr, the kind of candor that Jessica and other interview subjects display on her site ends up helping women who might feel isolated, even unformed, when it comes to explicit details around sex and the body.

“If we hear each other’s stories, we might find freedom from shame and isolation,” Kerr told the Daily Dot on Monday.

After years of working as a newspaper journalist, Kerr said she was frustrated by the coverage of women’s intimate lives. She went searching for truly open discussions of sex, bodies, and intimacy, and ending up finding that most of the media discourse revolved around either violence (rape and assault) or statistics (studies that surveyed women on their orgasms, for example). 

“I felt like there was an opening for the kind of stories that women tell their closest girlfriends,” Kerr said. “And to put it somewhere where other women could see it, to dispel this idea that a lot of us have that we’re alone and that our experiences are weird or wrong.”

Kerr launched Truth Speak Project in February, reaching out through her local Bay Area network to find interview subjects. The first interview she published on the site was with Katie, a masculine young woman with a male partner whom everyone assumes to be a lesbian. Also in February, Kerr interviewed a woman whose formerly raring libido all but disappeared after hormone therapy to treat breast cancer. All of the interviews on the site delve into complex personal relationships, sexuality, and the body with a frankness typically avoided in polite conversation.

“Everyone who I’ve interviewed has felt good about it,” said Kerr. “It’s the nature of it—it feels good to say some of the things that go unsaid. There’s this relief at naming the elephant in the room, being able to talk about the things you aren’t supposed to ask.”

Jessica’s interview does just that. While the majority of transgender people don’t have bottom surgery either out of personal preference or the staggering cost, Jessica’s experience provides a roadmap for what to expect after vaginoplasty. It also addresses the curiosity that many cisgender people have about transitioning, without the uncomfortable and invasive questioning. 

Plus, there’s lots of chatting about orgasms.

Surgery techniques now are a lot better than they used to be even 10 years ago. So some things are different for trans feminine people who had their surgery 10 years ago. Doctors have gotten to a point now where they can make a vagina that allows you to come and really gush from internal vaginal stimulation just like a cis-gendered woman does, if that’s something that you’re capable of doing. That’s a pretty common experience I’ve seen among people in my chosen family.

In the interview, Jessica describes the difference between orgasming with a penis (“it kind of had this punchyness to it”) and orgasming as a woman with a vagina and an estrogen-heavy hormone balance (the joy of multiple orgasms and a “gradual build to this raging fire”). Jessica also speaks frankly about being a lesbian trans woman, about safety issues that arise in the sex lives of trans women, and about what it’s like to basically have your period and wear pads for “months and months” after surgery.

After the interview was posted (and rapidly upvoted) on Reddit‘s LGBT board, Kerr said other trans women wrote her asking for the name of Jessica’s doctor “because the results were so good.” Most responses to Truth Speak Project in general have been warm, but Kerr said she’s gotten flak from trolls as well—most of whom ask, strangely, whether the blog is “a joke.”

Though Kerr founded the blog independently, she said she plans to apply for funding to expand it. She was partly inspired by the growth of Humans of New York, and hopes to travel the world interviewing women of different cultures. Kerr grew passionate while speaking about the messages women receive from our respective cultures and backgrounds. Rules on how to dress, behave, whether or not to be sexual and how—all quietly accepted as universal truths.

“What we think is OK and normal is so incredibly varied depending on where you’re from,” said Kerr. “And the crazy thing is, we all think that what we grew up with is normal… but everyone was told a different thing. And by recognizing how mutable these things are, we have a little more freedom and realize that we can choose.”

Screengrab via Easy Origami/YouTube | Remix by Max Fleishman

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara

Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.