How to have a voluntary hysterectomy in melbourne part 5: gender feelings (mine and others)

For me, this was The Surgery.

It wasn’t really the periods, though that certainly wasn’t very fun. Mood swings and the risk of the girlier cancers seemed similarly perverse, but they weren’t the biggest reasons either. It was more about reproductive capacity. Pregnancy and motherhood always really freaked me out. It’s not just that I couldn’t allow pregnancy to happen to me or that I was scared of it, it seemed impossible and unnatural that it could. Pregnancy seemed like the movie Alien, if the alien took 24 hours to claw its way out of your chest and then you had to pay it money for the next 18 years. Motherhood seemed like a weird trap. Ultros says the way I describe my gender is in terms of abnegation, of trying to remove myself from gender rather than shifting between them. What I know is that my favourite word for this procedure is ‘desexing’.

A lot of cis women find hysterectomies to be a sad occasion, so much of the post-surgical advice is formal, even solemn. Don’t worry, some of it implies, even without your womb, you’re still a woman.

You can’t wear a binder, or even a sports bra in the hospital. There’s just too many wires and tubes they need to attach to you. This means that your baps are just going to be flopping around under a loose hospital gown. Depending how much you enjoy that experience, you may not enjoy that experience.

In the pre-admissions online paperwork there had been only two options – M and F, though I’d awkwardly stuttered to the pre-admissions nurse on the phone that I was nonbinary and was getting this hysto as part of a gender transition. When I got to the hospital my sex had been marked as ‘M’ on the forms. The receptionist nurse was chill about me being signed in as an M while looking like an F, and when I asked her whether there were any other gender options she said they had Male, Female, Unspecified and Other. I’m legally Other, so that suited me well, though all my subsequent paperwork still had M on it, which was unfortunate.

Out of the 20 people I met that day, only one was awkward about it. Awkward in a nice way I suppose – when she handed me a jar to pee in she seemed nervous and was like “I know you identify as a man but would it be ok to ask you to do a pregnancy test, you don’t have to do a pregnancy test if it would threaten your masculinity” (I am secure in my lack of masculinity; I did the pregnancy test).

I’ve been living in a happy gay bubble this whole pandemic, so it was a bit of a surprise when no one knew what a nonbinary or a vegan was. I assumed health workers would have had some awareness training on niche genders, but apparently not. I felt like I either had to educate everyone about gender identity and they/them pronouns or just stay quiet. Since I’m pretty meek and hadn’t had any sleep that day I wasn’t feeling very assertive or confident in my teaching abilities. I think I had a pretty even mix of people referring to me as she/her and he/him. If I looked more androgynous or masculine, I imagine I would have a different experience. I try not to let pronoun stuff-ups get to me while I still look like an ordinary lady. It was just a bit of culture shock, and I guess a taste of what post-lockdown life will be like.

part 1: finding a surgeon
part 2: the boring details of surgery
part 3: advice
part 4: money
part 5: gender feelings (mine and others)