In the first place, it's not so easy even to find your vagina. Women go weeks, months, sometimes years without looking at it.I suppose that makes me a bit different, because I see my vagina at least three times a day, and usually six, and can look forward to a long future of regularly saying hi to my down there.
--Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues
My vagina is a bit different than other women's, as a consequence of my not having been born with one.
One of the things you learn about, if you are transsexual and if you are thinking about having The Surgery (italicization was really unnecessary, wasn't it? I mean, if I mention surgery I know where your head is going to go) is about the D-Word--dilation. It's one of the aftercare things they don't tell you about back when you first realize that you want to be female, not that you'd have told anyone, at least, not if you were me.
The commonplace that nature abhors a vacuum works on my neo-vagina as well: left to its own devices, my body would fill it in gradually, like silt in a canal. (Ick.) So everyday, three times a day right now, I have to--well, dilate it: put something inside to hold the shape and gradually convince my body that it's supposed to be there.
There's probably all sorts of ways to accomplish this--my surgeon's instructions on the subject note that sexual intercourse is the equivalent of "only one dilation"--but the standard equipment is a series of four graduated lucite rods, rounded on one end, about seven inches long each. You start with the relatively small #1, about the diameter of a carrot, and eventually work your way up to the squat #4, which is wider than the handle of the flashlight I keep on my desk. Right now I use the #2 and #3 when I dilate, warming up for ten minutes on the first, and then a half an hour on the second. With time out for changing them, this lasts about as long as an hour-long television drama if you fast-forward through the commercials, so I tend to time-shift shows on my DVR to have something to do while dilating.
Because you can't do much while dilating; as the dilation isn't just about girth, but much more about preserving depth, you have to keep a constant pressure up with one hand. So typing is out, and even reading a book can be cumbersome. So, you watch tv, or maybe surf the internet one-handed.
When I first heard about dilation, naturally I feared that it would hurt, that every day I'd have to put myself through some sort of agony. It turns out that dilation doesn't hurt, isn't even all that uncomfortable: just a boring, repetitive chore. (You do have to stock up on lubricant, though.) On days when I am visiting a client, the first thing I do when I get home--before even making dinner--is to dilate, because I am overdue, and even then I have to do it again in a few hours. In time I'll be able to do it less--most of the women I know who are several years out from their surgery dilate about once a week--but for now it's an onerous duty. I am handmaid to my vagina.
But I do get to see it everyday. This might sound wonderful except of course that familiarity breeds--indifference. I no longer examine myself except to check that nothing looks inflamed, and to make sure I get the dilator in the right place. Maybe there are women who don't need to use a mirror, but when I try I usually end up bumping something else instead, like my clitoris.
I do remember the first few times I saw it though--red, raw, inflamed, supperating in places and with ugly black sutures running inside it, Frankensteinian. But after the first few times of worrying about the discomfort of dilating, and the shock of this wound I had created, it became something else, a part of me, a long-sought for piece of the life I had always wanted and never had; my beautiful, glistening, gaping self; my other me made corporeal; my genitals, my wish, my pussy, my peace.
The last day I spent in Thailand, as I was getting dressed to go, I looked at myself in the mirror--lessened but made whole, no longer reminded by my reflection of where I had come from but only of where I had arrived. I smiled and happy tears welled up.
Then I lay on the bed and laughed, laughed, laughed.