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If you won the lottery, or at least, got your hands on a sizable sum of money (let’s call it $100,000 for the sake of argument, not that I have that much), what would you do with it? Pay off a mortgage? Credit cards? A car loan? Maybe do some home improvements, or just drop it in the savings account for a rainy day? I’m sure you don’t even need three guesses to figure out what I’d do.

I recently inherited a small amount of money. As it turns out, it’s the last of the money I need for my own medical expenses related to transition– I have money to finish up all of my electrolysis and also to pay for surgery. In the few months since my last post, I’ve resumed electrolysis on my face, started electrolysis on my genitalia*, and booked a consultation date for surgery with Dr. Christine McGinn in Pennsylvania.

And now, surgery looks like it may be less than 10 months away and I feel terrified. I’m excited of course, and thrilled and happy and I’ve felt better than I have in years, but still, I’m scared. Surgery is a big deal and this is, it really is, irreversible. The trach shave was, of course, but big deal, I’d be a guy without a hugely prominent adam’s apple. And I wouldn’t have a lot of hair on my body or face. But, those are hardly the kind of roadblocks one would worry about when de-transitioning, if one decided to do so.

This though, as I’m starting to get bald patches around the surgical site, is starting to really sink in. If I detransitioned now, it would be a weird thing to try and explain why I had almost no pubic hair.

If you’ve noticed in that last paragraph, I used the phrase ‘surgical site’, which is how I’ve come to relate to my genitalia. I used to use feminine words when talking about my body, calling each part by what it would eventually become. Now though, it’s just a surgical site. I’ve actually found that as I start thinking about surgery and what will happen to my body that it feels weird to call parts of my body by names that don’t fit yet– a caterpillar is not yet a butterfly. And so that doesn’t feel right to me anymore.

I imagine that my relationship to my body will continue to evolve in the next several months, as the date is fixed and then gets progressively closer. And that’s actually the one thing about surgery that’s most on my mind at the moment– how will my relationship to my body continue to change, especially post-surgery?

In other words, what if surgery doesn’t do anything to make me feel better? What if I’m not happy? What if, instead of feeling out of place with male genitalia, I feel out of place with female genitalia that are, for lack of a better word, artificial? What if I don’t feel like a real woman when it’s all said and done?

I’ve had this particular thought before– that part of what supports the thesis that I’m not a real woman is that without shots and electrolysis and surgery I wouldn’t be a woman. If I were trapped on a desert island, I’d eventually start looking like a man again. Consequently, my top three desert island must-haves: lifetime supply of 1.) estrogen, 2.) syringes and 3.) needles.

This view is, of course, very short sighted, but it represents a very real fear and a very real misgiving in my own psyche– it’s even evident in my “About” section on this blog– that what we feel is not the entirety of the experience. After all, my thinking goes, if all it took to be a woman was to feel like a woman, then the government wouldn’t require that we have SRS in order to change our social security accounts. Evidently, there’s something within the institutionalized ideas of gender that are based on our physical bodies and it seems I’m carrying that around with me– just because you say you’re an orange doesn’t make it so.

If I had to pin down the fear, it’s that in this process of moving from apple to orange, from fish to fowl, I’m worried that I’ll end up, not stuck in between as I feel now, but in some third place, as neither, and that the unique state of being will not be superior to either of the known points. What if I end up in a worse place than I’ve ever been, what if I feel like a person who couldn’t be a woman without a surgeon’s intervention? What if the despair at the end of the road is worse than I’ve ever plumbed?

A friend once echoed my sentiment that dysphoria is a known quantity, that it never gets worse than it is. It comes and goes, but when it’s bad, it only gets so bad. I know how lousy I can feel about the way my body is. But once the entire world is turned upside down again, what will that dysphoria look like? How lousy can I feel about the way my body will be? I’m afraid of that answer. Part of my surgical recommendation is to stay in therapy for at least a year after surgery and I fear that I won’t make it that long.

But, even with all the uncertainty, this is still going to happen. It has to. I can’t imagine having come this far and not taking the final step no matter how scared I may be of what’s on the other side. It’s not unlike being at the border of Aslan’s country– some risks have to be borne, no matter the consequences. Sometimes we have to move forward, no matter the people behind us that think it folly.

So, that’s what I’m doing with the money in the bank. I’m not saving it for a rainy day, I’m not investing it, I’m not doing anything responsible– I’m going to go blow it all once in a single place– a town in Pennsylvania called New Hope. We’ll see if it is.

* Electrolysis in the pubic region is quite possibly one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever endured. Even with a topical anesthetic, a large quantity of alcohol and several ibuprofen tablets, I still end up crying every week. It hurts that bad. I’m convinced that if we, as a nation, really wanted to torture people, all we’d have to do is strap them down to a table and burn a few hairs off their genitalia. We’d get whatever information we wanted from even the most hardened individual within a matter of minutes. If you doubt me, try plucking a couple of hairs from down there and then multiply the pain factor about 10-fold and decide how long you could hold out against that.