It takes a village to build a pussy.

tl;dr: this is a fundraising post—my friend Chris started a GoFundMe to fundraise for my surgery! There are many ways you can help out (more on that at the bottom of the post!) but if you haven’t yet but can give a little money, it would help defray some pretty significant costs.


It feels scary to write this. It feels so scary that even I started thinking about writing this piece months ago, I’ve barely started even though the GoFundMe has already gone up. It’s so scary that even though it’s three-quarters funded even though it’s only been up for two days (cordelia, you can’t hide from the fact that your community loves you).

When I started transitioning, something that I didn’t even know felt wrong suddenly started feeling right. I remember the first time I put on a skirt and the first time I put on a dress. I remember laughing in joy. I remember something just clicking. It felt like the wardrobe door to Narnia just opened up for the first time.

Even though nobody around me questioned my gender, everything felt scary. Going to work for the first time dressed more femme. Painting my nails. It was scary. But I never encountered transphobia from the people around me until a few months after I was laid off and changed my name on LinkedIn—that was the last time a recruiter contacted me for over a year. And the recruiter that did constantly deadnamed me, did not prepare me for my interview (didn’t even tell me exactly what role I was applying to) ghosted me, disappeared on vacation when I was to go in for my interview, and never followed up.

Despite all that, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Fast forward to 2018, many trans people have to go through many hoops and process to get gender-affirming healthcare but once I had health insurance, I found a GP and told them I wanted estrogen and wasn’t questioned for a second. On my first try, I found a queer Asian therapist who works from a social justice and decolonial framework I built a good report with and started the hard work of figuring myself out. To all my POC fam—if you can, please find yourself a therapist who understands your cultural context and the intersections of your identity and has to tools to help you navigate that. You deserve a therapist can help you find your whole self without having to also educate them about how white supremacy is actively trying to erase your identity and history. You are worth it.


At the end of 2019 I was talking to my therapist about surgery. I was seriously starting to research what it involved (more in a later post), potential surgeons (also maybe later), and then March 2020 rolled around and everything blew up. I wasn’t just trying to survive the pandemic along with everyone else, I started getting pulled into pandemic work and things didn’t slow down. But slowly, in lulls between the terror and the anger and the burnout and the moral injury, I was better understanding my gender. I was better understanding my dysphoria and my trauma and my body. I realized I probably wanted surgery.

Scratch that. I realized I probably needed surgery. I started researching again. Things didn’t feel less scary with each research article and patient account I read, but they felt more navigable. The biggest breakthrough came when I realized that I could talk to surgeons without having to decide, so I started making calls to ones that felt most promising.

I found two surgeons I wanted to talk to—both in New York, one at NYU, the other at Mount Sinai. NYU’s waiting list for an intial consult was 18 months long. Mount Sinai had a different process—they wanted people to go through evaluations and qualifications before talking to the surgeon.

It feels sacrilegious to say that I still wasn’t sure when I started down the path to surgery, especially because there is so much gatekeeping involved. Surgery requires letters upon letters, years living in your chosen gender, at least a year on hormones replace therapy. Two independent psych evaluations, an interview with a social worker and medical sign off. To show even a little doubt could wreck your chances.

But even as I gathered and scheduled appointments, I felt uncertain. When I went in for my psych evaluation, I cried in the psychologist’s office. But I wasn’t afraid of surgery, I was afraid of the pain and depression afterward and recovering without support. I was afraid of the cost. I was afraid of being alone.

Those fears fed my doubt, maybe having a penis wasn’t that bad, I still wouldn’t have a uterus, I still wouldn’t be able to bear children, why bother?

And then my friend Abbey shared a mantra that helped calm my nerves and strengthened my resolve:

I keep moving towards this, I must want it.

Most who know me know that I have a knack for being inspirational—particularly during hard times. The hidden reality is that while I’m proud of all that I have accomplished and survived, all that I have helped build and inspire, I do so in large part because I am looking to be loved.

I give in hopes that it is returned. But it is scary to ask. It is scary because I don’t feel worthy. I feel like in a world where there is so much else that feels dire, my wants should come secondary to the needs and safety of others. After all, shouldn’t the needs of many outweigh the needs of a few? Of one?


When I talked to the surgeon, something clicked. All the research I read around the surgery, the recovery, the mechanics of how the surgeon, urologist, and their team turn a penis into a vulva and a vagina went from theory to something more real. We talked about how my parts would transform. The doubt wasn’t gone when I walked out, but that future no longer felt distant, it felt within reach, I only had to face my fears and grab it.

Then, a few days later, we scheduled my surgery for January 2023. I had two options, the middle of January 2023 or August 29, 2022. In a daze, I went for the later date—the thought that went through my mind was that September is the end of the federal government’s fiscal year which was always a busy season. The moment I hung up, I knew I made the wrong decision. All the doubt and anxiety and hesitation was gone. I knew I needed a vagina and I wasn’t willing to wait. For the first time ever, I felt with absolutely clarity that my work needed to take a back seat to my joy—there would be a hefty price to that but it needed to be paid.

I called back 30 seconds later and changed my surgery date to August.


The anxiety and fear aren’t gone, I won’t be able to work for three months, and won’t be able to cook or clean for most of that time, and I will need a lot of help taking care of myself. But all the doubt is gone and as many of you have said, as I have taken care of my village, I need to let my village take care of me.

I have assembled an amazing medical team, my queer primary care provider and therapist have my back. I have my first choice surgeon, who is on the leading edge of vaginoplasty innovation.

I have my sister who is here for the summer helping me prepare my home for recovery even as she studies for the MCAT. I have two amazing partners who give me emotional support even though they are not near. My dear friends, Tina, Yang, Sydette, and Lindsay who sat me down and calmed me in my deepest moments of anxiety. My friend and advisor, Pam who keeps holding my hand through all my financial anxieties. Chris who took my “oh god how do I fundraise?” and went “let me figure it out and give you prompts to fill out” and organized the GoFundMe.

And then I have you all, my amazing communities who have kept coming and asking how you can help. So here is what I would love help with:

  1. If you haven’t yet, any donation to help cover costs is deeply appreciated (and so many of you have already stepped up, I love you and thank you so god damn much). For those who work at 18F/TTS/GSA, I’m working on the paperwork for voluntary leave donation so I think that announcement will go out in the next month or so.
  2. If you have capacity to come help, I will need help with recovery from September through November. If you can come stay for a little while, my office is also set up as a spare bedroom (in NYC? I KNOW.), and it would be nice to have folks around from mid-October into November (hopefully, I’ll be more independent in November).
  3. If you are in the city and can just swing by and visit, the company would mean a lot to me. If you’re not nearby but can text or call or video chat, that would also be hugely appreciated. Depression and anxiety are common in the months after surgery and for me, having people to talk to helps stave off the loneliness.

In some ways, my journey has felt charmed. Yes, I’ve encountered transphobia in the industry and felt my rights stripped away by the institutions that I’ve spent my entire adult life fighting to improve. But my family supports me. And so have you: my friends and community. From queer in tech community to the journalists and writers and designers and typographers and technologists and activists and public servants and all my friends, I’ve experienced nothing but love and support as I discover myself.

Thank you. I’m so excited and I’m so glad you can be here with me.

Fifty-seven days.

Then: dumpling party, my place, 2023.

 
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Kudos
 
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Kudos

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Y'all, congressional Republicans really fucking hate civil servants.

(Hey, if you have financial anxiety maybe skip this one. This post goes into a bit of the financial details of getting surgery and a bit of the stuff around it. If you’re waiting for a fundraising post, it will be coming shortly.) The... Continue →