On 12 September 1983 I was born again-a fully grown woman. I didn’t want to hear the gory details about my rebirth, but I couldn’t avoid knowing what was involved though fortunately I was asleep throughout and heavily sedated for the next few days.
The procedure which was literally to transform my life would take around nine hours. During that time the surgeon, Mr Philip, would use every ounce of his skill delicately to eradicate every visible trace of my former male self. He would remove the testicles from the scrotal sac and the tissue and muscle from within the penis, leaving only a shortened urethra and the outer penile skin intact. Then he would create a false vagina approximately ten to eleven inches in length, which he would line with the penile skin before packing it with surgical dressings to minimize the chances of my new vagina caving in. Utilizing the penile skin in this way would mean that, as the nerve-endings were still present, I would be capable of enjoying normal sexual intercourse as a woman. And while I would not possess a clitoris as natural women do, it was still possible, I was told, for me to have an orgasm from penetrative sex.
It’s a common fallacy that male-to-female transsexuals are homosexual by nature, as that’s rarely if ever the case. Sexual intercourse was the last thing on my mind, because I’d never been the slightest bit interested in men and certainly didn’t envisage that situation changing now. All I wanted was to look like a woman and be a woman with my brain sex now matching my biological body thus it was immaterial to me whether that included being able to function like a woman in a sexual respect. Having said that, I couldn’t help but find it ironic that as the person who had once worked so hard to perfect the art of clitoral stimulation through oral sex on females, should now be incapable of achieving any satisfaction myself this way.
If I have inadvertently oversimplified the enormous skill that such surgery requires, giving the impression that anyone with a Black and Decker drill and sewing kit could accomplish this miracle, then I apologise to the surgical and nursing team. It was indeed an extremely long, dangerous and highly complicated operation. Perhaps it’s testament to Mr Philip’s exceptional skill that, though I’ve had examinations since then, not one doctor has ever been able to detect the seam, and BUPA still try and undertake a smear test at my annual medicals.
I was vaguely aware of a gentle voice tugging at my consciousness. I tried to open my eye’s but my eyelids were weighed down. I felt as if I was floating in a long, dark, warm tunnel and really didn’t want to wake up. Then, having satisfied themselves that I was all right, the nursing staff allowed me to drift back into a heavily sedated sleep for the next two or three days. My first conscious recollection was waking up to find Mr Philip sitting on the edge of my bed, gently stroking my hand. “Hello, Stephanie.” Such simple words, but oh, the relief I felt at hearing them! I managed to smile back at the man who had spoken them, for I knew from his expression that my transformation into a woman had been a complete success. I was exultant. I’d come through and now I was truly a woman. There was nothing left to fear. As tears of pure joy streamed down my face I could only look into my ‘creator’s’ eyes and pray that he understood my gratitude. This man had given me the most precious gift on earth; he’d given me back my life. There were no adequate words to convey what that meant to me.
“I don’t need to tell you again that your new life will be far from easy, Stephanie. When you leave here you will encounter prejudice and rejection to a degree that you have never known or imagined. Yet, no matter how difficult the road ahead may prove to be, always remember that you are a girl in a million!” Those words have stayed for ever in my head. For, though Mr Philip was right and I have encountered just about every reaction it is possible to predict-and even some that aren’t, when people have treated me like a pervert or a freak – his word’s have given me strength, the pride and dignity to hold my head up high.
The mood of joy stayed with me for the next few days, even as I lay wired to an ECG monitor with an assortment of catheters, bags and tubes snaking in and out of my body. A few days later the sedatives were withdrawn and I was encouraged to get out of bed and start learning how to use this wonderful, unfamiliar new body I now occupied. As I hobbled the few yards across my room to my en suite bathroom in a determined effort to test out my new mechanics, I couldn’t help laughing at the sight of myself in the mirror. For someone who had taken two years of deportment lessons I made a very credible impression of John Wayne walking! As I attempted to relieve myself I was in stitches, both figuratively and literally, at my complete inability to control the direction of the flow. As a man, of course, I’d been used to standing up to pee, but clearly as a woman that just wouldn’t do at all! The entire situation struck me as so comical that, despite the stitches and pain, I was doubled up with laughter.
On the following Saturday-the sixth day of my new life-Mr Philip came in specially to remove the vaginal pack. If I’d thought electrolysis the most painful thing on earth, it was a breeze compared to the sensation of having my entire interior dragged outside. How do women cope with childbirth?? Obviously, too, I was tense and nervous as he went to work, wondering what else might be removed or dislodged by this excruciating and highly embarrassing excavation work. To my delight, Mr Philip’s handiwork survived the experience.
When the all new transformed Stephanie was ten days old I was allowed to go home. Obviously I wasn’t in a fit condition to drive myself from London to Lancashire, so I had to rely on cabs and planes to deliver me safely home. The journey was horrendous, as every lump and bump in the road made itself painfully obvious to my tender, swollen genitals. But the pain and discomfort were tempered by the sweet glow of comfort, contentment and peace I had felt since the first conscious moment of my rebirth. If I had likened meeting Marylin to coming out of a monochromatic world, seeing the same world through Stephanie’s eyes was like looking at life in glorious, dazzling Technicolor. Had everything always been this bright? Or did it merely seem so because I was so grateful to be alive? If I could have skipped to reflect my happiness I would have.
Back home I settled into my new life, taking it easy while I recuperated. Every day for the first month I had to use plastic dilators in order to ensure the future elasticity of my vagina, and though it was undignified and awkward I could never fail to see the funny side as well. Sandra visited me once or twice and remarked at my new-found serenity and joy. Trevor called too, inviting me to stay with him at Christmas-an invitation I was only too grateful to accept.
I telephoned my parents to make sure they were all right, but since I had no wish to upset them further by speaking of things they had no desire to hear of, my conversation was stilted. Then, to my complete astonishment, my mother asked me if I would like to spend Christmas with them. I could hardly believe my ears, particularly as it was the very last thing I had expected them to do. Now I was really in a dilemma; on the one hand I had already accepted Trevor’s offer and had been really looking forward to seeing him again. At the same time I knew I couldn’t possibly turn down this opportunity for a reconciliation with my parents. So, despite the fact that my parents faith would inevitably mean a fairly cheerless, possibly even tense non-celebratory Christmas, the very fact that they had extended the invitation filled me with so much gratitude and hope that I couldn’t possibly refuse.
Unfortunately, my optimism was short-lived. For after a long, tiring journey I was greeted by a mother who, while she tried valiantly to put me at my ease, clearly felt uncomfortable, and a father who still doggedly persisted in calling me Keith! My heart sank as I realised that this attempt at reconciliation was at my mother’s insistence, and though it stemmed from the purest of motives, I wished she hadn’t bothered. Dad’s barely disguised hostility towards me confirmed what I’d always suspected: he was never going to accept me as Stephanie, and this Christmas was going to be the worst kind of trial by ordeal.
My favourite and much loved Auntie Elsie came over for a meal and tried hard to act normally in order to force my father’s hand, but each day was worse than the one before. We were obviously not communicating and I don’t know which was worse – my father’s implacable face or my mothers haunted, imploring eyes. We returned Auntie Elsie’s visit,
but it was all a horrid pretence. Unable to bear it any longer, I made my excuses and left. I couldn’t watch my own and my mother’s hopes disintegrate any further.
Once again I drove through a curtain of tears, the roads were dreary and uncharacteristically empty as I made my way north, but I hardly noticed; all I was aware of was the bitter ache in my heart and the lump in my throat. On a whim, as I passed through Bolton I decided to stop off at an animal sanctuary and find some lonely little pup in desperate need of love. Despite the fact that I’d half expected it, I was feeling so abandoned, mistreated and desolate myself that some how the only way I could conceive of easing my anguish was through taking care of someone more unfortunate than myself.
I surveyed the sixteen dogs caged in individual concrete pens, pathetically awaiting either salvation or death, my heart sank. I wished I could take them all. Tails wagged in an hysterical bid for affection as dog after dog sprung to the front of its cage, yelping and barking to get my attention. But all I could see was one sad, lonely bitch who looked to be an odd cross between an Alsatian and whippet, shivering and shaking at the back of her cage as if she knew she didn’t stand a chance. As I read the card on her pen revealing that she would be put to sleep the following day, something tugged at my heart. Instinctively I knew this dog was for me. Here was someone who knew all about suffering, pain and rejection, and therefore had a great deal in common with me. I discovered later that she had been starved and then cruelly whipped with a chain before being abandoned. I carried Sheba to my car where she immediately cowered in terror beneath the seat. On the way home I stopped off to buy food, bowls and a lead, and then felt wretched when I saw that, fearing more punishment, she immediately wet herself at the sight of the lead. It was six months before I was able to win her confidence enough to house-train her, but Sheba repaid all my patience , time and effort a hundredfold and bought me love and devotion when I needed it the most and stood faithfully by my side living until the ripe old age of seventeen.