A Day at the Beach
If you don’t follow me on Instagram yet, or haven’t seen my series of beach photos from this weekend, you’re missing out. If you have seen them, you may be wondering how I became so comfortable in a bikini, or maybe if I’ve always been that comfortable with my bikini-bod. Of course, this is not true. Until I was 19, going to the beach was dreadful for me.
Growing up in Los Angeles, my mom would always take my brother and me to the beach. When I was little I would pretend I was the Little Mermaid washed ashore; it’s no coincidence that even then I identified with female cartoon characters. When my family moved to New Jersey, going “down the shore” seemed to be different than a day at the beach in LA. Maybe it was because I was more aware of my surroundings (and of my own body), but it was never as fun for me. I realized girls were wearing different bathing suits than boys, and I wanted the girl suits. I actually felt uncomfortable having my nipples showing and having on shorts so long that they touched my knees. I knew that I would be most comfortable in a girl's bathing suit, but I didn't voice that at the time.
As I got older and entered the very early stages of puberty, I absolutely did not want to go to the beach and have to watch all these hot girls and their boyfriends splash around, lay on each other, make out, etc. I so badly longed to be one of those girls; I wanted to be in a bikini with a smoking hot boyfriend holding hands watching the sunset, etc. (to date this still hasn't happened for me but at least now I’m smoking hot on the beach).
I started my transition in the fall of my junior year of high school. When summer hit seven months later, I was wearing shorts, skirts, bras, tank tops, but no bikinis. Because my family had summer beach plans, I was extremely stressed and anxious about what I would wear. My mom took me to Target and bought me some cute bikini tops, with a bikini bottom skirt (like the ones old women wear). Although they weren't the sexiest, at least I would somewhat be able to go to the beach, pass as a girl, and not feel completely uncomfortable. To be honest, I’m not sure if the bikini skirt made me feel better or worse but either way it was not a long term solution.
A lot of people say “Well why didn’t you just ‘tuck?’” in regards to wearing a bathing suit without the worry of a bulge. “Tucking” is when a male pushes his testicles into the the empty bone sockets in his groin, and then tapes his penis, pulling it back, and tapes it to one side of his buttcheek... I have never tried to do it, nor had I ever wanted to. It freaked me out, I didn't want anything to pop or go wrong; and it was also way too much work for me. I had enough to worry about as it was.
During my freshman year of college, my therapist and I agreed that my life could no longer move forward without surgery. I was dating and passing as a woman, but my life was at a halt. She gave me approval for sexual reassignment surgery (also known as gender affirmation surgery), and I planned to visit Dr. Christine McGinn of the Papillon Center in New Hope, Pennsylvania. I knew that this surgeon was the best of the best and expected to wait for an appointment for months. When I called her office they asked me to fill out a form, send it back to them, and then they would find time within the next few months to schedule me in. Luckily, there was a cancellation and I was able to get an appointment in December, just a few weeks away. Per the instructions of the receptionist, before the appointment I submitted the application with a picture of myself attached. When Dr. McGinn walked into the room the first thing she said to me was “Do you know how lucky you are to be this beautiful and at your height?!?” From there I was immediately comfortable with her. After a consultation she told me she would be happy to perform surgery on me and to make an appointment for at least 6 months away. The reason for this is to have male to female surgery, you need to have electrolysis done on your genitals to get rid of all the hair, so that there isn't any on the inside of your new vagina (yuck). When we left the office they had an opening for June 4th, the day after my 19th birthday. It seemed perfect, a literal rebirth.
As my mom drove me home from the appointment, we discussed if having the surgery would be monetarily feasible. A few days later we sat down for our routine family dinner, and my parents told me they would be able to afford my surgery. That moment, is one of the happiest of my entire life and I will never forget it. I started hysterically crying (which is very rare for me) and hugged my parents and couldn’t wait to call and book the surgery. I only had five months until surgery, but I was assured the electrolysis process would still be possible. I went once a month and lay on a table for five to six hours. Before any of the actual electrolysis was done, I was injected with a 4 inch needle filled with local anesthetic, which was the worst part of the entire pre-surgery process. When I was screaming in pain during the multiple anesthetic shots (in the groin, in the actual penis shaft, in the scrotum, in the place between the scrotum and the butt), I would remind myself “I'm going to be in a bikini, I'm going to be in a bikini” and that sentence was what got me through those five months.
I’m going to go in depth about the pre and post operation process in a different post, so for now let's skip ahead about twelve weeks, when I was finally ready to wear thongs and bathing suits. I couldn't wait to get to Victoria’s Secret. I obviously bought a bunch of thongs, and two bathing suits. I tried them on and pranced around my room until I could wear them outside. Although I still haven't found my Ken doll to take me to the beach, I am very satisfied looking sexy in my bikini all for myself.
Because it was such a struggle to feel comfortable in a bathing suit, I looked forward to the days of having vagina and dressing as I pleased. I couldn't wait to wear thongs, slip on whatever clothes I wanted to wear without worrying about a bulge or my dress flying up, and just live. Imagine waking up every morning not being able to just throw on an outfit and leave your house, or put on a bathing suit and head to the pool or beach. Think about how you feel about your appearance on the inside and then when you look in the mirror you see the exact opposite of what you’ve been imagining, and then you have to dress that person you don't even identify with. Think about how you would feel if you weren't able to be free to wear whatever you wanted. Every single morning I had to go through that. All transgender people in transition have to get up, clothe their undesired bodies, and try to put a smile on their faces to make it through their day. Hiding ourselves, or not feeling comfortable in even the most “comfy” clothes is painful and depressing. Transgender individuals are the most courageous in the world, and our society needs to start giving our community the respect we deserve, the respect for being brave enough to be our true selves.
I am reminded after a weekend on the beach just how painful it was for me to live my everyday life as I wanted to until I had my surgery. I went from hiding my body on the beach, to wearing a bikini and wedges for my last day of college classes (but that’s a story for another day). It saddens me to know that some transgender individuals will never be able to afford gender affirmation surgery, or be so badly hurt that they die before their dreams come true. It is so crucial that, together, we spread transgender acceptance, and confidence, so that one day we can all feel comfortable in our choice bathing suits and beyond.
Written by Corey Rae --- Edited by Emily Turner