Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for April, 2009

So, um, IT WORKS! ;-)

So, um, well, I had my first post-surgical orgasm the other day. Hooray, the “feeling good bits” work.  😉  I had just been getting really worried about whether things were healing okay about a week earlier, too, so the timing was great. I still have quite a bit of numbness, enough that just a few days ago I burst into tears after touching my clitoris and not being able to feel anything.

After finding my clit so numb, I decided to focus on what sensations I ~could~ feel, as there were plenty of good feeling spots down there. There were a couple days that I got right to the edge only to completely lose it. I think the fact that I was unsure about whether I would be able to at this point in my healing (or, honestly, ever) contributed to my difficulties in going over the edge.

A couple days ago, though, before dilating I felt pretty aroused. It’d been four months since my last orgasm (so, two months before surgery), to say I was ~wired~ would be an understatement; I figured I’d cum if a strong wind blew. So after I dilated I decided to give it a try, and in not too long I found myself on the edge yet again…

…and then I went over…

…and over…

…and over…

I’m not known for being quiet when I have an orgasm; I’ve been teased because I’m so loud, actually. I sort of suspected that if/when I figured out how to have an orgasm with my new body that it would be an intense and loud one even by my standards, both because it had been so long and I was going to be releasing lots of pent-up stress, and also out of shear joy that my new body “works.” Well, even I was unprepared for the ferocity of this orgasm; I was screaming at the top of my lungs for what seemed like five minutes; I could not have stopped screaming if I tried. It was incredible. And then I giggled for about ten minutes. Out of silliness. Out of relief. Out of pure joy.

Interestingly, my orgasm “style” had changed so much since I started taking hormones that the orgasm felt very similar to the ones I was having before surgery. The stereotype that “male” orgasms are more sharp and “pokey” (d’uh), while “female” orgasms are more full-body and “smoother” seems pretty accurate. Though, like I said, for the most part my orgasms had changed even while I still had the “boy parts.” The body is weird.


“God doesn’t make people like you.”

   “God doesn’t make people like you.”

   Okay, so I don’t know the person that said this, but it was said to a fellow transwoman. And it pissed me off. A lot.

   First off, F~U~C~K  Y~O~U; how do you know the mind of God? I believe that God created everything; if it’s here, there’s a reason for its existence. I understand that different people have their different faiths and their different ideas of how strongly they get to bully other people to see the same face of God that they see, but come on. If God didn’t make me, who did? And please don’t give me any shit about Satan, or the Devil, because I just don’t buy it. God not only created me this way, but God celebrated my self-acceptance and transition.

   I always feel leery trusting people who claim a moral authority. Moral authority is something you aspire to, but you should always feel like you’re falling just short. It’s sort of like I tell my students about perfection: it’s a journey, not a destination. I have done more soul-searching and praying in the last five years than I think most people do in 20; the one thing I am most certain of is God’s love for me just as I am. I have never told someone else that were evil or that God had a problem with them. I have a hard enough time telling people when I think they’re wrong; my approach is usually to ask them questions and make hope they work it out for themselves. Speaking for God just seems beyond the height of human arrogance.

   Judgemental people suck.

   When my ex-wife moved out, I guess there were some people that tried to vilify me (understandable, considering our marriage’s status as collateral damage in my transition). And the question she would ask these people was: “Who would choose to be transgendered?” Even given all the pain she suffered, she could get it. Transfolk don’t choose this path, why would we? It’s a pretty difficult road. Hell, we have people assuring us that we’re going to hell.  😉

   God made me a woman, and for some reason decided that I should be born with a penis and live a life with a transsexual path. I won’t think to question God’s wisdom in that. How dare someone else have the temerity to do that.

   Isn’t there something in the Bible about being meek, and not judging, and all that?

   You are dead wrong; God ~does~ make people like me.

   God made me a proud transsexual woman.


My Superstar

   Last night while I was at the tenebrae service I was surprised to get as emotional as I did. As I was listening to the readings and giving my readings I was nearly moved to tears a few times; while I was reading the part of the story when Simon denies Jesus I nearly broke down. One of the reasons I value The Crossing so much is that it has really helped me connect my spiritual life with my reality; I never felt such a visceral connection to the stories in the Bible before coming to The Crossing.

   So, while I was at the service last night, I felt an urge to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. I just finished watching it. Superstar has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it live over fifteen years ago. I love the music, but there’s more to it than just the music. I tend to live my life very much in the “gray,” and I love the way all the participants are portrayed with internal conflict and doubts and confusion. Judas, especially, is presented as being very tormented by his actions and decisions. It makes the story so much more relate-able for me.

   I guess the thing that really seems to be hitting me during this holy week is all the personal drama within the story of Jesus’ final days. This time around what’s hitting me isn’t the grand miracles, but the personal dynamics. 

   Simon’s denial of Jesus is hitting a particular nerve for some reason. I guess the whole loyalty thing is really important to me; but of course, everyone has to do what they think is right given a set of circumstances. Painting this picture so vividly lets me relate to Simon’s fear and pain even as he denies his friend. And Judas is even more conflicted, feeling trapped into giving up his friend to save the rest of the group of people.

   I know that there’s as many opinions about what the stories in the Bible ~really~ mean as there are people who can read the Bible, but I don’t even need to talk about that. I don’t need to get into a debate about the specifics, here’s what I know: Jesus is the person I most try to use as my moral compass. The whole “What Would Jesus Do?” thing got very political in some groups, but I often ask myself that question. If I can live up to about a quarter of the standard that Jesus set I would feel really happy.

   I dunno, this feels like a rambling pointless post even by my standards. I guess I just wanted to write down how moved I feel by Jesus and Simon and Judas this week.


   The Crossing held our annual tenebrae service this evening as part of Holy Week. I look forward to the tenebrae service so much each year, even though it is perhaps the most somber service on our calendar. In the tenebrae service we focus on the suffering of Jesus during the time leading up to his crucifixion. I find the service to be helpful in focusing my spirit. I’m often full of joy, and I find the occaisonal focus on suffering to be centering.

   I read two of the readings as part of the service, and during the second, in which Peter denies Jesus three times, I found myself almost crying. I was very moved by the entire service.

   Here’s the introduction from this evening’s worship sheet:

   Tenebrae, the Latin word for “shadows” or “darkness,” is the popular name for the ancient monastic offices of Matins and Lauds appointed for each of the last three days of Holy Week. As churches reclaimed the older “Triduum liturgy” (the Sacred Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil), Tenebrae fell into disuse. 

   The Tenebrae service in its traditional form combines into one service the strongest elements of all three Tenebrae offices and offers an extended meditation on, and a prelude to, the events in our Lord’s life between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. 

   We have retained the somber and reflective mood, themes of suffering and betrayal, and the most profound image associated with the Tenebrae service: the gradual extinguishing of the seven candles until a lone candle remains. In its light, we are left to meditate on Christ’s death and the apparent victory of darkness and evil in our lives.

   You will notice that, even as the candles are snuffed, other images come into sight: images of the continued betrayal within the human family, images of famine and poverty, slavery and war, desolation in the midst of natural disaster. For Christ is alive in our midst, and if we had eyes to see, we would discover him suffering and begging us to stay, to watch and pray with him, not to abandon him once again.

   Let us stay, watch and pray now with Christ …


Six-Week Post-Op Update: Penny’s Excellent Adventure

[This is part of my ongoing diary about my SRS experience in Trinidad, Colorado with Dr. Marci Bowers. See the main page here: Penny’s Excellent Adventure.]

   Wow, it was six weeks ago today that I had my SRS in Trinidad, Colorado. Like any other big change in my life, in some ways it seems like just yesterday, and in some ways it seems like a million years ago. Recovering from any surgery has ups and downs, and this has been no different. I can see so much improvement, and I can see so much distance for me to travel until I’m “fully” recovered. I’ve been told by more than one person that I will still be healing after 12 months; from my past experience with my gallbladder surgery, I’d bet that’s pretty accurate.

   To give some physical details, the swelling, especially on my left labia (which was the one that was as “big as my head” right after surgery), has gone down tremendously. There is still some swelling, but there is much less. The suture line that had opened up finally seems to have solidified a bit and within the last couple days has stopped bleeding; that’s really great news. The little stabs of pain have diminished to the point of barely happening at all. I’m still a little tender and stiff, but most of my mobility seems to have returned. I have definitely lost some of my endurance and regained some weight due to my lack of activity during my recovery; I hope to start working on reversing that trend next week. My clitoris still seems pretty numb, and the left side of my clitoral hood is completely numb; this is, from what I’ve been told, not completely atypical.

   I always worry that these blogs get pretty graphic, but I’m just reporting things I’m noticing. 

   I noticed some “string” hanging out of a few different parts last week; I guess some stitches are finally working their way out. When I was dilating a few days ago I finally stuck a finger inside myself (yea, it took me almost six weeks before I felt comfortable exploring in there); I was amazed how much it felt like any other pussy’s insides (not that I’ve had my hand inside millions of them, or anything, but I’ve felt a few, and mine felt just like any other; that’s pretty damned cool).

   One of the things I remain most surprised by is how good it feels to wear clothing that is tight in the crotch. Before surgery I had envisioned wearing lots of loose-fitting skirts and the like when I returned home, instead, tight jeans have been by far the most comfortable; they seem to offer support for my swollen parts.

   As my body continues on its healing way, I can’t even scratch the surface of how happy I am. It’s funny how many little things make me smile; it seems everyday I notice some other thing that I had never even considered that’s changed since surgery, even if it’s only changed in my mind. I tried so hard to keep my expectations low going in to surgery so I wouldn’t expect miracles, but this truly has had a miraculous impact on me and my life; everything’s the same, but everything is completely different.

   Here’s to the difference!


The atypical brain development of transsexuals


The atypical brain development of transsexuals

ENG_trans.jpgTranssexuals are convinced that they were born in the body of the opposite gender and would do almost anything to change that fact. This transformation occurs step by step, by first taking on the social role of the other gender, then taking hormones and then undergoing a series of major operations, after which just 0.4 percent express regret later.

The gender team of the Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam has been a pioneer in this field for many years, initially under the leadership of professor Louis Gooren and now of professor Peggy Cohen-Kettenis. This is unusual because the Bible, on which the VU is founded, states in Deuteronomy 22:5-6: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the Lord your God detests anyone who does this.”


In the womb

Male-to-female (M2F) transsexuality occurs in 1 in 10,000 men, and female-to-male (F2M) transsexuality in 1 in 30,000 women. Gender problems are often expressed early in development. Mothers describe how from the moment their son could talk, he would wear his mother’s clothes and shoes, he was exclusively interested in girls’ toys and mostly played with girls. But not all children with gender problems want to change gender later. If necessary, puberty can be delayed for a while with a hormone inhibitor to gain additional time to make a decision about whether to undergo treatment or not.

All of the data indicate that gender problems develop in the womb. Small changes have been found in genes involved in the effect of hormones on brain development, which increase the chance of transsexuality developing. Abnormal hormone levels in the fetus in the womb and medicines that the mother takes during pregnancy that disturb the breakdown of sex hormones can increase the chance of transsexuality developing.

Sexual differentiation of our genitalia occurs in the first few months of pregnancy while sexual differentiation of the brain takes place in the second half of pregnancy. As these two processes occur at different times, it is theorised that in transsexuality these processes are influenced independently of each other. If that hypothesis is true, then we would expect female structures in the male brains of M2F transsexuals and vice versa in F2M transsexuals.

Brain and hormones

In 1995 such a reversal of the gender difference was published by us inNature. It involved the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BSTc), a brain structure implicated in sexual behaviour. The BSTc was found to be  twice as large in men and contained double the number of neurons than in women. In M2F transsexuals we found a female BSTc. The only F2M transsexual we  could study did indeed have a male BSTc.

We could exclude the possibility that the reversal of the gender difference in transsexuals was caused by changed hormone levels in adulthood. Reversal must therefore have taken place during development. When a researcher finally does publish something interesting, the nicest comment that colleagues can come up with is: “This must first be confirmed by an independent group.” That can take a while, as it took me 20 years to collect the brain material for this study.

Thus, I was delighted to hear that Ivanka Savic’s research group the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm published a study last year of functional brain scanning of living M2F transsexuals. They had not yet been surgically altered nor had they started taking hormones. They were stimulated with male and female pheromones, scents that you pick up unconsciously. These scents produce different stimulation patterns in the hypothalamus and other brain regions in control men and women. The stimulation pattern in M2F transsexuals lay between that of men and women.

Last year Ramachandran, a psychologist and  neurologist in the United States presented an interesting hypothesis and preliminary results on transsexuality. His idea is that in M2F transsexuals the representation of the penis is lacking in the cerebral cortex and in F2M transsexuals the region for breasts during development is not mapped onto the cerebral cortex, which is why the brain does not consider the organs as its “own” and wants to get rid of them.

Everything indicates that during the early stages of development, the sexual differentiation of the brain occurs atypically in transsexuals, and not that they are “simply” psychotic, as a psychiatrist from Limburg recently dared to assert.

God’s Dream

   A few months ago the person offering the reflection at the Crossing posed the question: “What is God’s dream for you?”

   I’ve had that question floating around in my head ever since then. I don’t think I have a definitive answer, or anything, but I have thought about it enough to at least write some of it down. I consider my relationship with the divine as much more intuitive than a direct question and answer line. How can I really know the mind of God? How can I have any real idea what God envisions for me? 

   The best I feel I can do is try to gather signs from the world around me, use the faith that I was raised with, and my own sense of intuition to divine what the divine has in mind as my dream existence. When I examine the last five years of my life, I find too many coincidences; I believe the hand of God was very active in my life. I’ve often said that part of the reason I transitioned was that I finally gave up and stopped fighting against the obvious reality of my life – the fact the I am a woman, born with the wrong parts, became too strong to fight any longer; another way for me to look at that is that I finally gave in and accepted God’s dream for me.

   I struggled with my faith for most of my life. I was raised in a very traditional Lutheran congregation. I went to Catholic high school. I had perfect attendance for twelve years of Sunday School. I became Born Again when I was 18. I dabbled with Buddhism. I searched and searched and searched for something real to connect with; some part of God that felt like it was reaching back for me. But I couldn’t find anything. I learned the moral lessons as best I could, but that sense that I was connected to the divine always seemed like a leap of faith I just could not complete no matter how I tried.

   And then I stopped trying. I’d say I gave up looking for God in my life by the time I was 24 or so. I think being transgendered strongly impacted my spiritual journey; how could it not? I was such a shattered identity at that point in my life; living one existence on the outside, but keeping so much hidden, so much bottled up. I lived with so much self-loathing; I knew I was broken and worthless. If there was a God then God certainly cared very little for me, how could any but the most sadistic of Gods create a person with such a tragic flaw as being born into the wrong body?

   I lived in this state for a long time; stuck thinking that the best I could do was bury every feeling of my true self beneath a “normal” life, stuck thinking that either God didn’t exist or was callously ambivalent toward my situation. As I said in a reflection that I once gave, I was pretty bitter.

   And then I gave up fighting. I gave up trying to be something I wasn’t. I gave up resisting the obvious path that I was being called to follow, no matter how hard that path appeared. And a funny thing happened: I started noticing God in my life. It hadn’t occured to me at the time, but once I stopped fighting everything ~including God~, God was suddenly there for me.

   It was small at first; I was groomed. There was teaching a drum line in a church; there was the Episcopal priest who, when told of my impending gender change said: “If there’s anything we can do support you, just let us know;” there was the friend who gently spoke with me of her spiritual journey and my own; there was drumming in church; there was the night my Gram died, when I ~most definitely~ felt her spirit touch me and leave me some of her strength; there was The Crossing; there was the call to preach; there was the support and celebration of me being myself by the most spiritual and religious people I knew; there was the prayer circle and blessing before I left for Colorado for my SRS. God was patient working her way back into my life; I never would have been ready for a blinding revelation five years ago, but with the last five years that I have lived, it would be impossible for me to not believe that God has been most active in my life.

   And so, even though I know this will be a changing answer and a changing equation, when I think of what God’s dream for me is and will be, I see a continued acceptance of self, I see a call to make the world a better place for transgender people, I feel drawn to raise a family, and of course to continue drumming in such a way that connects me to the divine stronger than anything else. When I think of where I am and where I’ve been, I’d like to think that God is proud of me; proud of the strength I have exhibited in the last five years; proud of the person I have become. Of course, the test now is to continue to make God proud of me, the journey gets no easier just because I hope I have done good.  🙂  The most important part of what I imagine of God’s dream for me to be is that I trust; I have always been obstinate and contrary, I need to trust my senses that I don’t need to fight truth.

   One of my most consistent prayers is that I hope I am living up, in some small way, to God’s dream for me. It’s sort of, by its very nature, an unknowable truth – I must simply strive to fulfill God’s dream for me as best I can. I certainly try to, and I will continue that hope and prayer and effort.


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