It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything about my process. A couple months ago I hit a wall. I thought things were progressing well. I had ordered a new custom dilator from passion glass and was working on getting my sessions down to once a day. I had also gone up a size beyond what the Suporn Clinic provides, from “nice package” to “damn!” you could say. Even the Suporn clinician who I’m in touch with regularly told me she was impressed with my dilation regimen. Then I started experiencing a lot of pain again, the kind that would make me break out sweating during the day or wake me up from my sleep in a panic. I was also wet all the time, which is in fact not sexy but rather inconvenient to say the least. One night, at around three or four in the morning, after being ripped awake by sharp pain, I pulled out my flashlight and decided to go spelunking. I had been trying to locate the source of my discomfort for weeks, but every time I got in front of the mirror things just looked the same.

In previous posts I wrote about granulation, a form of connective tissue that grows over a wound to promote healing. Sometimes that tissue can get a little out of control, as it had in my case. I had already been to my local clinic to have the tissue treated with silver nitrate twice. While some of the tissue fell away, some areas are still present, bright red, shiny, and bulbous. For whatever reason, on this particular night, I felt bold enough to touch the granulation tissue. I was poking around gently when suddenly, right beneath my clit hood, this small mound of granulation unfurled into what can only be described as a tongue of flesh lapping out from between my labia. I screamed, or gasped, or something. And then I just stared at it for a while, then poked it back and forth. It was like this grotesque alien thing, mocking me. Maybe a few centimeters long, certainly thick enough to distend beyond my vulva and stand on it’s own. Jesus fucking Christ. I have an Angry Inch.

Staring at this thing has become an obsession for me. Every time I open myself up I look to see where it’s going. It has a preference of tucking up right and nesting beneath my labia, but it can also flap around, spread out wide and flat, or poke its head out like an unwelcome dog penis. (How’s that for a scarring literary image?).

What I couldn’t figure out is why it hurt so much. The other small areas of granulation have no sensitivity, and I figured this beast was different because he had weaseled his way in right between my Chonburi Flap, the awkward name given to second erogenous zone Dr. Suporn creates in his proprietary neovaginas. (In case the superficial clitoral tissue doesn’t survive, as happened with mine, the rest of the skin and nerves from the glans penis–the head–are used to create the anterior/interior of the labia minora to provide secondary sensation. I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself, I have no idea what I’ve explained and not explained in previous posts like this).

Well this tongue of granulation unfurls directly from the apex of my Chonburi flap, and I think maybe there’s some nerve tissue involved. That, or the fact that it’s connected to the most sensitive point of my body is enough to make it a relatively constant site of distress. The good news, and there is some, is that after manipulating this piece of tissue every which way, I think I discovered a small mound of erogenous flesh right beneath where I once had a clit. I don’t know if it’s part of what was once or still is my clitoris, or part of the aforementioned Chonburi flap, but the point is, it exists. It’s too sensitive to be pleasurable with direct touch, but it’s definitely a hub of live wires that is capable of transmitting some pretty intense signals.

So, here’s the rub. (ehehehehe) But really, no joke.

This coming Wednesday, 6 1/2 months after my surgery, I am going to the Callen Lorde clinic in downtown NYC to have this stubborn nightmare cauterized. Yeah. Burnt off. It’s an outpatient procedure with local anesthetic, but the thing that makes me nervous is this target area’s proximity to my hard-fought and warily-won erogenous zones. It’s both between and attached to my last string of orgasmic defense.

I’m upset that I have to go back in for another procedure. I’m scared that I risk damaging some of what precious sensate tissue I have left. I’m nervous about the pain. But I’m also SO ready to be done with this healing process. My hope is that after this is taken care of my body will get back on track with the rest of its recovery.

In the mean time, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to get back in touch with my higher self. A couple weeks ago, on a quiet night in the factory, I put a favorite song of mine on repeat through the house speakers and danced my soul out for 20 minutes. It was my first time dancing since the surgery, and it felt wonderful to move my body in an expressive way. I also performed a new song from what may one day be my next solo show. I had been paired up with a friend, Teresa Lotz, to create an original song for the 4th installment of Muse Match at 54 Below. Muse Match is this great benefit concert event where composers and performers who have never collaborated before are sent on creative blind dates, with the task of developing an original song. Teresa and I chatted about sexuality, spirituality, finding and losing faith, and the formation of our queer sense of self. I explained to her that the three things that can make me cry on command are thinking about the deaths of my grandma, Michael Jackson, and my clitoris.

We ended up writing a song called FALLS OFF about the loss of my clit, and the massive test of faith I was presented with in Thailand. I wrote the lyrics, she set them as a 90s riot grrrl song, and it rocks.

I was more nervous to perform that piece than I had ever been performing anything. Partly because they were my words, partly because it was so new, but mostly because it meant acknowledging my anger at God for abandoning me in my most vulnerable moments.

My decision to go forward with gender reassignment surgery was faith based, as I have written and spoken about in ONE WOMAN SHOW and elsewhere. I was reading the bible on the subway and came across Matthew 19, verses 11 and 12: “But he said to them, [He, being Jesus], “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are those who are born eunuchs form their mother’s womb, and there are those who have been made eunuchs by men, and then there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. Let the one who is able to receive this saying, receive it.”

I received it. A eunuch for the kingdom of heaven. A messianic tranny, if you will. (I can say that ‘cuz I am one). I went to Thailand knowing the risks of the surgery, but feeling so supported in my faith that I carried no worry for the pain or danger. When Dr Suporn told me that necrosis had stolen my clit, that it would turn grey and fall off, instead of praying about it I shut the door on God. I didn’t notice this right away, it was more like my heart took an action that my brain didn’t process until much later, until I was back home and lonely and felt the divide that I had wedged between us. I am person for whom God has always been right there, “as close to us as breathing.” (one of my favorite quotes from my childhood Siddur). But these past few months I had kept God out of my life, I stopped relying on faith and spirit, stopped calling for divine support. Because I felt like God had turned his back on me when I needed her most.

Tonight, on Easter, I think about Jesus on the cross and his near-final words to heaven, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his moment of greatest suffering, even the Son of God felt abandoned by his Father. Maybe this was Jesus’ most human moment. We talk about Peter denying and Thomas doubting, but maybe it was Jesus’ own accusation of God’s blindness to our pain that can teach us the most about having, losing, fighting for, and finding faith.

One of the things I love about Judaism, at least the Judaism I was brought up in, is that the struggle with God is real. When Jacob wrestled with the angel and and demanded a blessing, he was given the name Israel, literally “he who wrestles with God.” To be the people of Israel (never mind the nation) is to own the struggle with faith. I have wrestled with angels, I have demanded blessings. Some people are lucky enough to be raised up with unwavering faith, but I’d venture to assume that the majority of us have to conjure it. We have to insist that it be there even when we don’t feel it.

One of my favorite quotes from the new testament comes from the father of child who is demon possessed (Mark 9:23-24). When Jesus goes to heal the boy he says to the child’s father, “all things are possible to him who believes.” To which the father cries out in tears, “Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief!”

Lord, I believe; please help my unbelief.

Is it possible to confess your faith and your lack of it at the same time?

When Jesus hung on the cross and cried out, “Why have you forsaken me?” he was giving us permission to feel abandoned by God, and without denying that very human experience, he was also affirming God’s presence in our suffering–something the majority of us are just not equipped to sense. He wouldn’t have said those words if he didn’t believe, didn’t know, that his God was close enough to hear them. And yet he felt alone in his pain, a reality all of us have faced.

So there I was, in the bathroom at 54 Below freaking the fuck out because I knew I had to get on stage and sing out my rage. I had no idea if I would remember my words or hit my notes. I also knew that, though I’m a person who always tries to bring the spirit with me, I was about to get on stage and confess one of the darkest moments of my spiritual life. Losing my clitoris and losing my faith. And then something miraculous happened. I closed my eyes and prayed.

It was probably my first time since the surgery. There in the back of 54 Below I reached out to God and said, “I know I turned my back on you, but I need you with me now, to help me through this song, and to understand that though I’m singing about losing my faith it’s only because I want it back.”

Lord I believe; please help my unbelief…

I got on stage and started off the song by saying one simple thing: “This is a song about getting something you always wanted, and then losing it.”

FALLS OFF

If there was grace then I guess I fell
If there was faith then I guess I lost it
If there’s a heaven then I guess that this is hell
If there’s a God then I guess he ditched me, well…

If there’s a price then I guess it’s paid
There were dreams now they’ve all been slayed
If there was peace now it’s swallowed up by rage
Im taking back every single time I prayed

Fom pink to grey
My sex falls off
From flesh to waste
My sex falls off
From mine to never
Sex falls off
At last to lost
My sex falls off!

First you led then you left my stranded
First I was brave now I’m terrified
First a promise that was just back handed
First a blessing now your curse has landed, well…

I was naive but now I’ve grown
There were angels now I’m on my own
Thought I believed but now I’m bleeding
There was you but now I’m all alone

From pink to grey
My sex falls off
From flesh to waste
My sex falls off
From mine to never
Sex falls off
At last to lost
My sex falls off

No magic bean to take me to the sky
No shooting star to make my wishes fly
Dug up the oyster then you stole the pearl
An empty shell as I watch my girlhood die
I’m an empty shell as I watch my girlhood die

From pink to grey
My sex falls off
From flesh to waste
My sex falls off
From mine to never
Sex falls off
At last to lost
My sex falls off
From true to chewed up
Sex falls off
From whole to hollow
Sex falls off
From kind to killing me
Sex falls off
From incomplete to complete
To completely incomplete
My sex falls sex falls sex falls sex falls
sex falls sex falls off!

The performance was a blur. I was terrified, but I gave it everything. Afterwards I walked off stage and a friend put his arms around me to give me a hug. I burst into tears, the big, heaving, heavy kind. And though I caught my breath a few moments later, I was still shaking for the rest of the night.

So, now, in a couple days I put my sex back on the line, and put my orgasmic potential back in God’s hands. Yes, I trust this clinic, yes I trust this doctor, yes I trust myself enough to communicate the specifics of my neovaginal architecture and let the doctor know of what and where he needs to be careful. But do I trust God enough to bring me through this unscathed, to preserve and protect what sexual sensitivity I have left?

I don’t know.

But I want to.

Lord I believe; please help my unbelief.

I find comfort, as always, in my creative work–which to me has always been a pretext of (or precursor to?) the spiritual work. For the last week I have been working on my passion project of all passion projects, JUNK, a rock opera by the Swedish pop band Brainpool. It’s been 10 years that I’ve been developing this piece. And every time we get together I’m reminded of what it feels like to be hopeful and inspired. In 2010, one freezing Januray night in Sweden, we wrote a song together called “We Intend to Rock the Revolution”

From The First Day
That We Started Making Music
We Made A Decision
That We Would Play It For A Cause
Not For Applause
But We Came To The Conclusion
To Rock The Revolution

You’re Not Afraid Of Failure
You’re Afraid Of Being Someone Great
But Listen When We Tell Ya
Youre A Star Meant To Shine On That Stage

We Didn’t Come This Far To Give Up Our Dreams
We Intend To Rock The Revolution
When The Road Is Hard It Only Means
We Agreed To Rock The Revolution
If You Look Around It More Than Seems
The Time Is Right To Rock The Revolution!

These are the mantras I will be reciting on Wednesday morning, with that flame thrower between my legs. “Lord I believe; please help my unbelief; We didn’t come this far to give up our dreams.”

Please send prayers for my pussy, if you’ve got any to spare.

Happy Easter. Rock on.

Shakina