In honor of Pride Month, we are so happy to offer this story about a young transgender man by author Evelyn Deshane. This story was originally submitted for the Body Horror anthology, and we didn’t think it fit that theme, but we knew that it was an important story, and one we wanted to be able to tell the world. We have broken it into three parts, and one part will be offered each week of the month. Enjoy!Editor
“It’s your appendix this time around,” Doctor Sundeep explained. “You’re becoming quite the frequent flyer here.”
“Can you just make the pain stop?” Jonas asked.
“We can’t give you any more medication without you becoming dependent. But we will keep you here overnight to prepare you for surgery. Your appendix isn’t about to burst, merely swollen, but timing is important. At this rate, you’ll be rid of all your filters by November.”
“He’s already lost his tonsils,” Melody added.
“When you were seven. I stayed with you in the hospital and we ate popsicles together.”
Jonas made a noise of pain that everyone took for comprehension.
“Well, in that case,” Doctor Sundeep said, “you’ll be a free man soon. All your filter organs will be gone.”
Melody talked to the doctor for several minutes, parsing out details of Jonas’s aftercare. Her hair was pulled back into a frazzled ponytail that the hospital lights made even worse. Jonas wanted to tell her he loved her so much for taking care of everything, but he was still concerned with his pain. And the milk from before that Melody didn’t know about. As soon as she left to get coffee from the cafeteria, Jonas reached out and took Doctor Sundeep’s arm.
“Yes, Mr. Vasiliou?”
“Something weird happened. I didn’t want to tell her, but… you know my file, right? I’m transgender?”
“I was made aware, yes.”
“Okay. So, I obviously don’t have breasts anymore, but I think during one of the appendix attacks I… lactated. Is that possible?”
Doctor Sundeep considered this for a moment. “Now, transgender patients are not my forte. But it seems to me that if you still have some of the working parts you should be able to still do all the things that typical cisgender women do. Including lactate.”
“But I’m on testosterone.”
“When was your last treatment?”
Jonas wanted to answer, every two weeks like always, when he realized he couldn’t. “A week before I saw my sister. Then all the attacks started. I haven’t been able to get an appointment to renew the shots since.”
“I see. Maybe with all your stress, your body has kicked into overdrive with your other hormones.”
“But my nipples… they shouldn’t even work.”
“Hmm. What if,” Sundeep added after reviewing Jonas’s chart for a while, “we also removed another organ while you were here?”
“It says in your chart you still have your uterus. I understand if you’d like to keep it, but if you’re having adverse hormonal reactions due to all the stress your body’s been put under, then perhaps there is a valid medical reason to remove the source–i.e., your uterus and ovaries.”
Jonas was stunned. Was Doctor Sundeep really just offering to remove Jonas’s last vestigial bit of misplaced femininity? In order to get his chest surgery, Jonas had to save for years to build up the small fortune, plus whatever time he needed to take off from work during aftercare. He also needed a few letters from doctors diagnosing him with all the proper medical terms. The only reason Jonas hadn’t bothered with a hysterectomy along with his mastectomy was the cost factor, since many Canadian officials still saw gender surgery as elective–like plastic surgery. Jonas had friends who kept their uterus as a ‘just in case method’ if they wanted kids later on, but Jonas already knew. He didn’t want to be pregnant. Ever.
And now Sundeep was offering to have Canadian health care remove the last piece of a puzzle Jonas had been trying to take care of for years. Because now it was a medical necessity.
“I would not normally recommend this route,” Sundeep added quickly, “but it seems to me that this is a particular case, and so–“
“What are the side effects?” Jonas asked. “If I no longer have a uterus?”
“No more estrogen. You will need to be on some kind of synthetic hormone the rest of your life in order to avoid bone deterioration.”
“I was gonna do that anyway. Is that it?”
“Aside from the other surgical risks, there is nothing else out of the ordinary. Should I process the referral? You may not have the surgery for quite some time.”
“But I’ll have it,” Jonas said. “I’ll get to have it.”
Doctor Sundeep nodded. He made a few notes on his chart, then left Jonas in his hospital room. By then, the pain from Jonas’s right side had stopped.
“You ready?” the anesthesiologist asked.
Jonas nodded, turning his head away from the bright lights of the operation room. Before the mask was placed over him, he saw a shadow. No–something else entirely. A creature with a dark face and blue-black lips smiled, revealing many sets of teeth. The first were normal molars and incisors. The rest, behind the first row and almost to the tongue, were milk teeth. Baby teeth. Some poked out of the creature’s cheek like a deranged grin. Jonas knew, from somewhere deep inside, not to be afraid.
When he blinked, the creature was gone. The anesthesiologist told him to count to ten again.
Jonas counted six teeth inside his mouth before he drifted away.
“We have a surprise for you.”
Jonas rubbed his eyes as he woke, trying to brush away the sleep dust. His body ached from two sets of incisions over his torso. His mouth was sour, too, like he had eaten something bad before the surgery–when he hadn’t been allowed to eat much of anything at all. Doctor Sundeep adjusted Jonas’s pain meds without even asking, and Jonas was relieved.
“We have a surprise,” Doctor Sundeep repeated. “Two, really.”
“First, we’ve schedule you for a hysterectomy very soon.”
Jonas laughed, then felt the pull of the stitches in his side. “Is that laparoscopic surgery, too? Because I’m starting to feel like a pincushion.”
“It is. Don’t worry; you’ll barely feel it and it will barely leave a mark. You will have to take some more time off work, though. I apologize we keep extending your stay.”
“I’m fine. I’m a PhD student.” Jonas shrugged. He wasn’t teaching this semester, so he had gotten lucky. He’d fall behind on his dissertation research, but considering he was studying transgender identity in the media, he figured he was set. “What’s the second surprise?”
“Your sister was wrong about your tonsils. Or, perhaps she was right and they’ve just grown back.”
“What? I have tonsils?”
“You do. I checked because it seemed odd to me; when I first did your physical, I swore you had them. And I was right. You do.”
“Do things like that grow back?”
“It’s rare. Very rare. But it does happen. I suppose the discovery is more of a surprise for me than to you, since you probably don’t even really notice the difference.”
Jonas reflexively touched his throat. Did it feel thicker? And how much of this sudden thickness was just an effect the testosterone? In the first few months since starting the shots, all he did was test to see how his voice dropped. He measured his Adam’s apple growth, then the facial hair on his neck. The hair was still there, but softer now, because he hadn’t been taking his t-shots.
“I wanted to let you know,” Doctor Sundeep went on, “because if you ever do have trouble with your throat, you may have to get them removed again.”
“And watch them grow back again?”
“Now that’s something for the medical journals. But I doubt it.”
Jonas nodded solemnly. His chest hurt with a familiar pain from something he couldn’t name. “Nothing else can grow back, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“The other body filters. Will they come back?”
“No.” Sundeep paused, meditating on that. “I’ve never seen a case like it before.”
Jonas huffed. Many doctors hadn’t seen cases of transgender people before. But they still existed.
“I’m sure, Mr. Vasiliou. Nothing we remove will come back. Only if you’re a salamander does regeneration actually occur. The only thing the human body can do is change what is already there. Chances are, when you had your tonsils removed at a young age, they simply didn’t get it all. Nothing to write home about.”
Jonas stayed quiet as Sundeep pulled up his file. “I’m going to get you some medical forms to sign for your hysterectomy. I’m sorry if there’s another word I should call that surgery for transgender patients. Is hysterectomy okay?”
Jonas nodded. “Sure. Bring the papers whenever. I’ll sign.”
“Good.” Doctor Sundeep smiled one last time before he left.
Evelyn Deshane’s creative and nonfiction work has appeared in Plenitude Magazine, Briarpatch Magazine, Strange Horizons, Lackington’s, and Bitch Magazine, among other publications. Evelyn (pron. Eve-a-lyn) received an MA from Trent University and is currently completing a PhD at the University of Waterloo. Visit evedeshane.wordpress.com for more.About the Author