I remember being fifteen years old, sitting down at the family desktop computer, and typing “was I born without a uterus” into Google one day after school, my parents still at work. I was the only assigned female person amongst my friends to not get my period yet, and I had this strange sensation that i wasn’t supposed to. This was just a couple years before I had access to the language that would later describe my transness.
I spent about an hour researching Müllerian agenesis that day, taking notes in my journal. This is one of the medical terms for being born with an underdeveloped or non-existent uterus but assigned female at birth based on external genitalia. After my consultation with Dr Google, I was convinced that this was the most reasonable explanation. I felt a sense of relief. I was free from one of the many stressors that came with being forced into girlhood by my biology.
It felt…right. Normal in its abnormalcy.
Despite my best efforts to be concerned or scared by the possibility of a medical abnormality, I was overcome with joy. I also kept this all secret, scared that if I spoke it into existence, I could jinx it. But two months after my sixteenth birthday, I went to the bathroom and saw blood in my underwear. I was consumed by fear. It was a fear that I could barely put into words. but as I gained language for my gender as a trans man, I also gained language for this fear – dysphoria. my body did not feel like mine.
Read More: Vulvovaginal Health and My Manhood
The idea of “bottom dysphoria,” or having a misalignment between your gender and your genitalia, was complex for me. I did not identify with this discomfort in the ways it was described on the internet, or by the few trans people I knew at the time. I hated this organ inside my body, but I was pretty comfortable with my external genitalia. It felt very much like mine, unique and powerful in its own way.
I started taking Testosterone in 2017, and I am very serious when I say it saved my life. but it came with some unexpected side effects. No one told me about the many ways taking Testosterone would change my vaginal microbiome. This is mostly because there is very little research and writing about this topic. Trans people rely almost entirely on the first hand experiences of other trans people to learn about these things. As Testosterone took over the Estrogen in my body, I started to experience a level of painful dryness around my vulva.
The only thing that would soothe this irritation ended up being Momotaro Apotheca’s salve. The website was shown to me by a friend one day, and I scrolled through in joyful awe of the lack of gendered language or designs that I feared when researching anything vaginal. I knew that this was a product I could use safely, without experiencing dysphoria or discomfort. The salve calmed my body and healed my dryness whenever it came up. This rarely happens anymore, but I know where to turn if it does.
Soothe vulvovaginal dryness, itching, or irritation: Shop Salve
Then I started experiencing intense physical pain during orgasm. Talk about a buzzkill. spasms and cramps in my abdomen became a normal part of my life, not only during orgasm but on a vaguely monthly basis, which I began to view as my uterus pinching me to remind me it was still there, still torturing me. this was, of course, not what was actually happening. But I knew it was time to say goodbye to this organ that I never wanted, never needed, never liked. I didn't learn what was really going on until my uterus was no longer in my body.
I did a lot of research on uterine removal, and worked with my great therapist and a trans-friendly gynecological surgeon. There are multiple different types of surgical options, in terms of what is removed and how. I spent a long time deciding what would stay and what would go. It's important to note that a hysterectomy refers to removal of the uterus alone; when the ovaries are removed it’s an oophorectomy, and fallopian tubes are a salpingectomy. I decided to have my uterus, fallopian tubes, and cervix removed. I opted to keep my ovaries, for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s good to have a backup plan. The body needs hormones, and even cisgender men naturally produce estrogen. I didn't want to rid my body of estrogen completely; and if I ever lost access to my Testosterone, it’s important to me to still have naturally occurring hormones in my body.
Read More: All About Hysterectomies
I went with a laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy. It's a big name for a pretty simple procedure. It was the least invasive type of surgery with the easiest recovery and the lowest risk of post-surgical complications. I chose a surgeon who specialized in this type of procedure, and who regularly works on transgender people. The least clinical way of describing this procedure is that they cut three tiny holes in my stomach to insert surgical instruments, and one in my bellybutton to insert a tiny camera (this is the laparoscopically assisted part). The surgeon used those instruments to disconnect my uterus and tubes from the rest of my insides. Then they went up my vagina, took out my cervix, and scooped everything out through my vagina (this is the vaginal hysterectomy part). They finished by sewing everything up at the back, using where the cervix was attached to the vagina to create what’s called a vaginal cuff. Or as I like to say, the back of my vagina is a cul-de-sac.
A week after surgery, I went for my first follow up. My surgeon shared with me that when they took everything out and could really look at it, they found severe Endometriosis. This was the cause of all my pain. Endometriosis is a disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that lines the inside of a uterus — the endometrium — grows outside a uterus instead. It causes severe pain and is hard to diagnose. one of the most effective treatments for those that aren’t worried about fertility? A hysterectomy. I'm not always a big believer in kismet, but my body knew what it needed in more ways than one. my gender, my body, my wants and needs mentally, emotionally, and physically had all aligned in this beautifully superb way.
Read More: 6 Common Pelvic Pain Conditions
It took me about two months to fully recover from surgery. The hardest part was the first week – it hurt to laugh. I forget how much we use abdominal muscles! While I recovered, Momotaro’s salve kept me soothed externally (they did yoink an entire organ out of there). Now, I have three tiny scars on my stomach and no more pain. ever. seriously.
It has been an adjustment for my entire system, and I'm grateful for Momotaro Apotheca’s natural vaginal care products that are accessible and made for all bodies, including bodies like mine.
Having been on Testosterone for nearly six years and having undergone a hysterectomy, my body is forever changed. my vaginal pH is different, my hormonal balance is different. but I still have a vulva and vagina that I love, and I need products that help regulate my system, like Momotaro’s probiotic made with vaginal health in mind to keep my body healthy and happy, as well as products like their salve and suppository to help with dryness, discomfort, and the occasional infection.
It's incredibly important to have access to products like Momotaro Apotheca’s so that my unique body can still receive the care it needs. I cannot emphasize enough how wild it feels to be at home in my body, and to have support from brands that make me feel true to myself as I take care of this beautiful body of mine.
Meet The Author
Clark Wolff Hamel (he/him) @_shirtlifter_works as PFLAG NYC’s Manager of Educational Programs, implementing and expanding LGBTQ+ education and support in New York City schools for teachers, administrators, students, and families. He also works creating and sharing educational content for colleges and universities, hospitals, doctor’s offices and community health centers, at the corporate level, and more. He has helped plan multiple citywide events for youth and adults as well as multiple national LGBTQ+ focused conferences, and has served on the boards of multiple transgender healthcare groups. He is currently finishing his MA in Human Rights at John Jay College, and holds a BA in Sociology from Bard College.