My pain is real and the medical system is broken, misogynoir is more pervasive than what is generally perceived, and Black women deserve to been seen. By Jazmine Joyner I was an antisocial 7th grader who wanted nothing more than to read books and watch movies. Being the new kid at my middle school, I had no friends and spent most of my days in the library reading “Fear Street” books. My closest friend was the librarian Mrs. Stanley, a tiny white woman with coke bottle glasses and a blonde pageboy haircut. I would eat lunch with her in that library, talk about books, and what I was learning in class. I felt truly invisible in my school and in an effort to appease my father (who loved sports and thought I should try out for some) and to make some friends, I tried out for the track and field team. Practices would start off with running and conditioning, something I particularly hated. Cardio has never been my strong suit, and back then I struggled to even finish a mile. It was during one of my first practices that I felt a sharp throbbing pain in my lower left abdomen. It felt like I was being burned and stabbed at the same time—it took the breath from my lungs.The pain would often show up as soon as I started running and I would fall to my knees on that dead grass, gasping for air and holding my side. I told my coach about the pain I was experiencing, and she said to me it was just cramps. I had recently started having periods so I had no idea what was right and what was wrong when it came to menstrual pain. So when she said it was cramps I just took her word for it, she had to have been right. Right? Turns out she was so very wrong. The pain just got worse and it wasn’t just when I ran or was physically active, it happened all day, every day. I would stand up to go to my next class and the razor blade like “cramp” would spring to life and send me abruptly back down into my seat. I would walk in between passing periods bent over like a praying mantis, clenching my teeth, sweating like crazy, trying my hardest to get through the day. I went to see my doctor and when I voiced my concerns that the cramps where constant even when I wasn’t on my period, she told me that I was overreacting and that it was normal. So I took Motrin and continued to push through the daily pain. One night I woke up vomiting, the cramps had reached a level I can only describe as full blown labor contractions (which I later learned was very similar, if not worse to the end stages of contractions). I was crying, rocking, and folded like a lawn chair. I couldn’t keep anything down. I was bleeding through every pad and tampon I put on, and I can remember thinking I was dying, that this was it I was going to bleed to death and die. I built up the strength to hobble to my mother's room. It was around 3:00 am, and I was the only one who was awake in the house. I knocked on her door, walked in, and she took one look at me and leapt out of bed.
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I wanted to give those who read this and are getting any kind of transition surgery — or even just starting their transition in general — the tools to process the feelings they’ll probably feel. For much of my life, I’ve had to hide who I am. Whether it was from relative strangers or just relatives, Princess, Alexzsa, Nykki, whoever I was at the time had to exist in the darkness. Although there are few men in my family, they cling to any person assigned male at birth and desire to subsume them in their toxically masculine, bro culture. Although some of it was less intense at times, my childhood included events where men in my family tried to shift me away from “female influence” and tried to get me interested in masculine or sport-y things. (Although sports aren’t masculine per se, they were certainly thought to be.) There was this need for me to be a “regular” straight, cis boy. But I could never be that. Although I realize that straight and cis people may not be able to understand the need for it, I ended up having to nurture two completely different personalities that never fully, truly had the opportunity to reconcile. I had to nurture the “ordinary latinx boy” façade while also developing myself as the girl/woman who I am. I became an expert in secrets, even hiding that I was taking hormones from my parents, they couldn’t tell that I was growing breasts until I had already and completely came out to them (before that, I was already a B cup). Having to learn how to hide everything I am makes it really easy for me to get the things that I need to get done, because I don’t need to worry about whether or not someone will approve of it or not. It allows me to function freely, because I could just hide it. I realize that this is deceitful, but when you’re a trans woman of color you sometimes have to move in darkness. A lot of the time, there is no letting our freak flag fly, so to speak. It was this history of basically having to move under the cover of metaphorical darkness that helped me survive the initial trials and tribulations of the closet and even non-closeted living. It helped me become confident in myself, my choices, and my choice of chosen family (which is, for me, a mix of blood and non-blood people). That said, though, it left me under-prepared for the biggest hurdle that I’ve ever had to face. December 22nd was a glorious, victorious day for me. After many years of dysphoria so bad that I wanted sometimes to do my own surgery, I finally had a genital surgery that I’d wanted: an orchiectomy. It was a magical day for me. I was so excited, so happy that instead of sleeping, I just stayed awake thinking. I was painfully tired by the time my surgery actually took place. It was a day where everything felt like lightning.
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