I am in the middle of changing my sex from male to female. I have a sweet girlfriend, and she and I have fabulous sex! I told her I was a woman about four years ago and began the transition two years ago. My girlfriend still loves me and overlooks the boobies or other feminizations. However, she has drawn the line with genital surgery. We still “get off” every time we have sex, and besides, our relationship is about more than sex! But I feel more and more compelled to acquire my new feminine genitalia.

How do I convince her that transsexualism is not a “sexual orientation” issue and that this is not about her? –Jaime

I don’t have much experience–personal experience–with long-term gender reassignment (short-term is another matter entirely), so I shared your letter with my best MTF tranny pal, Kaley. Born into a male body, Kaley is now a fabulous female who, in addition to her many other talents, bakes a wicked pecan pie. I mention her pecan pie only because Kaley brought one over for Thanksgiving. In no way do I mean to imply that all women, born or made, are good at baking pies.

“Jaime’s girlfriend is wary of what happens when the penis goes away, and she has good reason to be,” said Kaley. “The current state of sex-reassignment surgery, while far advanced from the early days (and getting better), still produces only a reasonable facsimile of a pussy, not the genuine article. In the hands of a skilled surgeon, Jaime will end up with a good-looking twat that will probably give her plenty of pleasure in basic, stick-something-in-the-hole-and-repeat-as-necessary sex. However, Jaime’s nouveau snatch will probably not self-lubricate or have sensitive externals. Labiaplasty is strictly for added realism–you can’t feel a thing. Oh, and it probably won’t smell or taste all that great.

“If Jaime is lucky, she will still be able to achieve orgasm, but the risk of saying good-bye to orgasms is shockingly high. Even if Jaime hits the genital-surgery jackpot and comes home with a beautiful, orgasmic vagina that smells and tastes just dandy, the question is moot,” because your girlfriend doesn’t want you to have a pussy, functional or not. “It’s unreasonable to expect that someone who ‘overlooks the boobies or other feminizations’ will be pleased about losing regular access to a fond, familiar penis.”

Your girlfriend may also be upset about the impact your gender change is going to have on her sexual identity. While your transsexualism isn’t a sexual-orientation issue for you, Jaime, it most certainly is one for your girlfriend. “Jaime is a trans woman, and her girlfriend is a bio-woman. Woman plus woman equals homo,” said Kaley. “Is the girlfriend OK with this? Your gender is part of your basic essence, and when you alter it, you fundamentally alter your relationship to everyone. Unless you forgo genital surgery–and remaining a preop trans woman is an option–you will have to let your girlfriend come to her own decision based on her own feelings.”

While Kaley stressed that it’s possible to be an MTF tranny and find and keep a fabulous, to-die-for girlfriend–she knows because she has one–odds seem high your girlfriend will decide to leave you, Jaime, if you get the surgery. Is that a price you’re willing to pay in order to acquire fabulous feminine genitalia?

I am a female, and I’ve never seen my problem addressed anywhere. I have long labia. Exceptionally long. They dangle. Boyfriends have commented upon them (some were a bit freaked-out), and I have looked at a great many “beaver shots” to see if there is anyone else out there like me, with no luck. Is this a common problem? Is there something I can do about it? –Jagger Lips

“The labia she is referring to are most likely the inner labia, called the labia minora,” says Dr. Robert H. Stubbs, a cosmetic surgeon in Toronto. “The only way to fix this is with surgery.” Dr. Stubbs explained to me that women can develop longer-than-average labia minora for lots of different reasons: trauma, pregnancy, excessive irritation, or plain ol’ aging. “Most women who choose to have the labia surgically reduced do it for cosmetic reasons, although some do experience discomfort during sex.”

Two-inch or longer labia minora are not uncommon, according to the doc, even if these aren’t the labia that make it into beaver shots. During the surgery the doctor marks the labia, then shows the markings to the patient. After they agree on the right length, the area is frozen and the cutting begins. I’m not sure this next bit of news will come as a comfort, JL, but the surgery is often done with lasers and the woman is usually awake.

Will taking an inch off reduce sexual pleasure or sensation? “There are a lot of nerve endings in the labia, and any procedure done in the genital areas puts the patient at risk. But done properly, no one should have any negative impact from this surgery. The labia minora do not have tremendous erotic sensitivity. They do get engorged during sex, as does the whole area, but they’re generally not needed to trigger orgasm. If you take them off completely a woman will have extreme difficulty, but many women find reducing their inner labia to an inch, along with a reduction of the hood if necessary, is beneficial.”

Dr. Robert H. Stubbs has his own Web site (psurg.com)–and besides me, who doesn’t?–where you can see before-and-after pics of labia. Enjoy.

You recently asked why most male-to-female transsexuals dress like grand-mothers. Perhaps you can answer this question: Why are all my gay friends big and hairy and wear studded leather jockstraps? Could it be that my gay friends are not representative of gay men in general? Ought I ask the men who do fit the stereotype to burn their leather jockstraps? Or should I look beyond the stereotypes and not judge those who fall into them by circumstance or choice?

Most people believe they can easily spot a tranny and stick to looking for those among us who cannot or do not “pass,” insisting that these are representative of the whole. If to some the only good tranny is a dead tranny (and the antitrans murder rate–one known a month–bears this out), then to most the only good tranny is one who can be seen a mile away, thus nullifying any threat of gender subversion. It is a fair criticism that most MTFs have trouble choosing clothing when we begin to transition. We have difficulty making choices that fit our bodies appropriately; we try to disguise our shapes, attempting to hide them with bulkiness. Most MTFs grow beyond this awkward stage–a stage when we are cruelly mocked and humiliated–and become less visible to people. It is ignorance to insist that, because we are most often recognized when we are in our awkward phase, this phase represents the state of MTF transgenderism. –Christine

I’m chastened and ashamed, Christine, and will attempt to be a better person in the future. Well, that’s all for this week, folks. I’m off to shave my back and burn my studded leather jock.

Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to letters@savagelove.net.