What is transgender surgery
After sex reassignment : "It only made things worse"
Joachim kept a record of what he thought was his salvation. With the computer he had drawn a table with black letters on a white background. He had marked the most important appointment in red and enlarged the letters.
July 17, 2014: "Operation".
On that summer day Joachim's penis was removed in a university clinic. In its place, the doctors formed a neovagina. Joachim's body became that of a woman.
The procedure should improve Joachim's life. "But it only made things worse," he says.
When Joachim opens the door to his ground floor apartment, he is mistaken for a man. He wears his hair short, has an angular face and speaks in a deep, firm voice. Only the panty liners in his bathroom reveal that the person who lives here is physically a woman.
Gender reassignment is final
Joachim would like to forget about it. He threw away the women's clothes, disposed of the cosmetics. Joachim has even erased or torn up pictures that show him as a woman. “Destroyed,” he says. "Because I am not."
For years he fought to become a woman. Now that he's one, he'd rather be a man again.
Joachim is one of an estimated several thousand so-called trans people who have undergone gender reassignment in Germany since 1980. You were born in the wrong body and therefore let it adapt: from man to woman, from woman to man.
For most of them, the operation means a liberation: they can finally be what they always felt like. But a small part is struggling with the consequences. Some would like to undo the procedure. But that doesn't work: Gender reassignment is final.
Joachim has become lonely
In Belgium, a transsexual man received euthanasia in 2013 because he suffered “excruciating psychological pain” after the operation. The change had made him even more miserable.
The Swiss trans icon Coco fell ill with osteoporosis after the procedure, presumably as a result of gender reassignment. When asked if she would opt for an operation again, Coco replied, "No, I'd rather kill myself." In 1998 she committed suicide.
The surgical methods have evolved since then, and support ranges from speech therapy to support by hormone specialists. None of this could prevent Joachim from regretting the operation today.
He lives in a three-room apartment with wooden furniture and cuddly toys that are almost as old as he is. There are shelves full of crime stories on the wall, a lawnmower hums in front of the door, otherwise it's quiet. Joachim rarely gets visitors.
He got lonely, careful. It is difficult for him to trust others - especially the media, which, according to Joachim, are reporting too positively about the procedure. Only after many preliminary discussions did he agree to tell his story. Condition: It must not be recognizable. That is why his name and all personal details have been alienated.
At 20, he swallows the birth control pill
Joachim lives in a small town, so interchangeable that it could be anywhere in Germany. Bright new buildings line wide sidewalks, all around are fields on which yellow rapeseed blooms in spring. It is a life of orderly ordinaryness.
Joachim grew up in this average Germany in the 1950s. He has two older brothers, Joachim's mother actually wanted a girl. In fact, Joachim had the feeling from an early age that there was sometimes a woman in his boyish body.
As a child he secretly tried on his mother's bras and was teased at school for allegedly “walking like a girl”. When he was in his early twenties, he persuaded friends to get him the birth control pill: he hoped that the hormones would make him grow a small bosom. Joachim soon fills an A-cup. That is why he hides a brassiere under his uniform during military service.
Joachim himself doesn't understand what is happening to him. Sometimes he looks in the mirror and is sure to see a woman in it. On other days a man looks at him. Joachim's self-perception is like a wobbly picture, the subject of which changes when you tilt it.
He is doing two apprenticeships, first in a technical, then in a commercial occupation. He has trouble with his bosses and changes jobs frequently. Joachim longs for stability and harmony. So he gets to women who dominate and take advantage of him: They use his accounts and cheat on him.
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