I remember being a teenager and realizing my vagina wasn’t normal. As an adult, I know there isn’t a way to look “normal” but my teenage self desperately wanted to. I was often uncomfortable in some of my clothes. My vulva was more… present, than others.
Following me into adulthood is the idea that my vulva is so different looking than others. And not only that, but my different looking vulva is much uglier than others too.
This probably comes from seeing porn (though as someone who knows a thing or two about sex workers, porn that may be easily accessible is largely filtered to meet made up, “ideal” standards) and not seeing many vaginas in person. My sample size to help me understand my vulva was small and skewed.
l’ve never wanted a penis. I remember wanting nothing to be there for a while before I really grew into myself and my sexuality. As an adult, sex was scary. What if it is actually as ugly as I think it is. What if my partner is disgusted by it and the night is ruined? What If my vulva prevents people from wanting to be with me? Luckily my vulva and I found a long term partner who doesn’t mind how it looks. I still have unrest about it; an ebbing and flowing of not paying attention to it and not being able to ignore it. I find myself going back to my adolescence when I was thinking about a labiaplasty. Being a teenager, the thought didn’t evolve into much. Being an adult with a partner who wants bottom surgery, on the other hand, makes surgical options feel like they are more accessible. So, I turned to my trusty friend google for information.
It did not take me long to find before and after pictures. Without expectations, I clicked the link. Image after image before my eyes and I could feel myself sink into a pool of sadness. All of the before vulvas looked like mine, and all of the afters looked like the “ideal” vulva that I had seen growing up. I was crushed by the proof that my vulva was undesirable, and also saddened that so many people felt the need to change their vulva. One before picture even looked like a heart when the lips were spread apart. I found myself wishing for a “before” vulva that was heart shaped, while being so upset that such a unique vulva was surgically modified.
My google search ended there. I’m not sure how to love my vulva more, but the thought of surgery to change the appearance feels untrue and inauthentic. I wonder if my partner were to take a picture of my vulva and a more “pretty” one to their doctor when they get bottom surgery, which the doctor would recommend. I wonder If they wanted a vulva like mine, if a doctor would convince them otherwise. Based on what I saw, no one is getting surgery to have a vulva more like mine.
So I am sitting in this middle place, unhappy with what I’ve got, but not content with my options. It is a struggle that I deal with as a nonbinary person in general. Perhaps that will always be my struggle,’ the push and pull between who I am and who I am “supposed” to be, what I want and what I can actually get.