My Hysterectomy and Early Menopause Reshaped My Sexuality — So My Queerness Found New Spaces to Inhabit

There is a distinct smell to the place; handsome and even topiary, as if cultivated specifically for watering holes on the brink of implosion via neglect. The smell only congregates in relatively ancient places and spaces; to grok when you smell it, you must have a sort of affinity for old things. To me, the stench of mousy, mossy mold is intimately — and infinitely — charming. The smell has always smelled like freedom to me, because it is so undeniably impenitent.

It is karaoke night at Sullivan’s, a bar that used to be “dangerous.” It was better then, obviously. Now it is fraternal; the original, delightful decay and decadence of age and realness are now covered — or rather, smothered — by AXE body spray. The space — once smelly and old — repurposed into a shrine for khakis and boat shoes.

The renovations do not stop the woman I’m dating from grabbing the mic and mashing up Carly Rae Jepsen and Trent Reznor.

Head like a hole.

Call me maybe?

I fall in love with her immediately.

Back at my apartment, we watch lesbian porn and fuck each other into the morning.

But an additional ribbon of time unfurrows from our embraces, and I suddenly find that my body is buckled over in the kind of agony that seems to swing the self into the sweet hereafter, ever so slightly. My only comparison is giving birth; I see my child in my mind’s eye and wonder if I am actually going to die in this timeline, leaving her motherless.

I am conscious enough to know that something profound has happened but not conscious enough to imagine egress from it.

As it turns out, an exploding ovary is about as painful as giving birth, at least in my experience. This bodily oxidation is often punctuated by other culprits, as it was in my case. That is, a disease of the uterus, a disease that is often allowed to fester inside the bodies of those of us deemed incapable of narrative, those of us deemed “dramatic.”

I undergo an emergency hysterectomy because the endometriosis inside of me has matured and grown its own blood vessels. It hugs my uterus to other organs and reaches its damn-near-conscious tentacles into the hollows of my anus. Before going under for surgery, I remember all of the times, all of the years, I’d complained about pain, never to be believed.

And so here we are.

Stage Four Endometriosis.

I didn’t even know the disease had progressive stages.

Before I blackout entirely, I think, All I want in this wretched world is a fucking cheeseburger.

Had I died in surgery, this would have been my last thought in this plane of existence, and somehow, I believe this speaks volumes about who I am, fundamentally, as a human.

A year after my full hysterectomy — and subsequent menopause at the age of 32 — I am desperately waiting to hear from friends at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. A white man — as is often the case — has just won the record for deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States, an appealing title, it would seem, for those in society given the most and yet somehow, producing the least.

My now ex-girlfriend spots me in distress outside of a local coffee shop. Reflecting her perennial generosity of spirit, she offers me comfort and then says, delicately, that she’s leaving town with her new girlfriend. Not only is she leaving town, she’s relocating to San Francisco, a city I will forever associate with making gay porn and creating queer communities with other sex workers.

The inertia of the moment feels like time travel. Hadn’t we just been in one another’s beds? She was my last lover, after all, and now she’s with someone new?

I espy my body as if from the outside and realize that it is almost 100 pounds heavier than when she and I were last entangled. Multiple timelines of violence and growth, expansion and extinction collapse in on each other and I have the distinct feeling that I’ve been left with nothing.

Empty. Dark. Cavernous. Large.

Good luck, is all I can muster. And I walk away.

I used to get turned on in libraries, before my hysterectomy.

Not because I had a specific lover in mind, necessarily, but because all of the wisdom therein appeared, to me, to be accrued in one singularity, a black hole of infinite potential.

It didn’t matter much the library; I got lovers’ butterflies inside new ones with Aerogel insulation and wildly colored acrylic railings just as I did in old ones with rolling oak ladders and neo-Greco atriums soaring over marble floors.

My lust-filled obsessions were indicative of my fetish for knowledge and, of course, my affinity for old things.

I was aroused by thoughts of growing; little did I know that once I reached my true size, I’d stop feeling aroused all together.

My birthday is in five months. I will be 39.

I used to keep a detailed, numerical record of my lovers because I took pride in amassing many. In my late twenties, I stopped the habit, after tallying more than one hundred.

And yet, in the spaces between my last girlfriend and my 39th birthday, I can count the number of lovers I’ve had on one hand. There is phenomenological immensity to this fact, and mostly because the quantitative change to my sluttiness has happened so swiftly. Indeed, I now identify as asexual.

Even if you count the men I fuck for money, my laundry list of lovers is still modest enough to appeal humble to the most priggish Puritan.

So here I am.

Single. Round. And pushing middle-age.

But I am also, now, preternaturally unapologetic and percussively boisterous. Where once I found solace in the sleepy mornings of post-coital vulnerability and sexually charged reciprocities, I am now content to spend my moments of existence companionless. Antithetical, perhaps, to the popular contention that having more sex will fix the plague of loneliness, my asexual queerness feels larger — unadulterated from social expectation and divorced from whoever may be in my bed at any particular moment. In this way, my queerness fills up the spaces I thought were reserved for other things: friendships, teaching, mothering, just to name a few.

That is to say, my dynamics with others are necessarily intimate, now, but not sexual. My queerness is too wild to be categorized. It has neither “management procedures,” as Foucault critiqued in his Repressive Hypothesis, nor is it situated within the “nature of public potential.”

Where once my sexuality flourished in the spaces of the unknown, it is now content to be still.

My structure of self, now a handsome and topiary smell to the empty, dark, cavernous, and large spaces of narrative, seems to be expanding into the vastness of space and time. I am alone. But I am large enough to let in the prism of light, reflecting back all the colors of the rainbow.

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Juniper Fitzgerald

Juniper Fitzgerald is a queer mother, sex worker, and academic based in the Midwest. Her children’s book, How Mamas Love Their Babies, was published by Feminist Press in 2018 and was the first to feature a sex-working parent. Beyond her scholarly work, she has contributed to We Too: Essays on Sex Work and Survival and her writing has appeared in Tits and Sass, Mutha magazine, and the Rumpus. She holds a PhD in sociology and is a lifelong Gillian Anderson fan.

Juniper has written 1 article for us.


      • Hello, I am 32 years old and was diagnosed with endometriosis last year after an ovarian cyst rupture. I’ve had two more ruptures this year, and I am struggling to find a doctor who will do a hysterectomy with ovary removal on someone my age. I feel very alone in this. Thank you for writing about it.

  1. “That is to say, my dynamics with others are necessarily intimate, now, but not sexual. My queerness is too wild to be categorized.”

    This was lovely. Finding this piece about asexuality in middle age feels too good to be true – I feel deeply seen.

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