The Queerty interview

This ‘nullo’ man felt more masculine and had better sex after getting his penis removed

nullo, male castration, eunuch, interview

When Gregg* was 29 years old, he had his penis and testicles surgically removed because he simply didn’t want them. He identifies as a cisgender gay man but also as a “nullo,” a modern term for a guy who has had his genitals removed. We talked with Gregg about his decision, the procedure, the nullo community and what his romantic life has been like since.

Historically, men like Gregg have been called “eunuchs,” but the castration of eunuchs sometimes happened involuntarily (to stop them from procreating or to keep castrati singers capable of high vocal ranges, for instance). These days, nullo dudes and other “smoothies” voluntarily choose to remove their genitals for personal reasons ranging from body dysmorphia to aesthetic ideals.

It’s unclear how many men identify as nullos. A 2014 study concluded that only 30% of nullos reveal their castration to their families and only 11% to their friends. The same study concluded that less than a third of castrated men identify as male after castration; most identify as gender neutral or agender (that is, without any gender whatsoever). A few eventually self-identify as female.

Gregg says there’s a “super niche” community of genital modification enthusiasts who use closed forums to protect their identities. New users must get referrals from active members and then submit a picture of themselves and sometimes their genital modifications. Some have genital piercings and tattoos, others have injected saline or silicone into their genitals or have had their testicles removed.

Most nullos tends to skew older, Gregg says, around their 40s, 50s and 60s. As such, he says most prefer text messaging rather than using web forums and social media sites like Facebook.

What’s the line between body modification, body dysmorphia and fetish?
I don’t really have an answer for you. Body modification just refers to an act or a process. It doesn’t really refer to the underlying drive that causes you to do something. [Often, it’s a] really core foundational identity reason that leads your body not to match your mind, making the act of body modification something beneficial to your mental and psychological health.

As a general rule, the more intense — intense might not be the right word — the more of a one-way door the body modification is, the more of a radical change it is to how your body operates, how you perceive it day-to-day, the more the people that you see doing that kind of body modification tend to be motivated by issues related to body dysmorphia or gender identity, versus things like aesthetics, social peer pressure, or just general sexual fetish modification.

I think that genital mods arguably would be one of the types of mods that would be as far down as you could get onto that spectrum, where you tend to see people who are overwhelmingly motivated by body dysmorphia and gender identity issues, because it’s so serious.

At the other end of that, you have something like a tattoo or ear piercing, which is hardly a one-way-door for your body, so tattoos in some ways are a body mod, but your body still works the way it previously does. It’s still shaped the way it previously was, and you know plenty of people who have said, “I got a tattoo and I regret it” or “I got this pierced back in the day and I took it out because it wasn’t really for me.” I’d argue the more trivial, if you will, that the body modification is, the more you tend to see an even mix of people doing it for purely aesthetic or experimental reasons. Versus something that’s super foundational and core to themselves.

Related: Gay Rugby Referee Nigel Owens Once Considered Chemical Castration

How did you end up deciding to become a nullo?
Ever since I was a kid, my body didn’t really feel like it fit. I always looked at my junk and I was like, “Why is this here? This is kind of weird looking.” And I’d always tuck it when I was a kid, and be like, “Okay. I don’t know why this is here, but everyone says it’s supposed to be so it’s fine.”

And then I got older, started to go through puberty, still didn’t like it, but was like, “Oh this lets me cum, which feels great.” So ergo, I’m going to be using this thing from now on out, even if it feels a little bit wrong every time I use it.

But at the same time, I was becoming more active online, and I swear to God, this story is way too common among my BME friends. Everyone found it out from BME or some equivalent websites. BME was this website, back in the late ’90s early 2000s called Body Modification Evite, and some version of it is still around, I don’t know to what degree.

[BME] was this huge repository of interviews, stories, and galleries of people who’d done various types of body modifications, all the way from an earring or a small tattoo … to huge major body modifications like genital loss. I came across a couple stories of people who were nullo when I was in my early teen years, and I read this article called “An Interview With Tom Manelow,” an older nullo guy back in the late ’90s or early 2000s who I remember. I saw a picture of him when I loaded the webpage, and it was just this happy-go-lucky, normal looking guy who just looked like a Ken doll, and I was like “Oh, that’s what I want. That’s what I’m supposed to be.”

It was this weird moment of everything clicking, and being like, “Oh that’s why I feel the way I do, that’s how I want to be this way.” For me, that was the moment that, and it was really black-and-white, night-and-day, that moment.

Is that when you decided to do it?
Even then, it took me years to get to the point that I decided that I was going to do this. It took me growing and kind of maturing and becoming aware enough of myself and what I wanted, that I was willing to come out to some people and close friends about it.

At the same time, it was also a period of time when medical practices of genital modification via surgery were becoming more accepted, thanks to broader trans acceptance. Previously, you’d have to go to a cutter, or have to do it yourself and go into an emergency room and pray. Or you’d have to go to Thailand and I suppose also pray. It began to be something that some surgeons in the US were doing this if you followed some pretty strict standards of care.

I did my research, and I finally decided to come out to some friends about it, and at the same time since this was becoming a more legitimate medical route, and I ended up sort of starting that process off.

I started with a bunch of trans surgeons, emailed them all, explained my situation, and finally found a couple who were willing to work with me. Then I did the standard, psychological hoops —I had to go through multiple psychological evaluations with different therapists … to prove that I had thought through this, that I was able to give informed consent, and in fact informed enough to know the risks and long term affects of this — and a bunch of the usual things that you’re supposed to do before re-assignment surgery. Then I went and I had surgery in the Bay Area in late 2016.

nullo, male castration, eunuch, interview

What has your life been like since the surgery?
I’m 31 right now, and I was 29 when I had the surgery. I identify as like a cis-gender guy usually. I would say I basically identify as a guy who’s missing some of the usually associated parts that come with the package. I still prefer he/his/him. I identify as masculine — it’s actually honestly been great.

The benefit of being on replacement testosterone is that … I grew a full beard, I got chest hair, and I arguably feel more masculine and comfortable in my body across the whole range of attributes without a dick, then I did having one. Over the past six months, I finally got a gym membership and decided to see where this could go, and watching my body kind of fill out, has been a really rewarding experience.

The funny thing is, everyone I know who’s done this or is interested in doing this is so deeply in the closet about it to most people who matter. But I don’t know anybody who’s actually come out and faced any degree of discrimination at least in like a professional sense I have certainly dealt with it just in the dating world.

It is always a unique and difficult — well, not always difficult — but it’s always a unique conversation to have with someone who doesn’t know about this. I know plenty of friends — particularly if they don’t live in a big city with a vibrant pretty body positive community — have really bad luck dating, and kind of just become loners, because no one wants to sleep with somebody who has a body configured like that.

So I think that’s the main, actual form of discrimination, although I acknowledge that like people can have their own tastes about bodies, and that kind of is what it is, but at the very least it’s the main draw back for a type of social opprobrium that I think most of my friends have faced, because they stay so in the shadows that they haven’t really been out at work, or any other form where they can face worse problems.

I’ve read some sensationalized stories about nullos. There are people who treat it like a sideshow rather than trying to exploring the humanity of the people who become nullos. What is the risk of continuing to stigmatize, and push this community underground?
Well I think you called out the main one. That it drives people who are super motivated to accomplish this goal, further underground. And I think in doing so, it tends to push people towards more dangerous routes.

This a hearsay observation that my older friends have told me that I can’t vouch for myself, but in the late ’90s or early 2o00s, there was a relatively, I wouldn’t say vibrant but active community of cutters, guys who had some level of medical expertise who could do penectomies or various other major body modifications like that off the grid, without the need for medical approval.  And what happened was there were a couple of guys that were caught in relatively high-profile cases, and they were prosecuted, and that kind of drove the whole cutter group out of business basically.

It stopped being something that you could kind of find people on forums or chatroom for. It became something where they were no longer doing this, unless you already personally knew them. The results of that was that a lot of people started doing this themselves because there literally was nobody else to do it, and it’s even more dangerous to be doing it yourself.

I don’t think the cutters are great, but I also, as a general rule, believe in harm reduction. And this was a process that forced people to go from a risky-to-dangerous option, to a much more risky and dangerous option by virtue of pushing that community even further under ground.

Related: More and more gay men are getting anal botox and rejuvenation surgery

But to validate the flip side of this, I do think it’s real and I think it’s valid to say is that one side effect of pushing us farther underground is that you raise the bar for the amount of effort and dedication that a person has to have to accomplish this … a filtering function, to only have people who are dead set truly absolutely motivated to do this, that does serve a filtering function to make it harder for people who may be on the fence or may not be as emotionally invested in this for the same reason.

Having a doctor do it, makes it less dangerous — that’s totally true. Having doctors do it also lets them do it using modern practices and modern surgical techniques that makes the modification itself something that’s less dangerous.

In a perfect world, we’d be able to discuss rarer forms of body modification more openly and figure out best practices, making them more available to whoever wants them, after they go through a sort of protocol that makes sure that they’ve thought through it, that they understand the permanency, or other associated risks. That would really be the ideal situation, wouldn’t it?
On the question of where body modifications end and something like makeup or mascara or standard cosmetic surgery begins, I’d argue that there’s no physical distinguishing aspect to it: They are the same thing. They are changing whatever your body presents in one moment into presenting something different in another moment.

The question is, are you changing your body in a way that better aligns with what we accept as the ideal of beauty for your gender, and your race, and all these things that society knows about you? Or, are you diverging from that standard of beauty?

When somebody gets breast implants, a face lift, or *ss implants, nobody views that as body modification, because they view that body as being more normal. They view that body as better aligning with the ideal. So it’s not modification, it’s just helping you towards the goal you’re supposed to be at.

[The word] “modification,” in my eyes… I don’t think it’s pejorative, but I think it says you’re deviating form the norm. You’re modifying something and making it artificial. But the artificiality is just defined as being different than what you’re supposed to to look like according to somebody else.

nullo, male castration, eunuch, interview

Right. The fact that the other modifications are regularly called “augmentations” or “enhancements” shows a linguistic bias. But regarding discrimination against nullos, wouldn’t there be less if more nullos publicly came out? Or is it wrong to blame a stigmatized group for their own oppression?
Fundamentally, it’s a massive collective action problem. If everybody I knew as a nullo posted it publicly on Facebook and got over with it — and the reality was 90% of us are f*cking boring, and we’re fine — that would be great. We’d all be much happier for it. But if only one or two people do it, they face a lot of danger and risk, and the effect of that is nobody’s the first person to come through and do it.

On my side, I’ve been debating being much more open about it. But at the end of the day, everybody now knows in my life, with the exception of my immediate co-workers and my parents. All my friends know, everybody I’m socially connected with knows. I go to the nude beaches all the time, it’s fine. It’s great.

But I guess I’m kind of p*ssed because the only nullo who’s actually come out and done anything is this guy Gelding who did that Gawker article a few years ago. The article ended up focusing on the f*cking cannibalistic aspect at the end of it, and I’m p*ssed because that’s what 90% of people Google, and find out, and then ask me about it. I personally wish there were other people who were out there and were a counterpoint to provide a more balanced sample of what we’re like, and what our experience is like.

I don’t think it’s fair to expect members of a community to risk exposure and professional, social, or bodily harm in order for us to make us more visible to people who don’t know about us. I also acknowledge that it’s frustrating. People operate as best they can under limited information, and [people] who can’t get that information first hand have to make do with what they can find.

It sucks, and it makes me much less interested in being open about it, if the only question I’m going to be asked is, “How do you pee? Do you still cum?” all the basic things. I understand that they are intellectual questions, but it just feels super medical, probing, and kind of invasive.

Though… now that you mention it… sorry to ask, but…
It’s totally fine, and for the record, they’re totally normal questions to have. Like, it’s an odd thing where like I’ve done this a million times before, cause like every time you go on a first date with someone or you’re at a bathhouse, you have to have this conversation. So I’m fine answering it and it’s a human response to be curious about it. I totally get it.

Basically for the nullification surgery, they remove the testicles, the scrotum, and the penis, and they essentially just sew the skin up into a very tight vertical line which kind of fades away. If the surgeon’s great, there’s no scar at the end of it, and they relocate the urethra down to kind of between your legs.

So basically, I p*ss like a woman does, and in terms of orgasm, I’m still on testosterone, so I still have a male sex drive, I still have orgasmic response. I can get off through getting f*cked or riding a guy through prostate stimulation. Or within my crotch, if you push under the skin, there’s still all the nerves that were severed from where my d*ck used to be, and they actually, over the course of several months regrow, throughout that whole area.

So the funny thing is, that internal stump which you can feel if you push around, or if you kind of just wiggle down there, feels amazing. And that can help me cum too. In terms of actually cumming, like 90% of semen is actually by glands around the prostate, which aren’t really affected by the surgery. So I still cum like normal, and produce normal amounts and all of that. It’s a little bit more mental than it is physical, but I still cum several times a day and it’s great. I quite like it.