Chest Surgery

I’m doing it! I’m finally doing it. This is really happening.

I’ve been thinking about breast reduction and even top surgery for years and years now. I’m sure many of my friends are thinking, “Uh, why haven’t you done it by now?”

Part of it was insurance. I didn’t know I could get this covered. Also, I never tried to get a breast reduction before. I didn’t think it would be possible. I think I’ve also just lived with these massive breasts for so long that I’ve learned how to cope with them, just like the pressure the world places on me to be a certain kind of female, which in turn, makes me loathe being female.

But lets go back a bit.

When I was nine years old, I discovered these hard marble-like knots under my nipple-skin. I freaked out and ran to my mother’s room and showed her, crying, “I have breast cancer!” She laughed at me and said, “No, you don’t have breast cancer! You’re starting to develop breasts.”

I was not happy to hear this. I had never wanted to be a girl. I thought of myself as some kind of genderless being, or actually, I never thought of myself in gendered terms at all. I was just a person, a human, with some vague floating consciousness that followed my body around as a very tiny human.

I would float above the ceiling and watch myself crying, playing, maybe coming closer to my body, but so many of these memories as a small child feel disembodied. Is it memory playing tricks on me? Or is that really how it was?

When I finally learned how to fully read at around eight or nine (yes, my parents were weird), I read as many boy adventure novels as I could find, the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, Rob Roy, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, The Jungle Book, Puck of Pook’s Hill, Captain’s Courageous, and more.

I lived in a fantasy world of boyhood where I could run away and be a flat-chested boyish person, where no one had expectations of me that didn’t include climbing trees, riding bikes, playing games, and doing “boy things.”

We could pull this apart a little more and look back over my early childhood and see me in the sandbox at five years old, legs spread in a skirt, my male friends pointing at my underwear and telling me I shouldn’t be spreading my legs.

My oldest sister telling me I couldn’t climb trees in a skirt. At five years old, it was the death of the skirt. I laid it to rest in a weird, exposed moment–a little feminine piece of me dying forever.

We could also look at my father and blame him for my “gender trouble.”

Maybe it’s all this internalized misogyny I’ve been dealing with since I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan almost thirty-six years ago.

Have you been to the Midwest? I notice it every time I go home, this intense pressure to conform to commercialized and mainstream standards of beauty. It’s still apparent in Seattle where I’ve lived for the past 15 years. But it’s much more obvious in my hometown.

But is it more than that? Is it that we have evolved now and found new language to describe the nuances of gender that we didn’t have specific language for in previous decades? Ok, that’s a rhetorical question. Yes, of course.

Here’s something I’ve been struggling with for years.

My pronouns. They are always there, hovering in the back of my mind, a catch in the throat, a tick in the brain, a turning of a hinge in my grey matter.

Every time someone says “she” or “her” in reference to me, there goes the twinge, the creak of the door on its old hinges. I’ve wished for this to go away, but it never does. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me as much, but it always creaks.

I’ve thought about asking people more. To get bolder, to simply tell people to use them. Sometimes I do. Most of the time I don’t. Because I’m afraid of how people will react. I expect them to not be supportive, and I expect them to not be able to do it.

I’ve argued with a man about pronouns after he said that it seemed like an imposition to him, and then I slept with him. I’ve continued to date people who didn’t use my pronouns.

I’ve corrected a woman in a group after she used the wrong pronouns, and then other people corrected her and it just felt more embarrassing for her and for me, after she continued to use the wrong ones.

I’ve sat there in doctors appointments, even after the nice and very attractive male student corrected my pronouns in my chart, acting very kind and empathetic, and then used female pronouns in front of me while telling his supervisor doctor, and I didn’t say a word.

I’ve laid on my side as the doctor completed the biopsy on my breasts and used female pronouns the entire time, and I made no complaint.

I’ve never told my current employer to use gender neutral pronouns for me, and she and her husband have never asked, though I’ve had a vague conversation with the husband about gender neutral pronouns, and even in relations to myself. My pronouns are also a tag in my email, which she uses every week.

I will say for myself, I have been practicing gender neutral pronouns for other people for more than 10 years. I’ve made lots of mistakes for even my close friends, fumbled and bumbled and been reminded by other friends. It helps.

It’s so nice to hear my pronouns used correctly. And it’s so hard for me to ask, though I’m trying to work on that. Please use them. Zie/zir or they/them. I’m an English Major, so zie/zir makes more grammatical sense to me as a singular pronoun, but they/them is there for you when you just can’t get it together!

Chest Surgery/Aggressive Breast REduction

I’ve done a lot of personal writing about this decision, and for whatever reason, this year it has become a more pressing matter. When I got back from living in Spain, it washed over me like a wave of feeling as I stepped out of the shower, that this is what I wanted and needed to do for myself.

The year before I left for Spain, I found out that Apple Health/Medicaid was now covering top surgery. I was really excited, but I also put it away on the shelf for another time, because I was preparing to leave.

I’ve been living in this body the way it is for so long, coping with this extra weight, this excess baggage, this gendered body. And I’ve realized that I don’t have to.

I don’t have to. 

Now that this is real, this is happening, I’ve realized just how much time I’ve spent coping with these things, avoiding people’s stares, unwanted attention, gawking, sexual attention and assumptions because of extremely large breasts.

Last year, just before I left Madrid for the summer, I went into a tattoo shop and got my tits pierced. I got lucky, too, because the piercer was this really hot queer person. Whew! It hurt so bad, but I wanted to feel something there, to do something for these things I never really liked, that did not reflect my personality or my gender identity.

Well, those piercings didn’t last long, I hated how long they took to heal, so I took them out. But it felt good to have some pain there, and to attempt to do something for them, to decorate them and honor them in some way for being a part of me for so long.

When I left Spain for the last time in September, I wandered into a lingerie boutique called Dame Copa. This was a fancy place, ya’ll! The Italian woman offered me coffee, tea, and entered the dressing room with me to fit me. We began in Spanish and ended in English, and I spent my last 100 euros, plus 50, for three beautiful, and extremely tight bras.

I said to myself, “These are the last bras I will ever buy.” My bras were 32HH and 32J, the largest I’ve ever been. I think I was still deluding myself into believing I was a 34DDD.

On August 28th, I’ll have these massive, cyst and fibroadenoma-filled breasts lopped off, as flat as I can possibly go, without losing the nipple. I’m hoping I don’t have to wear a bra after that! I’m hoping it gives me a sense of androgyny and matches my genderqueer identity. I hope it makes things clearer for me in my head. I hope the coping mechanisms and strategies I’ve developed over time to deal with these gender dysphoria-inducing tissues will dissipate as time goes on, leaving me with more relaxed neck, shoulders and back, and a clearer outlook on my life.

My body. My choice.

I’m getting excited!

If you’d like to help out during my recovery, I’ve set up a Meal Train. Thanks so much!

 

 

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