You saw the title: I got top surgery. You may know it more formally as a double mastectomy; less formally as the teet yeet.*
Getting this surgery was an accomplishment that tested me as a person more than any skill or achievement I’ve ever bragged about on a resumé (and I have a pretty sweet resumé). If I’m supposed to be proud of something as dumb as my typing speed, I can be proud of this.
I went under the knife six weeks ago. The incisions are mostly closed up, and I can almost lift my arms over my head now. I have to keep tape on the scars for another month to avoid buildup of scar tissue. There are a bunch of stitches that will be slowly dissolving inside my body for around four more months. It’s been quite the process.
You could say I’ve been going through some stuff.
Recovery had some gory details that I’ll spare you. I also had to jump through some frustrating hoops to even be allowed to get this surgery.
Take this, for example: I had to officially get “gender identity disorder” added to my medical record in order to even qualify for the surgery. My diagnosis description officially reads: “Psychologically identifying with the opposite sex,” which is a straight up lie. I’ve never been a man or a woman. I’m agender. My pronouns are they and them.
By the way, if any woman wants a boob job from the same surgeon, she can just sign herself up. No medical professional is going to forcibly get their opinions on her lack of sanity permanently documented before she’s allowed.
I wonder why. (Hint: starts with a “t,” ends with “ransphobia.”)
I don’t want to turn this into a venting post, so I’m not going to tell you about all the weird things I’ve had to deal with through this process. I’ll just leave you with that little sample.
You might have trouble relating to why I would put myself through all this. So let me try to make it more relatable.
If you’re a guy reading this, imagine you grew boobs when you were a teenager. I’m not talking man boobs. I’m talking the boobs that women have. Think of your mom as a genetic benchmark of what yours might be like.
From that point on, they are a permanent part of your body. No amount of exercise or eating well can make them go away. This is how you have to navigate the world now.
Maybe you squish them down to your chest to make them as unnoticeable as possible using women’s sports bras. Going shirtless is out of the question. Over time your attempts to minimize your womanly chest start to cause you back problems. You often find it hard to breathe and your neck and ribs are constantly sore. And even then it’s pretty obvious that you have the damn things.
You don’t get a break from this; they’re always there, weighing down your body—not to mention sending people confusing and wrong signals about your gender.
All this time, everyone you know would think you were sick in the head if they learned you didn’t want these sacks of fat you involuntarily grew on your chest. You can’t talk to anyone. If you don’t keep your discomfort a secret, the people in your life might constrict your autonomy. They may institutionalize you, stop you from being able to earn money independently, and force you onto medications that will mess with your ability to even think straight. Real help is unlikely at best.
You put up with this situation for years before getting the gumption to open Google in an incognito window and see what happens when you type in “surgically get breasts removed.”
This doesn’t give you any real answers. You find a lot of horror stories about things going wrong. You find a lot of propaganda about how this path can only ever lead to terrible regret.
You try to accept that this is just how you are now, but you can’t. You daydream about getting breast cancer. You’re experiencing something much more profound than insecurity about your body. Your body is misrepresenting you. People are calling you “ma’am” and “miss.” You don’t even recognize the person in the mirror. You’re living in a nightmare that you don’t get to wake up from.
It takes you years of research rabbit holes (most of them terrifying) before you feel like you know enough about any of this to send your first email to a person you discovered online who found a way to get that surgery and was brave enough to talk about it on the Internet. This is barely the beginning, but you’re willing to go through a lot at this point to improve your situation. Because you can’t keep living like this.
There. Is that more relatable?
I could say a lot more, but I’m just writing this to pat myself on the back for having gotten to the other side of this situation. Let’s pretend I’m healed enough that I can move my arms that far again.
I’m really grateful I was able to get this surgery. I know a lot of folks like me wouldn’t have had this option in the recent past. And I had help a lot of people don’t find. I was able to connect with an amazingly supportive social worker who talked me through what my options were and how I could pursue them. I wouldn’t have known where to even begin without her.
I found a surgeon who did an excellent job (despite seeming to be stuck on an assumption that I was a transgender man. But hey, agender just got added to the dictionary like a week ago, so I take what I can get). The people closest to me have been kind and caring.
I’m feeling more like myself than I have since I was a preteen wandering around alone in the woods.
I really don’t like that I had to go through a system run by people who demanded to stamp me with a disorder before I was allowed to do what was right for myself. In the trans community, we call that gatekeeping.
I don’t have a disorder. I’m excruciatingly sane.
Society demanding that I senselessly perform the female gender whether or not it pertains to me? Society trying to scorn and intimidate me out of helping myself? Society overtly preventing me from helping myself? Now those are some things I could understand calling disorders.
And on that note, what the hell; here’s a photo.
If you can’t be polite in the comments, don’t comment.
*The specific procedure I got was a bilateral incision, skipping the part where the nipples get grafted back on after being removed and resized. I’d explain why, but earlier on in this post I promised I’d leave out the gory details.