It’s been six months since gender affirming top surgery. I’m surprised how fast and slow everything has been all at once. It seems like I was just in surgery but also that I’ve been waiting an eternity for my chest to feel healed. I finally started to let myself work in the yard shirtless, do a stint of a hike shirtless, and finally a bike ride shirtless! It was so comfortable and right. And with how hot I run on testosterone, sometimes it’s necessary! I didn’t get the memo Elliot Page did about having absolutely shredded abs before the big reveal but I’ve never felt better in my body regardless 😉
Things I got from gender affirming top surgery…
- Instantly better sense of self, the person I see in the mirror looks more like I feel inside. Plus hugs, on-the-stomach sleeping, romantic partner sleeping-on-me, and all kinds of other things are full of new pleasant feelings & possibilities.
- No more binder. I wore one for over 2 years! I also think I hurt my back even though I was careful. I’ve had medical problems like trouble breathing, sweating, & fainting (many, long stories). As much as I want to ceremoniously turn them into an art project or something, I still have to wear them at times to help with swelling & healing.
- Surgery was the easy part. Living as transgender & nonbinary in a body that didn’t match was much more agonizing. I was really worried about surgery but it’s not as bad as other experiences I had while not living authentically.
- Swimming. I pretty much avoided swimming entirely after coming out because I hated my curves. Even as a kid I wore board shorts over my bikinis because they felt more natural. Now I can just wear swimtrunks and look like any other guy!
- Flat chests go great with dresses. One reason I knew I wanted top surgery is when I thought about how great my current wardrobe would look with a flat chest, let alone a more “me” one, I loved the idea. The look of dresses or clothes typically consider feminine on a body like mine is something I actually find uniquely beautiful. Now I can like the body I’m in not just the clothes.
- Reconstructed. I saw gender affirming surgeries described as reconstructive and it really is true. I don’t have the chest I could have had but I have one made to look like it, it’s not perfect and it’s still another 6 months of healing. I feel like I had to earn it which is rewarding but also a bit tragic. My trans body is different in this way and many others and it’s ok.
- External gender validation. Sometimes I’m read as male in public now. I doubt it’s the little bit of chest bump that gave me away but it helps with my overall posture, confidence, and how my clothes fit. I also think the breast tissue being gone has increased the masculinizing effects of testosterone.
- Less gender performance. I used to cut my hair and wear baggy ugly clothes to try to get read as male. Now I can be more comfortable in my more androgynous tendencies that I won’t be interpreted as my birth assigned gender.
- Peri-hearts! My nips look a little different. When I was in a phase of reinforcing my femme side, I got tatoos to look like hearts around my areolas. The incisions themselves are right along the bottom of the heart shape. I also had pretty pointy nipples, so the surgeon cut into them in quarters to remove most of the actual nipple. What you see is mostly areola with a tiny x scar in the middle of a flat nipple. There’s also a scar in the middle of my chest where they repaired my hematoma immediately after my top surgery. It’s not very noticeable as a scar but underneath is a lot of scar tissue that’s still healing. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have peri-areolar surgery instead of double-incision with nipple grafts. (Let kids have puberty blockers so top surgery isn’t something so many people need!) The other advantage with this surgery is my nipples never left my body (yep, that’s the normal way they do it) so I was able to retain a fair amount of sensation. My left nipple has *more* sensation than before and my right one has a lot less, though I do feel that changing over time. Much of my chest feels like I’m wearing a t-shirt when I touch it, where the outer skin is just a bit more numb than the rest of the area. That seems to be slowly improving too. I was told a year or two before it’s really fully healed.
- Celebrating. I get to just be happy sometimes. I want to say yes more and think of myself in ways I didn’t allow myself to before. A lot of my negative body thoughts came from this and when I get my hysto I will feel like I’m finally free to enjoy my body without much second thought.
Gender affirming surgery is one of the best ways to help TGI+ people. Access to care and quality of care are still a hindrance to many TGI+ people. I had my choice between 3 surgeons and went with the one I thought was most likely to do a good job and the type of surgery I wanted. I still had complications, which is more likely with this type of surgery. However, I don’t know if I would have gone with a different surgeon because it was still probably my best option for results. That being said, the nurses misgendered me the entire time, never updated my wife on the extra many hours I was back in for surgery, and I felt rushed and like I had to double check everything going on. Luckily I did because I was the one who caught my hematoma and asked if it was normal. TGI+ people have to be their own biggest advocate at every moment, especially in medical settings. It’s exhausting but there’s no other option.
Being trans & non-binary is hard but I’m glad it’s who I am. I’m not a blessing, or a curse, I’m more like a spell. An innocuous incantation.