In general, I’ve felt relieved about how few times I, as a trans person, have been asked things I don’t want to answer. Variations on this scenario have come up twice in the past 2 months though. Blech!
#1: I’m taking part in an experimental study trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. At the end of May, I had a phone interview where they screened me to see if I was healthy enough to participate. Nothing came up about medications I’m on (other than specifics they were asking for), surgeries I’ve had, or anything else gender related. They assumed I’m male based on name and voice and didn’t ask about reproductive health. I did not disclose that I’m trans, and it didn’t come up. I really enjoyed that; it felt refreshing.
The in-person screening a few weeks later, was a totally different story. I was pretty prepared for that though, for having to explain that even though I have a uterus and ovaries and all that, I won’t be getting pregnant despite not using any birth control methods (that has more to do with who I have sex with, and less about being trans – I could be trans and still get pregnant…) I was prepared to do a urine test to screen for pregnancy, despite appearing male. I was prepared to talk about my hormone replacement therapy. I was not, however, prepared when the nurse followed these questions up with, “Have you had any surgeries?” because she asked it in a way that was totally different than how she would ask about any other category of surgery. It was in a sideways, sly, under-the-table kind of way that put me completely off. I replied, deadpan, “Is that information needed for the screening?” She replied, that, yes, they did need to note any major surgeries, to which I replied that I’ve had top surgery. She asked, “What is that?” and I replied, “A double mastectomy.” She wrote it down.
#2: My co-worker, after working together for 2 years, decided to pop the surgery question. She asked it completely out-of-the-blue, apropos of nothing. I guess, at least, she prefaced it with the ominous, “Can I ask you a personal question?” I replied that she could definitely ask, and I’ll decide if I wanna answer. Then I added that I probably would answer, because although I’m extremely private with stuff, at work, I am willing to open up if people are putting in the effort. When it was THAT question, however, I told her I wasn’t going to be answering it. I am glad she asked though, and told her as much, because it led to a long conversation in which I talked to her about a bunch of other things that have been long overdue for her to know about. Such as, I don’t actually identify as a man. She did not know this. She wanted to assert that she did know my identity and that it is a boy. I told her I don’t feel like I am either a man or a woman. Pretty sure that sank in for her. I also told her that my spouse is my “spouse” and not my “wife,” as she assumed, and that they use gender neutral pronouns. And that they also now look male, but don’t identify as such either.
We talked about what people assume based on appearance and a bunch of other stuff. She compared me to a temporary co-worker we had last summer, also trans, and how he was so open and friendly and he answered all her questions including her surgery questions. I bristled at this, but didn’t let it get to me. He and I have since become friends (although I didn’t say as much). He’s gonna be how he is, and I’m gonna be how I am. Although it was uncomfortable and difficult to steer her in the directions I wanted to go in, overall I feel like we got to a new place in our dynamic. I got to tell her that surgeries are actually not that important (or at least not important for others to know about) and other things are much more welcomed, in terms of questioning. Such as, how do you feel about ___________, and whatnot. She semi-argued about what was and was not important, and she also relayed information about her friend who is now named Susan. While talking in graphic detail about Susan’s body and how it is so much more stunningly vivacious than her body, she kept using male pronouns. I did not like where she was going with this at all. I just cut in to ask, “Wouldn’t Susan want you to be using “she” and “her” for her?” She replied that since she’s known Susan for forever, Susan doesn’t care. I’m really hoping it sank in, even just a little bit though.
I feel like I held my ground in both cases and stayed true to myself. Feels good to know these things can come up and not throw me way off, anymore.
A couple of days ago, something suddenly dawned on me: It finally clicked why things weren’t looking too good in terms of symmetry. I previously had not paid attention, but my rib cage is actually fairly uneven. I’ve known that my hips are askew for forever – I have mild scoliosis. My waist is off – it goes straight down on the left side, and curves in on the right. We all have these little quirks… Other things: my eyes are not the same – one eyelid is droopier than the other. One nostril is a little bigger than the other. You know that swirl everyone has within their hair (cowlick)? It’s never dead center, is it? – It’s over to one side. Some people even have 2! My point is, we’re all a little different, even on a structural level. And I had been ignoring/avoiding my chest and rib cage – possibly because of the dysphoria surrounding that area.
I knew there was a weird dent on the left side, but beyond that, my ribs were pretty foreign to me. Recently, I started poking around. The bones are not in the same place, between my left and right! The left side even juts out a little further than the right.
Despite this, my breasts actually had been symmetrical, but that’s probably because there was all that extra tissue as a buffer. When the surgeon went to take that all out, bones were a hindrance as to what she could do, I’m finally realizing. (And yeah, I am actually that skinny that my ribs stick out a little bit. I wish I had some more meat on me there!)
I recently took some photos, so that finally, I could post my results on transbucket (you can check it out – you just have to create an account to access the website, first). And I found that things don’t look as bad, through the camera lens, as they do when I’m scrutinizing every little thing in the mirror. I had also taken photos of my chest, pre-op, and this was the first time I looked at those since surgery – my breasts seem a lot bigger than I remember them! Haha.
Here’s what I wrote on transbucket (a summary of sorts):
“Had surgery in June of 2016. Was reimbursed for 40% of the total cost, which I wasn’t expecting! This surgeon and her staff were subpar with patient care and availability. I have barely seen / spoken to Dr. Rumer during this process. All follow-up appts. (been doing them through Skype) have been with a physician’s assistant. The only other time to see her will be at the 1 year-follow-up.
I was not completely satisfied with the results (although these pics don’t look too bad). The left side is larger than the right, and the nipples are uneven, a little sunken in, and (at 6 months) purplish in color. It’s tough to see from the pics, but I believe some muscle tissue was taken out on the right side, and there’s a dent to the right of the nipple. Sensation is touchy, but slowly improving. I recently realized that my rib cage is not symmetrical, so that may have impacted my results.
I plan on seeking a nipple revision, at the least, in the future. Since I would have to pay more for this, from Dr. Rumer, I will be looking at options elsewhere as well.
At the time of surgery, I was not on T. I’d been on a super-low dose prior, for 2.5 years, but I do not think that impacted my musculature.
More information can be found at: https://janitorqueer.com/category/top-surgery/ ”
Here are past updates about top surgery, documenting as I go:
4.5 months after top surgery: 4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that. …
3 months after top surgery: I did not expect to feel much different other than a cerebral satisfaction regarding being able to wear anything from now on. But it’s more of a gut- level confidence. …
1 month after top surgery: I can live with that for now, but I doubt things are going to change enough for it to actually look good. I’m not happy with the results. …
2 weeks after top surgery: Right now, there is not enough symmetry, in multiple regards. …
6 days after top surgery: Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the surgeon was about to do the wrong procedure. …
Content Note: vanity.
When I first saw my chest, looking down while everything was being unwrapped, I was pretty happy. Everything looked good, except for the fact that the left side was larger than the right. I was assured it was due to swelling, and everything would even out.
Now that another week has passed though, I’m not feeling it. I am more and more skeptical that there is much, if any, swelling going on. My spouse agrees. Regardless, I’ve been taking arnica and bromelain… using ice packs a little bit.
Right now, there is not enough symmetry, in multiple regards. The areolas are different shapes, and they are too large (not “nickle sized,” like we discussed). The nipples are also too large, but it’s kinda hard to tell what’s going on there (they’re currently being smooshed flat, and will continue to be for another 2 weeks.) The biggest thing, though, is, I have different sizes going on, which contributes to the areolas/nipples being not in the same place, on each side. I don’t like that!
All these differences are fairly subtle, but definitely noticeable. I know it’s way too early to be coming to conclusions about how things look, but, so far, not so good.
I’ve been in a pretty negative space. I’ve felt so negative at times, in fact, that it was hard to feel motivated to do all the showering and “nipple care” stuff. This has gotten better over time. Everything could change a lot, as I heal; I do recognize that. It’s not all bad. Every time I have the sterile pads and binder off for a little while (to let things air out), and I put on a t-shirt (carefully!), I think, “This could work!” Excitement is there, somewhere. Sometimes I push down the good stuff, and remain guarded and reserved.
There is something here though: When picking a surgeon, I wasn’t going off of a whole lot. I mean, I pored through what was available on transbucket, for sure, and searched resources, youtube, and the like. But I didn’t really entertain all the possibilities very much, in my head. I had a gut feeling about one route, and kind of just stuck with that.
This isn’t the first time I’ve made huge, life-changing decisions in this manner. But I kind of hope it might be the last time. (I know it won’t be, haha.) There are better ways to go about narrowing down all the options!
There is one resource that I just learned about a couple of days ago, because a fellow blogger pointed the way. Gabriel wrote a post called Getting Started With Top Surgery. He mentioned “top surgery Facebook groups where people share their results and stories with their surgeon as well as the price quotes they’ve paid.” Oh yeah! Facebook. That had not even crossed my mind, unfortunately. So I just joined an FTM top surgery group, and wow, this is where all the good stuff is. Wish I had known about it 6 months ago.
Edit: My spouse suggested I stop looking at the FTM top surgery page for a while. That sounds like a good idea – I was starting to get obsessive about it. She said wordpress is good. Stop going on facebook. Haha. I agree.
I feel torn about whether I will post pictures or not, and if so, where. Before surgery, I was sure I would not post pictures on this blog, but I would post them on transbucket, when I feel ready. (They can be accessed if you create an account on transbucket). This still sounds like what I’m going to want to do. I do not plan on ever being shirtless in public. So, in regards to aesthetics, the most important thing is how everything looks while wearing a t-shirt. Other than people looking up pics as a resource, the only people who are going to see my chest are my spouse and me (and medical professionals, when necessary). So is it important what it looks like? Ultimately, yes. But for right now, as long as I can wear whatever I want, I will be happy enough…
During my most recent therapy appointment, right before surgery, I had said, “I’m worried my chest won’t look as good as it does now.” As opposed to saying, “I’m worried my chest won’t look as good as I envision.” That, to me, says a lot.
In other news, I had a great time in Philadelphia with my mom, after my follow-up. We went to a brewery and record store. We met up with friends at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference and went to two workshops. Wish we could have stayed longer!
Also, my spouse and I went to a wedding this past weekend, and it was a lot of fun! Their ceremony reflected who they are, a lot, and everything was casual and laid back. After the ceremony, I was asked to sign the marriage certificate, as one of the witnesses. This was a total surprise! I felt honored. I asked the officiant if it had to be my legal name, and she said it didn’t matter. Awesome!