This is the latest in a series of posts I’ve been making, after top-surgery, to show off some of my favorite t-shirts I never got to wear!
I got this t-shirt at a thrift store, but I can’t remember when or where. I’m gonna venture a guess that it was at the Goodwill, somewhere from 2004-2007. I’ve never seen Mad Max, and it was only through other people telling me what it was, when I would layer this shirt under a hoodie or flannel, that I knew! Here’s a film still for comparison:
I mostly like this shirt fits, more than anything else. I love the line across the top, disregarding the human form completely, just a turquoise line designating a box, a square fit, as if we were all Mad Max muscle men. That’s about all I have to say about this shirt! If I ever see the movie, maybe I’ll update this post with more information!
One year ago today, take or leave a day or two, I was at an incredible record store in Concord, NH. I was still recuperating from top surgery, but the worst of it was over, so my spouse and I went on vacation for a week. (OK, for her it was only a partial vacation – she was scheduled to attend a conference for work in Concord for 2 days.
We first went to Greenfield, Northampton, and Worcester, MA to visit friends. We went hiking, swimming (well, for me, it was only up to my torso cuz of surgery), blueberry picking, and shopping. We visited a botanical garden at Smith College, and when we got rained out, we ended up on the semi-precious gemstone wing of the science building. We also tried a Gose-style beer for the first time, and we watched Straight Outta Compton one night after the baby / toddler went to bed.
After all that fun stuff, we headed up to New Hampshire, and pretty much parted ways for the next two days because my spouse had work to do. It was awesome! We first went to the local co-op together to load up on snacks and drinks. After that, we just crashed at this hotel that was getting paid for by her employer. I hadn’t stayed at a hotel in roughly 10 years at that point, so the novelty factor was HUGE! I just kept getting ice from the ice machine, checking out other places my key card gave me access to (like the gym and pool, even though I could barely utilize these perks).
On the one day, I basically walked up and down the main street and did whatever I could do, for a full morning and afternoon. This involved spending many many hours in this old-time-y record store. I even bought a t-shirt from them, to commemorate the experience:
I liked it because it is an iconic image that literally has a pitchfork in it. And often, “pitchfork” and music are synonymous in this way: pitchfork.com
But I strongly feel that this record store preceded the website by many many years. OK, so I just had to follow through and look it up: The store launched in 1973, while pitchfork.com launched in 1995.
It appears as if not much has changed in this store since 1973, which is why I was so happy to just go treasure hunting in there for hours- I got a bunch of cassette tapes that had never been opened, for like a dollar each. And I got soooooo many records for under $3. I had a blast. I wanted to get this shirt in a gold color, but they were out of that color in my size. So I settled for yellow. Not my favorite color, but not a bad one either!
Some of my favorite things to do, ever, are: try new beverages, hunt for records in new towns and cities, and go swimming! And I’m so glad that I can swim again now – so far this summer, I’ve gone 3 times!
Oh, also big news on the traveling / swimming front: I finally solidified plans to visit my brother in Turkey, next month! We are going to explore ancient ruins and go swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. Can’t wait!!!
This post is a continuation of a series I started last summer – basically, the best part of top surgery, for me, is getting to wear t-shirts and tank-tops and button-down shirts without having to layer or bind. So I started featuring a bunch of my favorite t-shirt, and here’s yet another one!
Today is one year and one month after top-surgery. This date seems like much bigger of a deal than my one year anniversary. Why? Just because of a flood of serendipitous things (I am still recovering from my semi-recent hospitalization – still out of work, and lots of things are connecting in my brain that would not normally mean much.)
Anyway, one year ago, today, I went on a day trip because I was bored. I had been out of surgery by a month at that point, and I still had another month before I got back to work. I was itching to not wear the ace bandage and nipple-gauzy thingies. I was tired of staying at home all day, or relying on others for rides because I could not yet lift my arms to drive. Enough time had passed, so I went on a day trip to one of my favorite spots in upstate NY. It felt so good to be out in nature, getting all sweaty and stuff. I remember feeling safe enough that I took off my t-shirt and let the ace bandage air out for a bit. (I distinctly remember the breeze from the lake against my skin.)
Sooooo, what I’m trying to get at: Yesterday, just fairly coincidentally, I ended up at that same beach. I actually went to 4 parks (park hopping!), over the course of 12 hours, again, by myself, and again, I had a blast! This time though, I took a different route – I had looked at maps prior to taking off, and deliberately decided on a course of action.
One of the small towns I was gonna drive through is Fulton, NY. And I’m thinking now that I was drawn there because I have this really old t-shirt I got at a thrift store in my early 20s, and I wear it a lot, but have never been there. You know what? There is no way this image could be correct – this town is landlocked! (Furthermore, it’s technically a city, but it’s so tiny and rundown, I was baffled by that. I bet this town has a history to tell.)
I have a whole lot of shirts that are fairly random and were just thrift store finds over the years. And I wore them all when I was young without any qualms or thinking twice. But now I’m kind of like, “wait, what is the deal with this shirt, anyway?” Or, “I’ve never actually been to this place – the image just looks cool.” Etc.
So, expect some more t-shirt-centric posts from me soon!
You can find the rest of the series, from last summer, here: T-SHIRTS!
I can’t believe there’s still so many intense conversations to be had! Why does it take forever?!
In general in our neighborhood, my spouse and I don’t have a rapport with people. Like, at best, I watched our next-door neighbor’s cat one time, and we went to a backyard fire at her place twice, like two summers ago.
We also have a neighbor a few houses down who borrows our lawn mower a lot. This is the guy I’m talking about today – I ran into him yesterday, off our street.
I was walking on a major road nearby, to a coffee shop to write some letters to friends. (I am still out of work on medical leave right now.) He saw me first, from across the street. We probably have only seen each other once or twice since last summer. He’s always super friendly, so he was shouting, “Hey, hey, how are you?” and crossing the street at the same time. I steeled myself (slightly), and returned the greeting, meeting him partway to shake his hand and ask how he’s been, what he was up to.
He was walking home after buying his lotto tickets, etc. but that’s neither here nor there. We talked about past neighbors that he’s kept up with, and about his plans for retirement. I told him my spouse was going back to school in the fall for a master’s program. (Oh, hey, PS: blog-friends, my spouse is doing this big thing coming up. Grad school!!!)
Then I told him that I legally changed my name to Kameron. And that I got my passport and driver’s ID and everything changed over. He asked me if this was a good thing, and I said, yeah, yeah it is. Then I realized he just has no idea, so I spelled it out – I said, “I’m transgender, I’m actually more in the middle, not like I am going to become a man. But like, at work and my friends and family, I use male pronouns, ‘he/him/his.'”
He started to get it then, and as soon as he did, he started apologizing. For being invasive, or something, I guess? I just kept repeating, “No, you’re fine. It’s not personal. This is a part of who I am. So, like my parents are all good with it, everyone’s all good. It just took me a long time. There’s a lot of discrimination. Like, say, fifteen years ago, it wasn’t even OK just to be gay. Things are changing though.”
He definitely got that. It immediately sunk in. He said, “Oh yeah, like you might have been depressed and now things are better for you? I bet people deal with suicides and stuff, right?” I said “Yes, and even bullying and hate crimes and everything. It’s bad. I mean, I don’t like to be negative, but yeah, it can be bad.”
He then proceeded to ask about operations and surgeries, and I just said, “Well, that part of it is personal. So, I mean, I’ll figure that out as it comes. But for now everything is all good.” He does not need to know about my top-surgery status or anything else of that nature, for sure!
He started apologizing again, haha.
I shook his hand again and said he was free to borrow our lawn mower if he needs it. We exchanged more pleasantries and parted ways. I felt really good about it. He kept referring to my spouse as my girlfriend, but hey, I can’t correct the man on every little detail. He got the gist of the most important stuff for now, and that’s more than fine by me! It felt like another tiny weight lifted off. Dang, how much extra “weight” am I actually carrying?! That’s still a mystery that is becoming just a little bit clearer…
Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
With everything else that’s been going on lately, I completely forgot that my one year anniversary was on June 1st. I think I was aware on some level, because I’ve been super vocal with my spouse, the past few days, about where I’m at with this process. So I’ll try to distill those diatribes into something that makes sense!
Most importantly, within the past few weeks, I would say I have grown increasingly more comfortable with the off-beat sensations that I have going on. Nothing is painful, per-se, but there’s still a lot of tenderness. I am finally OK with my spouse resting her head there without warning, and in addition, I’ve realized that the more I ignore/avoid that area of my body, the more it will stagnate. ??? (That’s just a hypothesis, but I hope there’s some truth to that – I’ve been trying to actively “manhandle” some spots, in the hopes that’ll promote more nerve growth, haha.)
I am over the disappointment of it not being picture perfect. At first I was angry with the surgeon (Dr. Rumer). I held onto this anger for a long time. But, as I noted at 6 months, I had been poking and prodding around my rib-cage a lot more, and I came to the conclusion that my bone structure is asymmetrical, and she (the surgeon) had to work around those idiosyncracies, and in the end, I think she did her best. I’m sure it would have looked more even if I had gone with DI, but peri was one of the things I was not negotiating on. I already have scarring on my chest, from my self-injuring behavior years ago, and I really wanted no additional scarring, if possible. And that was accomplished. (Aside from my drain holes – those scars are still visible!!!)
My nipples, I believe, can be “tweaked,” (haha) for sure. They look like they got shrunk and melted on – I think a different surgeon can really change the size and shape and it’ll make me much happier. I am not going with Dr. Rumer any-further. I was supposed to have my one year appointment either in person or over skype, on Thursday, but I cancelled it all together. I am done, and am only now looking ahead to revisions. The appt. wasn’t even going to be with the surgeon – just a nurse-practitioner, like I did over skype at 1 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc. I’m done.
I am grateful that insurance reimbursed a large part of it – I really didn’t think I stood a chance with that.
And, just to wrap up, I want to reiterate how important this step was for me: It’s not just that now I can wear tighter shirts and I don’t have to consider whether to bind or not, etc. It has really affected my self-esteem, self-perception, and social comfort. When I get dressed, I am excited to see how the shirt falls now – does it accentuate my pecs (which are now one of my favorite parts of my body), can I layer things in an interesting way, can I wear this as an open shirt and consider wearing a necklace as well?… etc. Sometimes I will wear two outfits in one day, just to try out new-to-me fashions!
I told my spouse the other day that I used to just feel dumpy all the time, and she was shocked – she said I never looked dumpy. Now it’s the opposite – I feel snazzy!
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. …
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.
I was really afraid I was going to be left with a huge amount of sensation lost permanently. That’s definitely what it felt like for a while. Despite being fully aware that it takes months, years even, for nerves to come back in fully, or to the extent that they are going to.
It was just really uncomfortable to have something touching anywhere around my chest, because of the not feeling of the thing. I didn’t even really want to be touching it myself, but I did / do, every day, to massage the areas around the areolas. I worried about carrying boxes when I came back to work, but that actually was fine; I’m not using my chest as a balancing point as much as I thought I did – it’s more abs, I think.
Earlier, I’d say that there was numbness for about an inch radius around each nipple. And it seemed to stagnate there, for a long time. Now, I have feeling everywhere except the nipples. Is it the same kind of feeling as before? Not quite, at least not yet, on the right side especially. Light touch feels normal; pressure still feels tender in a lot of spots. I’m super happy about this progress.
Something else that is slowly changing, I’d say, is my overall expectation. I’m still not happy with the results, and I’m sure I will eventually get a revision (nipple revisions if nothing else). But it isn’t something that bothers me. I’d say I went through a week (OK maybe 10 days) of being really down and disappointed, early on. After that, it felt like, OK, it’s actually good enough, for now, so no need to keep harping on it.
I got a lot of feedback that it’d be best if I just lowered my expectations about how good it could look. Many cis-people have weird chests, many trans-people have botched chests. I had mixed feelings:
– I’m totally grateful for how it is, as opposed to how it was. I am continuously happy about it, every day. Can I be happy about it and still want it to be better? Definitely. It can be tough not to compare it to other chests I’ve seen, but, in general I’ve just been comparing it to how it was. And in that regard, I’m psyched.
– It’s true that many people end up with really bad results. And I feel angry about that, like, why aren’t the standards better yet?? But, I know nothing about it, from an anatomical perspective, and I’m sure there are so many factors that go into how well it can be executed, beyond what we commonly know about.
– I saw a lot of shirtless men this summer, and paid a lot more attention than I used to. Many men have chests that are not quite desirable, but every one was symmetrical. I know it’s common for women to have one breast bigger or shaped differently from the other, but I gotta say, I’ve never seen an asymmetrical cis-male chest.
Overall, I think it helps to hear that adjusting your expectation will help in the long run (even if the knee jerk reaction is something along the lines of, “butt out!” Haha.) I strongly believe this is happening naturally, without me trying to change the way I am thinking.
I thought that since my chest was so small, it would be easy to get it right. Now I’m thinking, whoa, no, it’s way more complicated than that, and I barely know the first thing about it.
What I do know is that my surgeon does not offer free revisions (although the cost I was quoted, more or less, seems reasonable). Also I know it is not a priority for the foreseeable future. I imagine that within a year or two, I will have consulted with a few surgeons (I’d definitely hesitate to go back to my original surgeon) and I’ll be moving forward from there. I’m in no hurry.
Physically, I feel 100%, and I’ve felt that good for the past month – like in terms of lifting, stretching, and moving my body. Aesthetically, I’m still not happy, but I’m starting to get used to / feel OK (for now!) with how things look (I’m sure I’ll be looking at revisions down the road, but I’m not going to worry about that right now.) Sensation-wise, I’m a little worried, but I know it’s still early on. My nipples are still numb, and it feels numb/tender within about an inch radius around both nipples. I’m looking into making some gotu kola oil to massage into the tissue; apparently that’s supposed to help with nerve damage. Better late than never, right?
I have my 3 month follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant on Tuesday, via Skype, and I’m not really looking forward to that…
It’ll be fine…
Otherwise, I’m super happy. I’m so happy to be wearing what I want to wear and also of walking around the house without a shirt on (which I did do, previously, but not as much, and not while my spouse was around.) A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to a friend, “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: I feel like my posture is different; I walk differently, I carry myself differently. This is what makes it all worth it.” That pretty much sums it up.
Also, I’ve been using 2 pumps of Androgel, daily, for 6 weeks now, without any doctor supervision. I just had some extra bottles laying around, and I felt like starting again (after being off of it for… 6 months?) I contacted my local LGBTQ clinic via email (which is new for me – previously I’d been getting Androgel from a doctor who was reluctant to be a part of my trans-related health) but after more than a week, I haven’t gotten a response. So, I plan to call soon. I’m thinking about trying injections, short term. I think I’ve gotten about as far as the gel will bring me, and I STILL want to look and sound slightly more masculine. Like, enough so, so that people are confused, or at least they’re hesitant to actually say “ladies.” So sick of the “ladies.” It happened again today. Blah.
This is a series in which I highlight different shirts I am now able to wear un-self-consciously, because I had top surgery earlier this summer!
This one is a brand new t-shirt – it was designed by Erin Nations, a transgender comic artist living in Portland, OR. You can get one here: Transgender Trailblazers Tee. You might want to act now – they could go fast! (Looks like he’s already out of size M light-blue shirts, for example).
From the website: “50% of each sale will be donated to the TransWomen of Color Collective. TWOCC is a grass-roots funded global initiative created to offer opportunities for trans people of color, their families and their comrades to engage in healing, foster kinship, and build community. They strive to educate and empower each other through sharing skills, knowledge and resources as they build towards the liberation of all oppressed people.”
Ten trailblazers are illustrated. “They were/are advocates, activist, pioneers, community leaders, and historical figures in the transgender community. Through their actions and involvement, they paved the way for many trans people, allowing us to live our lives more openly, safely, and authentically.”
Here they are, with a brief description that I cobbled together from various websites:
Sylvia Rivera (top) – She was a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activist Alliance. She attacked the HRC and Empire State Pride Agenda for not being trans-inclusive. A lasting quote: “Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.” The Sylvia Rivera Law Project was founded in 2002, in her honor, and aims to ” guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence”.
Miss-Major Griffin-Gracy (2nd from top, L) – She’s the executive director of Trans Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project. She was a leader in theOne month after top surgery / Summer of t-shirts 31 Stonewall Riots and then imprisoned for 5 years, which led to her also fighting the prison industrial complex.
Leslie Feinberg (2nd from top, R) – A self-identified trans, butch lesbian, communist. Wrote Stone Butch Blues in 1993. Also wrote Transgender Warriors and Trans Liberation. She did not care what pronoun was used in reference to her, as long as it was with respect.
Alexander John Goodrum (2nd from top, center) – An African American Trans, civil rights activist and the founder and director of TGNet Arizona. He took his own life while in a psychiatric ward in 2002; he was posthumously awarded the Godat Award for his service in the LGBTQ+ community.
Lou Sullivan (3rd from top, L) – He was possibly the first trans-man to openly identify as gay, and he was largely responsible for the understanding of sexual orientation and gender identity being separate facets. He also founded FTM International.
Kate Bornstein (3rd from top, center) – There’s no way to condense her accomplishments here. Just look her up! Read her books! Also she just posted on her twitter feed, today, about it! – “Tickled pink to be drawn on one of these T-shirts by Erin Nations.”
Louise Lawrence (3rd from top, R) – She worked with Alfred Kinsey and later, Harry Benjamin, and she counseled other trans-people just by having them drop by.
Marcelle Cook-Daniels (bottom, L) – He worked for the IRS and was working on his masters in computer science. He was a transmasculine African America activist and leader, presenting at many conferences and contributing to a handful of books. He took his own life in 2000.
Reed Erickson (bottom, center) – He became very wealthy over time through his professional life – he studied to be an engineer and later successfully ran two large companies and invested in oil-rich real estate. In 1964, he founded the Erickson Educational Foundation, which “helped to support, both through direct financial contributions and through contributions of human and material resources, almost every aspect of work being done in the 1960s and 1970s in the field of transsexualism in the US and, to a lesser degree, in other countries. The EEF funded many early research efforts, including the creation of the Harry Benjamin Foundation, the early work of the Johns Hopkins Clinic” as well as information, counseling, and a referral network.
Marsha P. Johnson (bottom, R) – A close friend of Sylvia Rivera, she was a leader in the Stonewall Riots and later a co-founder of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries and an organizer with ACT-UP. She was also a member of Andy Warhol’s drag queen troupe, Hot Peaches. A lasting quote, whenever she was asked what the “P” stood for: “Pay it no mind!”
Others in this series include: