It is a parlor game. If you could swallow a pill that would change your body shape into whatever form you wished, what would you wish for and would you swallow the pill?
My first reaction is I’d like to be a few inches taller (5’7 instead of 5’4) and have a masculinized chest (i.e. top surgery). My second reaction is whoa slow down and think this through. I’m good at procrastinating. I can wait until I am clear about what I want to do, or until I have no choice but to take action. I promised Donna that I if I was going to have top surgery, I would wait until she was ready. I am still waiting; neither of us is ready.
When I first started to think about what it meant to be transgender, I was both intrigued by and repelled by top surgery. I am still ambivalent. I’ve tried to write posts before about top surgery, but they have not felt right. This is yet another attempt. If the thought of a butch (or me in particular) considering top surgery creeps you out, stop here and read another post. Otherwise, continue down into the rabbit hole.
From the time I first recognized myself in the mirror I have been gender dysphoric. I’ve managed it since kindergarten by having short hair and wearing boy’s and then men’s clothes. I’ve managed it by being visibly queer and butch. Some days I do better than others. When I lost weight, my dysphoria shifted to my chest. My breasts were more visible, or seemed more visible to me. For psychological comfort, not physical comfort, I’ve been wearing a compression sports bra or a binder. I like the flat look; but my body is not naturally flat. I wish I had a flat chest.
If you offered me the pill, I’d take it. I’m not so sure about anesthesia and the knife. I’ve had four surgeries between my knees and my uterus. I put off a partial hysterectomy for as long as possible. In retrospect, delaying was a mistake. I believed in natural menopause. I thought I could handle the anemia and hemorrhaging from the fibroids. I felt immediately better after the surgery (after I recovered from the anesthesia) and was ecstatic to never have my period again. I was not aware of how dysphoric I was about menstruation until it stopped.
There is no way to know how I would feel about having top surgery. Would I wonder why I waited or would I think that nothing really changed except for the size of my chest?
Below are some of the arguments against top surgery that have I have heard and considered. Some are transphobic (i.e. they deny the validity of a transgender identity).
- Even if your breasts make you uncomfortable you should keep them because they are a part of you.
- Do the best you can with what you’ve got. You are strong and you can deal with the dysphoria.
- You think your dysphoria is about your breasts, but if you had top surgery it could resurface attached to another body part.
- Think of all the starving children and ask yourself if it is right to spend the money on cutting off your breasts.
- You do not need medical intervention to be transgender.
- It is just a phase you are going through. If you wait it out it may pass.
- You are perfect just the way you are.
This is the other side:
- There is no butch narrative or transgender narrative that you need to hew to. Having top surgery does not make you less butch or more transgender than you are now.
- Dysphoria is a horrible thing to deal with day in and day out. If top surgery would lessen your dysphoria then you should consider it.
- Binding or wearing a sports bra is not comfortable, do you really want to do that for the rest of your life?
- You do have privilege and money. If you feel guilty about it donate your time or money to a worthy cause. It has nothing to do with top surgery.
- Trust your self to make the right decision; you will know when and if you are ready.
I’ve spent some time on You Tube, Transbucket, and Tumblr. I’ve looked at a lot of graphic depictions of top surgery. I don’t have a clear vision of what I want my chest to look like. I’ve read and re-read Micah’s top surgery posts on Neutrois Nonsense. I’ve researched a few surgeons, but haven’t found anyone in the New York metropolitan area who comes highly recommended (Taub or Weiss). The lazy New York chauvinist in me is hesitant to travel to Chicago (Steinwald) or Cleveland (Medalie). I don’t have a plan.
Deciding whether or not to get top surgery is not a parlor game. It is serious. The more time I spend thinking about it, the more accustomed to the idea I get. The less appalling it seems. It starts to sound like a rational solution to an irrational problem. I can either compress/bind or I can have surgery; there is no going back to how it was before. There is no magic pill.
Note: The post title is from the Jefferson Airplane‘s song “White Rabbit“. The song is based on Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, illustrated by John Tenniel. The text and drawings are in the public domain and available through Project Gutenberg. Growing up, I did not like the book (I only liked books about boys), but I re-read it in college. I wanted to understand the references in the song.