Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide

The feminist who came up with the pro-choice chant “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide” was probably not thinking about transgender butch lesbians contemplating top surgery. That slogan has been this week’s mantra. It has been a hell of a week.

I’ve struggled to understand why “suddenly” top surgery has become important to me. A few weeks back Donna told me to go ahead and start looking into it. She doesn’t like the idea of surgery, and when she stepped aside, I took it as a good sign. I made an appointment for a consultation with a surgeon in New York (Dr. Paul Weiss). Donna came with me. We liked him; he has no issues performing surgery on someone who is not on T and is not transitioning to male. We talked about nipple placement and keeping the nipple attached instead of grafting it back on. We went through his photo book. I was able to visualize my chest.

And then it hit me. It was my chest that I was seeing. It was the chest I used to have, the one I felt comfortable with and did not have to hide. I was not losing something I was getting something back.

It is a loss for Donna. The loss hit her at the same time that the intensity of wanting surgery hit me. She feels that they are her breasts too. But they are not. They are mine. In a relationship everything becomes entangled.

How do we balance her pain and my desire? Her attraction to me as person and to my body? The responsibility of one partner to another? The effect of one partner making a choice without the full support of the other?

I examined my fears. I am afraid that I will end up with railroad track stitching across my chest, a pronounced belly, and dog ears on the sides. The consultation cleared that up. I am afraid that I will look ridiculous –  like Baby Huey, Porky Pig, or Elmer Fudd without his shirt on. I am afraid that Donna will not be able to handle it. She is also afraid. She doesn’t want to lose me, or my breasts.

I don’t want to look like this:

Baby  Huey

Baby Huey

Or this:

Porky Pig

Porky Pig

Or this:

Elmer Fudd without his hunting outfit.

Elmer Fudd without his hunting outfit.

When in doubt, consult Looney Tunes. Exactly what does Elmer Fudd look like topless? I discovered that the Motion Picture Production Code (Hays Code) was in effect during the “golden years” of cartoons. Although there are some very furry naked ducks and rabbits wandering around, a surprising number of anthropomorphized characters are either wearing tops (Donald Duck and Porky Pig) or bottoms (Mickey Mouse and Baby Huey). This post has a gallery of pages from an interesting 1939 Look magazine article on the cartoon code.

homer-simpson-top-surgery

Waiting for spring to come to the snowy northeast.

By the mid-thirties, there were no animated characters with nipples, genitals, anuses, or belly buttons showing. Poor Flossie had to cover up her udder. The code remained in effect until the late 1950’s and was gradually eroded by the mid-sixties. If I am going to look ridiculous, it will be more like Homer Simpson than Elmer Fudd.

The Looney Tunes cartoon “The Big Snooze” captures much of my dilemma. It is Elmer Fudd’s nightmare, including a break up with Bugs Bunny, multiple cliff falls, running around topless, and being put in a wig and a dress. Unlike real life, it solves its problems in seven minutes and it has a happy ending. It is also a hilarious cartoon, highly recommended. The link is here.

Postscript: I wrote this post on Friday and Saturday. I cleaned it up and checked the links on Sunday. On Monday, Donna told me that she can not cope with my having top surgery. Today is Wednesday. I’m angry, I’m sad, and I’m putting surgery off because I do not know what else to do.

66 thoughts on “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Right to Decide

  1. amediablogger

    Jamie, in life it is important we remain true to ourselves and who we are. Top surgery has been an ongoing theme in your blog posts. Donna sounds like a wonderful life partner from all you have shared on here. Perhaps talking this through over a period of time will help you both have a better understanding and some awareness of how and if top surgery will change your relationship. Body imagine can be superficial and love sees beyond that and encourages growth. maybe the reality is upsetting Donna but I’m sure together with time you’ll figure this out. Big hug and I wish you all the best.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I can definitely use the hug. It is very tricky in this kind of situation to try not to polarize the situation anymore than it is, to not force Donna into making a decision to stay or go, and to not punish her for changing her mind about telling me to go ahead with it. On the other hand, anger is corrosive, so I have to do that thing of expressing my anger without breaking the dishes, slamming the doors, or making stupid threats. All of which are tempting. I’m hoping this weekend Donna and I will have time to hang out and decompress and talk about what it means for me to put it off.

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      1. tsoihawk

        I know, theoretically, that what many posters are saying about it being your body and your choice are valid pieces of advice, I also respect your choice to consider your relationship partner’s feelings in the matter. I feel the same way in my relationship because, if I am to make a go of living my life with another person, I want us to make huge decisions together. We decide on large purchases, on where to vacation, we make compromises on things…. And yes, this is my body, but it is our relationship. Kudos for the devotion to yours.

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  2. M_LadyDi

    Having been the partner of a trans* man who had top surgery and now the partner of a trans* man who is desperately raising funds for top surgery, I am going to be blunt and to the point. It’s not Donna’s body. She will learn to live with it if she loves you. You are not your breasts (clearly). But your breasts can stop you from being truly happy and healthy in your own body. It’s YOUR body. I was told in my last relationship that if I couldn’t get with the program then I needed to step off. I, fortunately, understood the need for top surgery and I was okay with it. The joy my partner felt when coming out of surgery was incomparable. I want that for my husband now. I would want that for anyone who experiences dysphoria. Do it for your well-being. Do it for your peace of mind. Do it for your future. Do it for you. Just do it.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you for your support and for sharing your experiences as a partner. I’m patient, and I am still holding out hope that Donna will eventually come around, because I do not want to have to break up the relationship, and I don’t think I want to give up on surgery forever. We’ve been together a really long time; and Donna is the person I want to be with (despite that she is very slow to jump on the “I support my trans partner” bandwagon). She is a decent and thoughtful person, and I am hoping that eventually she will come around.

      I hope you husband finds a way to fund his surgery; it is outrageous that most guys have to pay for it out of pocket instead of being covered. Raising funds should not be a rite of passage. Thanks again.

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  3. Barbara B

    Dear Jamie
    I am with both of you in your struggle to work this out.
    I know how deep your Love goes and I wish you less pain and more ease in this time of change and transition.
    You are both my s(heroes)
    X

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Barbara,
      Thanks for your support. There is a great gospel song (from a gospel movie Donna and I saw a long time ago that I’m going to have to Google later) that had a chorus “I don’t believe you brought me this far to leave me”. Both of us are trying to hold on, we are both acting in good faith with each other, and we both love each other. I can’t imagine a life without Donna in it.

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  4. urbanmythcafe

    I believe that this is known as a dilemma. Two horns of a bull – which do you choose?
    For myself, the solution was the time that my partner needed. Years of time. I have been dealing with this for my whole life, but she has only had the 22 years that we have been together to figure it out, and to make peace with herself about it. Can you make peace with the fact that Donna may take a year, or two years, to get used to this idea? And that she may not be able to ever accept it?
    I chose the middle path, between the horns, and it worked out.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I am not always the world’s most patient person, but I’ve waited Donna out on a few things (dog and name change) but I’m not sure she will change. The hard thing is to be kind and give her room to change without tapping my foot (“are we there yet”) and to manage my anger about it (or to use your metaphor, not lock horns with her). I can wait a while.

      Unfortunately when she gave me the go ahead, I realized how much I wanted it. So now I have to calm down, back off, and not let myself be overcome with sadness/disappointment.

      Are you a practicing buddhist?

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      1. urbanmythcafe

        Only by accident. It is quite an honor to be mistaken for a real live Buddhist. 😉
        In retrospect, I realize that the delay once I had absolutely decided that it was time to pursue hormones and surgery was due to outside factors: scheduling times with the surgeon, finding counseling (6 months), completing counseling (1 year + ), finding a good family doctor that understood everything (6 months), etc, ad nauseam … So, I was patient, out of necessity. But that time did allow H to get way more ready for things. A few years post surgery there are still some things to happen, but now she is as ready for them as I am. But honestly, if she was not ready, I would still be moving forward.
        I was really struck by how many people came out of the woodwork to support you when you expressed need. It was really a remarkable thing to see.

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      2. Jamie Ray Post author

        I almost didn’t put up the post because it was “obsolete” by the time Wednesday rolled around. I’m glad I did, because it is amazing to read the responses.

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  5. anexactinglife

    When I tell others about my adult child’s plans for top surgery, I sometimes get a reaction of indignation – and it is mainly from feminists who believe that Link is somehow betraying their womanhood, bending to patriarchy by becoming “more male,” or not trying hard enough to fit in the female spectrum. As a feminist myself, I always thought it was all about human potential and equality, rather than an idealized version of female pride.

    You will each do what you need to do, and I think couples can be surprisingly resilient.

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    1. Charli

      So it is okay for a woman to get cosmetic surgery to enhance or rebuild what she has (look at how we celebrated Angelina Jolie, because she was able to get the reconstruction surgery for her breasts), but we degrade women who elect to remove those physical features that are traditional hallmarks of being physically a woman? Being flat chested and without curves my whole life, I never got why others looked down on women who chose to get breast reduction/removal. I knew women who had such large breasts, without any cancer mind you, who elected to get breast surgery because the excess weight was an issue for everything from trying to find decent off-the-rack clothing to the health issues it caused on their lower back. I also knew kids in high school who got slack for breast removal because it made hard to play sports! It is our bodies, let us do we choose!

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    2. Jamie Ray Post author

      I think Donna still just wants to think of me as a butch lesbian in relationship to her, which she can easily do as long as I haven’t had surgery and don’t take T. She accepts that I am trans conceptually. She has trouble in reality with my taking a giant step on the gender spectrum away from “woman” even though if I have top surgery I’ll still be a woman biologically, hormonally, legally, etc.
      We’ve been talking about it for about 2.5 years, and she has been gradually adjusting to the idea. Right now, the relationship comes first.

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  6. accidentallygay

    I am sorry for your struggling and pain. As a husband to a transitioning man I know I am sometimes a little sad about him changing his looks, then I get excited about what he will look like after. It is a constant roller coaster.

    However, either way it is his choice. When he originally came out he said he wouldn’t transition if I objected (we have been married over twenty years). I told him it doesn’t matter in the end what I want, it is what he wants. It is his body, and in this case your body. You have to live inside of it, you have to be there after your partner has moved on or passed away.

    Personally, if you really want it and it is something you are, then do it. If Donna loves you then Donna will learn to accept. It isn’t fair to deny who you are because someone’s possessiveness over your body.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’ve read both of your blogs and it is amazing to see how supportive you are of each other. Donna is trying to be supportive, but keeps getting hung up on surgery (and hormones although I just want the surgery). On the one hand it is good that she is voicing her concerns and letting me know where she is; on the other hand it she is unable to support me in the current time and place.
      The surgery is a tough choice, and it is ultimately my choice, but I am too pained right now to think about choosing surgery and risk losing Donna. I’m willing to let her see that I am willing to put if off for her, and I hope that will allow her to eventually tell me to go ahead (with her).

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  7. BC Craig

    I’m sorry, Jamie, that sounds really difficult. I know that it has been a long road for you to make your own decision regarding top surgery, and it has to be really hard emotionally to not feel like you are completely in charge of that choice. Wishing both of you peace and courage in working through this.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The last two weeks were really rough. I’ve actually described it like trying to make a very difficult consensus decision. I was OK with Donna standing aside, although I really wanted her to go through this with me. Instead, she moved to that position of I can’t support and don’t know if I can stay if you go through with this. We are going to keep talking, and maybe things will change, or at least our feelings will change. Meanwhile, I am thankful for lycra, spandex, and elastic.

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  8. genderenvoy

    One thing that will change if you have top surgery is other people’s perceptions. You might be perceived by strangers as male even though that’s not how you identify.

    It seems as if Donna is conflicted. She wants you to be happy, but at the same time, she likes the way you look with breasts.

    In the best case scenario, you have top surgery and this does not affect her perceptions of you. She sees that you are happier and she is relieved.

    In the worst case scenario, you have surgery and she prefers the way you looked before.

    I have no idea how it would turn out.

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      1. genderenvoy

        Among the trans men I’m acquainted with who have had top surgery, I’m not aware of anyone who has had that issue?

        Of course, many cisgender women opt for breast reduction simply because a large chest can cause back problems.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is really about what I am like naked, because I wear either a very compressive sports bra or a binder when I’m dressed. Almost everyone is used to me having a fairly flat chest when I’m wearing a shirt/layers. I don’t think very many people would notice at this point if I had surgery.

      For me the issue is not about passing/being read as male it is about how I feel in my own body. I would definitely feel better with a masculinized chest.

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  9. janitorqueer

    Thinking of you and Donna. This is a huge decision, I hope you’ll be able to talk through it to get to a good place together.

    Aside from how you’ll look and others’ perceptions, it’s good to bring it back to how you’ll FEEL. And that your emotional well-being is the most valuable currency you can bring to your relationship. I’m going to project into the future to a place where you’ve both come to the decision together and you now have the chest you feel you should have. I will make a strong bet that Donna will be blown away by how different you might be, emotionally, and what you can bring to your connection with her in new and different ways! It is far more vast than just physical bodies.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. Even Donna will admit that I am much more content and psychologically connected to her since accepting my transness and changing my name. She can almost see that I would be more comfortable sexually if I was more comfortable in my body (i.e. had surgery) but she has not been able to shake her negative attitude towards top surgery (aka “mutilation”) and see any potential benefit for herself. I’m hoping that she will see how important it is to me and reconsider at some point in the future.

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  10. Charli

    Dear feminists: If our bodies are our own, why do you yourselves tell us what is or isn’t okay to do with our bodies? Not every woman has, or wants, curves and breasts. What we physically have, or lack, does not a woman make. (What does I am still not sure, especially with the rise of trans-inclusive feminism.)

    How big of a pot belly do you have in relation to your chest to as it is now? If you have a chest that sticks out at least as much as your stomach does, it could help how you look. Being a fat, flat-chested cis woman my whole life, my spare tire, huge toches, and flabby thought makes me very bottom-heavy and far larger than a woman of similar build, yet has large breasts. And if you have weight to lose, and are most def a pear, it will take a lot longer to look skinnier than if you were one of the few women who are apples like men, because of that lack of T.

    See if your surgeon has software, or can show you where you can find some, that uses algorithms to give you a concrete but virtual and visual prediction of what you will look like after surgery. A lot of people “visualize” what they THINK they will look like after reconstruction surgery (whether medical, cosmetic, or gender-reaffirming), only to look in the mirror with disgust. Expensive, and not covered by insurance, I would highly suggest in looking for such software if at all possible!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Charli,
      Thanks for your comments. I did talk to the surgeon, and he put me at ease about what I would look like. In general, I fear looking ridiculous, or sounding ridiculous. It is the curse of being middle-aged; whatever I do I will still look middle-aged.

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  11. Lesboi

    I feel for you Jamie as I’m in the middle of my own struggle over this topic with my partner. She is most concerned over how the outside world will perceive me. Will people assume I’m male because of a flat chest? Possibly. Maybe that’s not an issue for you or Donna but it’s something to take into account if it is. The bottom line is that these are OUR bodies and only we have the right to say what we do to and with them. And while our partner’s needs are also important to us they can not be the deciding factor in the final decision. This is a very personal decision you need to make for YOU.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is interesting because when i started to bind, people noticed and then forgot. Donna actually pitched a fit about it, and asked me to wear my regular sports bra when we went out, and then she stopped and just accepted that I was going out “flat” all the time.
      Even the guys at work just asked if I had lost weight – only one person asked if I had surgery, and then they were embarrassed when I explained how extensive the recovery was and that they would have known if I took the time off for it.
      It is my body, but it is also my life, and I really want Donna in it. I’m hoping that with time she will come around. I wish I was still ambivalent about the surgery and I could let it drop, but I really want it.

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  12. halitentwo

    Dear Jamie and Donna… in the realm of “been there done that”, I thought I’d add my two cents to the plethora of loving thoughtful responses you’ve already gotten. Once I realized that top surgery was an option it was all I could think about. I mean, it was THE ONLY THING I could think about. I couldn’t focus, became depressed, the discomfort all of a sudden drove me to distraction, was intolerable. My partner felt like you Donna. Tearful painful excruciating conversations left each of us angry, bewildered and exhausted. In the end, she relented. While am exponentially happier, I have to admit it was not the panacea for all that ailed me. I am still neither here nor there. I still have dysphoria. Still see breasts or shadows of breasts when I look in the mirror. Still don’t see the body in the mirror that I see in my mind. In other words, I’m not the man I thought I’d be. I am though, much much happier and immensely more comfortable in my body than I ever have been. I am happy to give you my email address if you want to talk more. In the meantime, I will hold you both gently in my heart and wish you the best.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m hoping that we will be able to work through that “bewildered and exhausted” phase that we are in. I don’t think top surgery will be a cure for all that ails me, but I do think it will take the edge off my dysphoria a little more than binding does. I also think my being at peace with my body will positively affect how intimate we are with each other.
      RIght now I am just trying to figure out how to back away from the precipice and buy some time for us to talk it through without having to get into “if you do this then I will do that” kind of talk.
      Thanks for your thoughts and warmth.

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  13. Akiva

    Hi Jamie—I can’t remember if I’ve ever commented before, but I’ve read and related to so much of what you write.

    I’m a butch who just had top surgery a few weeks ago. (More about that—way, way more—at my tumblr, goldengray.tumblr.com) I was prepared for it not to fix all my discomfort with my body, and it hasn’t. Not in the way I expected, though: my relationship with my curvy shape has actually improved if anything, and while my chest is so, so much better this way, it’s not what I always imagined. I’m still so glad I went through with it, and I’m looking forward to feeling even better when I’m allowed to stretch, bike, and exercise again, this time without my huge chest getting in the way!

    Top surgery won’t dramatically alter the way you are perceived—most people won’t even notice, especially if you’ve been dressing to downplay your chest and/or binding for a long time. I was prepared for that, but I was also disappointed to find that I’m not suddenly going to be buying my shirts a size smaller. (Maybe a few months down the line, when I’ve lost some of that winter and surgery-recovery padding? heh.) If part of Donna’s objection is that you’ll start being perceived differently as a couple, she may not have as much to fear as she thinks.

    My girlfriend wasn’t against my surgery, but she didn’t really understand it either. She liked my chest, but she likes me more. I understand it as being similar to me liking her body hair: I think her fuzz is wonderful, but it makes her uncomfortable. And ultimately, her comfort in her body is a hell of a lot more attractive to me than any particular detail of it.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for your tumblr, I will definitely wander over and take a look. I did not think Donna would have as big an issue with surgery as she has had – particularly since I am not changing gender makers, pronouns etc. – all the messy stuff that you have to explain to people.
      She was upset when I started binding, but made her peace with it fairly quickly.
      When you’ve been together for 20+ years you do become so familiar with your partner’s body that the thought of major changes is freaky – she is used to my chest and doesn’t want me to change it. She likes the softness and the curves, and wants me to stay that way (in her thoughts “a woman”) even though she knows I don’t want to be thought of that way.

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  14. stvrsnbrgr

    What an extraordinary post… full of emotional honesty and clarity of thought. The issues you and Donna are navigating are immense. Yet somehow you manage to lighten the mood without copping out on your dilemma – with those amazing cameos by Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd! It’s powerful, Jamie, even to those of us who are not dealing with trans* issues. Because you are exploring that ever-changing, indefinable line between I + We. That’s where the rip tide can be strongest… so help each other get to shore safely.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a bad habit I have of going to children’s books, cartoons, and popular music to figure out what is going on inside of me. Sometimes I just need to channel Elmer Fudd.
      Part of it is the fear of being that ridiculous middle aged person doing everything in a very uncool way (the woes of being a middle aged butch in our culture), part of it is the brilliance of Looney Tunes to capture all that schadendreude. If someone is going to look like a fool, better Elmer than me. Thanks again.

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  15. RonaFraser

    I don’t really know what to say, Jamie – That is really hard. I agree with some others, that maybe a little time for Donna to acclimatize to this possible new reality will help. I am guessing that part of her identity is your relationship, so if you were walking hand in hand, with you shirtless, for example, then it would look like she is in a hetero relationship, but part of her self would be defined as lesbian… so who is she? I don’t know – you know I am a hetero woman with no relationship experience so I have never walked in either of your shoes one bit… but I am just thinking about how I would feel. Plus I guess for her, your breasts are part of the most intimate moments you share… and now that will (would…) change and so perhaps she would fear that your intimacy (the feeling, not the act) would change. But then again, you would hopefully have shed the dysphoria, at least partly, which would make you more able to feel intimate (as a shield would be down, ya know?). Hmm. Here’s another thought. Let’s say you had breast cancer (god forbid) and had to have surgery and were left with smaller breasts or even scars (in the old days). Would it change the way Donna felt about you? Well, this dysphoria kinda sounds like a cancer on your soul… I dunno. I just wish you the best of luck with your decision. Oh – one more thought… which I don’t know that you will like. People may say that if you get top surgery, you are still you, so Donna should still love you the same… but without top surgery you are still you, and YOU don’t love you as is… Jeez, I wish I could say something to help, but I don’t think I am. Virtual hug. <<>>.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is truly a dilemma (as one other reader noted). I don’t doubt Donna’s love for me, but you can’t force someone to accept something before they are ready. Donna thought she was ready, and then “flipped a switch”. I’m going to back off and give her some more time, and then decide how hard to push. Either way, I’m exactly the same person – fat or thin, breasts or chest.

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  16. underfrog

    Well,whether you would look like Homer Simpson has nothing to do with top surgery, right? It just has to do with what kind of foods you’re eating (doughnuts and beer?) and how much you do or don’t work out. Seriously, if you look like Homer Simpson with Marge’s chest now, then you will look like Homer after chest surgery. But that wouldn’t be that big of a change, really, if that’s how you already look. 🙂 Otherwise, you will look like yourself, just without that part in your silhouette.

    Also, if you are binding now, chest surgery could become a health concern beyond mental health, and this may be something for you and Donna to discuss as well. I was binding for three or four years before I had chest surgery, and the long-term binding caused serious physical problems for me over time. I had chronic costochronditis (which hasn’t been back since I had surgery in 2010), and constant shoulder/neck pain. I was basically living on Aleve, which is its own problem. Long-term binding can cause problems with breathing, back, shoulders, neck, etc. This was the reason my mom I think finally became 100% supportive of me having chest surgery – because it was actually a better solution for my physical health.

    Lastly, I just want to echo what everyone else is saying, only maybe in a different way. Imagine a heterosexual couple, where the male partner says to the female partner, “You need to go and get breast implants. Because you’re my partner, your body is mine just as much as it is yours, and I’m attracted to women with bigger breasts.There’s no room for debate about this.” This may be hard to hear – and clearly I don’t know either of you personally – but your situation does have some commonalities to this one. That’s not to say you should jump into anything right away at all — this is a really big decision — but just that your own voice doesn’t get quieted or lost, you know?

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the image of being Homer Simpson with Marge’s breasts (the best of both worlds, and I thought Elmer Fudd in a dress with lipstick was bad).
      I’ve been binding but not to the point where I have trouble breathing or stretching. I’m a bit of a comfort freak so I’ve been using the Les Love Boat velcro air mesh binders which work for me. I also have a moving comfort sports bra for working out at the gym and when I just don’t feel like putting on a binder. I should look into the health issue, maybe that would budge Donna.
      Donna has been trying to be understanding, and mostly is understanding, but somehow this has become the symbolic (for her) issue of what part of my transness is too hard to accept. I could say that the psychological part of me being trans is OK, but the material/physical part is a problem. It is just too real and too raw right now for her. I’m hoping things will change.

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      1. underfrog

        You know, I think we all have to find some parallel of our own bodies somewhere in the world that gives us strength. These cartoons you posted are probably NOT doing that for you, but maybe it means you’re starting the search, which IS a good thing. I’m a trans man on T with chest surgery and a beard, who has zero interest in having a penis. For a long time, I thought that made me really ugly. Then I started thinking about my body as being sort of like a centaur’s body, or similar to Pan’s body. Sure, I’m not half man, half horse, or half goat, but my body is kind of divided in half. And Pan is seriously awesome. He was always seducing folks and causing all kinds of trouble. And it wasn’t “even though” he was half and half.” It was because of it. That’s where his power came from, and I realized it’s where mine can come from, too. 🙂

        My ex (who I was with before I started T) was sort of similar. She was fine with it if I identified as genderqueer, went by an androgynous name, got called male (or female) pronouns, whatever, but once things started getting more serious than that, she wasn’t comfortable. She was a lesbian; she hadn’t signed up for a boyfriend. And that was fair. Everyone has the right to decide for themselves what they want for themselves, so Donna does have that right – but so do you. 🙂

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  17. Alex

    Jamie, I think you know what to do, what choice to make, because you know it’s your choice to make, not Donna’s. In a way, I think the road you took a while back, is a one way one, no u-turn possible… Maybe some delays, inevitable, but you know where you are going…

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You are correct. I know where I want to go, and I lost all of my ambivalence about it. But I’ve been with Donna for over 20 years and the thought of going this part of it alone, or dragging her kicking and screaming with me, is too hard to contemplate. I’m used to our coming to consensus on things, and we’ve been respectful of each other throughout our relationship. This is a challenge.

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  18. txbridgefarmer

    That is a tough struggle to have. Both internally and with Donna.
    I can relate to an extent to what you are feeling. While I didn’t have top surgery, a drastic reduction was my route. My partner at the time wasn’t at all supportive. Like you said, they aren’t Donna’s breast, but in a way they are.
    If you aren’t ever truly capable of looking in a mirror and seeing the person you believe that you were meant to be, will you grow to resent her for standing in your way of that?

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I could probably go on binding and avoiding mirrors when I don’t have my clothes on. I’ve been doing it for years and have perfected the technique. I got bitten by the surgery bug after the consultation (which Donna had given me the OK to go to). If I never get surgery I will resent it. If I take it one day at at time I can live with it for a while, and then re-open it. But right now I am crushed.

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  19. Widdershins

    You didn’t mention why Donna said she couldn’t cope. If she hasn’t already said, perhaps asking her to articulate her reasons might be a starting place for a conversation.

    Got a candle lit on the altar for you both.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      The best way for me to describe it (given that I don’t completely understand it either) is that she accepts my being trans, and sees how much better I feel psychologically after coming to terms with it. She will say that we are closer and more intimate because I am no longer suppressing it. She has trouble with the medicalization of it – either surgery or hormones (which I am not interested in). To her, I am perfect just the way I am – and she loves my body the way it is. She sees my dysphoria as some sort of deep seated misogyny – and is upset by my phsyically taking a step away from being female (even though my brain did this already). She is repelled by the idea, and I can’t yet figure out how to get her used to it, except to wait it out.
      Hope it is a long burning candle.

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  20. Peter James Webster

    Jamie, you gotta be you! Whatever that happens to be and whether or not those you love can grasp it, because the alternative is a form of dying. I speak on this from experience…having lost so much time, so much life trying to be what others wanted me to be.

    You may not think so now, because sometimes it’s easier to appease those around us than to deal with the pain, the rejection and possible loss. But the truth is, it will come back to bite you in the ass….and it won’t be pretty. Resentment will build inside you – resentment of yourself for not being true to your nature, and resentment for Donna because you will feel she “made” you deny doing what you wanted to do.

    Truth is, nobody can really “make” anybody do anything. We make our own choices. Some self sacrifice is good. It is our humanity. It’s how we practice compassion. But that is very different from choosing to forsake our true selves to please someone else.

    It is possible Donna may warm up to the idea. Perhaps both of you talking with a counselor might help. Dunno. Sending prayers.

    Being authentic and true to oneself isn’t an easy path to follow, but it is the one each of us was born to walk. Love you, hang in there. You are not alone.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m willing to wait a while for Donna to come around – we’ve been together for over 20 years. It is a tough, tough, decision and I don’t want to push her (yet). It may come to that, but I’m willing to try to struggle it out with her, rather than force her to make a stay or go decision right now.
      I appreciate your thoughts and advice, and hearing how others dealt with their decisions. My ambivalence is not about the surgery, it is about walking through life alone.

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  21. Alexis

    I’m struck by the silly-serious dichotomy of this post. I love the cartoon images (and no, you don’t look like that, but I did laugh) — and full of sorrow at the present standoff. I hope all it takes is time. May everyone really get what they really need, may no one suffer needlessly. Love to you.

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  22. micah

    Jamie, there is really nothing new for me to add here except a soundbite of support to carry you through.

    The insight I can give you is only from my personal experience – you and I and our partners are all different people, at different points in life and transition. Top surgery changed me. Perhaps it’s because it was my first step in transitioning, but either way, it had a huge impact on my life beyond the physical removal of fatty tissue.

    From where I stand (and I hate to put thoughts in people’s minds that I don’t know), it seems Donna is struggling to shift from the way she sees you to the way you see you. It’s not about the surgery, or the name, or the pronouns; as long as your perception and her perception of Jamie are not in line, there will always be something to disagree about.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Micah, thanks for your response and support. I think for Donna top surgery is more symbolic (breast=woman, chest=man) than it is for me. She accepts that I consider myself to be both butch and trans, and she can see how much more connected and present I am since I stopped suppressing it (i.e. she benefits from it). The physical manifestation of trans is where she has trouble. On a bad day she might as well channel Janice Raymond; mostly she is concerned that I will never be satisfied until I am “completely transitioned”, and that she will always be waiting for the other shoe to drop. In a weird way she needs to find a way to hold onto my still being female (like my lower half) which is OK if that is what it takes to negotiate top surgery. Right now I think my breasts have that meaning to her.
      I am still going to try to get her down to the Philly Trans conference and hope that it will allow her to talk to more SOFFAs who have had supported their partner and have had good experiences.

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  23. Ezekiel

    I keep coming back and trying to think of something to add, to reach out to you in some way in what must feel like an impossible situation. I certainly think Micah’s points are astute, as are those from Halitentwo.

    If I were in your shoes, it would feel hard to me to hear people saying roughly “you know what you need, just do it” because I would feel like maybe they weren’t understanding what feels like an excruciatingly high cost. Like you, I only acknowledged my trans-ness after many many years in a long term relationship (10 years, so less than you, but still a really really long time, most of my adult life, and we have two kids). I felt like I was weighing every new realization and need against what looked to me like guaranteed devastating loss. How could I ask this of my wife? Of our kids? I often felt that very few people understood what I was up against, the sheer terror of losing everything, of constantly weighing whether the cost was too high.

    I know one thing that was hard for my partner was the constantly shifting landscape, and it sounds like this might be hard for Donna, too. For pretty much everything that I have changed (name, pronouns, hormones, top surgery…), there was a time that I insisted, vociferously, that I didn’t need exactly that. I now, finally, have learned not to predict what I do/don’t want, and she has learned to interpret any such statements as reflecting a current time point, and not the future. She wrote some about this (among other things) here: http://firsttimesecondtime.com/2013/06/07/thoughts-for-partners-of-trans-people/

    I think you’re right that time is important, and has already helped both of you, but it’s no guarantee. In my case, time was enough. But if it’s not, it doesn’t mean you’ve somehow done something wrong. You will move forward in the best way you can.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. It is a complicated and delicate matter to transition with the support of your life partner. So I want to give her time to think it over and try to catch up with me.
      I’m astounded at how many people have written/commented on this post. I really appreciate hearing the experiences of people who have gone through this, and survived. Gives me hope.

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  24. lbqresearch

    Thank you for sharing this deeply painful part of your journey. I think in many ways most queers have times when they must choose between disappointing people we love or being the best version of ourselves.

    I’m a Queer womyn doing research in our community, research is important to me because health professionals use it to make decisions about our care. If you are an LBQ womyn over 18 you can get involved by reposting this and by participating at lbqresearch.wordpress.org
    Cheers & With Pride!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. i was blown away by the number or responses, sometimes i forget that people actually read my posts (at least the ones that are not about my dog).

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  25. E. Stattin

    I was terrified to tell my wife of my wish to have top surgery since she made a remark a few years ago that she was so happy I am a woman and that she wouldn’t want to be with me if I didn’t have breasts. I had read your post, feeling your pain, and feared that your pain were going to be mine aswell.
    Obviously she senced that something was wrong and we got talking. Now, I should really know her better after 15 years together… Of cause she told me that she don’t care how I look as long as I’m happy with the person I see in the mirror everyday. She told me that, although she love my breast, they are not hers to decide over. I told her about your post and she was both sad and upset for you. She then went on to explain why she doesn’t care how I look.
    “If you, god forbid, had an accident where you lost a limb, I wouldn’t love you less. That limb is not the reason why I love you, I love you for the person you are. It’s the same with your breasts. I don’t love you because of them, I love the person that you are. In addition, you are more sexy when you are happy with your self. You are more confident and that is totally a turn-on for me.”
    She admits that she would need some time to mourn and get used to the change but emphasize that that is her problem – not mine.
    I realize that I have the most wonderful wife in the world and totally don’t deserve her, however I wish the same happiness for you and Donna.
    Give her a hug and love from my wife and I.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for the hugs! Donna is slowly coming around to accepting top-surgery. I’m trying to understand what it means to her (her fear of losing the me that she knows and loves) and to address her fears rather than argue over the surgery or walk away.
      A lot of relationships/marriages fall apart over issues of transition, and I am determined to hold onto to Donna, even if it means moving more slowly than I’d like. I have faith that eventually we will get there together.

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  26. Pingback: Award time | Tea with Ess

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