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:
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.
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.