I managed to make it this far without going through the social rites of passage for a Jewish-American girl. No Bat Mitzvah, no Sweet Sixteen, no Prom, no graduation party, no wedding. No ceremony to mark the crossing of a line, the shift in status from childhood to adulthood. No ancient rituals, no reading of texts, no scarifications.
Maybe scarifications. I’m counting down the days to top surgery (December 8). If top surgery is my rite of passage, it is not clear to me what is on the other side of the shore.
I’ve been low-key about it because I don’t want to put a hex on it. I am thankful that Donna remains nominally onboard and reconciled to my going through with it. I’ve read up on tips for top surgery and what to expect while you are recovering. I ‘m making a list of what I need to do around the house to prepare. I want to make it as easy on Donna as possible.
Over the last fifteen years I’ve had four surgeries (one to repair torn knee ligaments, two to remove fibroids, and a partial hysterectomy). I learned that I get nauseous and depressed from anesthesia. I learned that I am impatient to recover, that I get bored staying at home, and that I don’t like to ask for help.
But, I am channelling all of my anxiety about top surgery into the realization that I don’t have the right outfit to come home from the hospital in. Or for lounging around in while I recover. Or for taking a walk to cool my cabin fever.
I threw out my old sweat pants last year. I found an ancient pair of flannel PJ bottoms and my moccasins in a storage box. I have some soft loose button-down shirts. I have my gym shorts. Otherwise, all I wear are denim jeans, corduroy jeans, and twill cargo pants.
I’m going to have limited use of my arms. I probably won’t want to pull up my jeans and deal with buttons and a zipper fly right after surgery. Or take naps in my jeans. I need a layette set. I need a couple of pairs of sweatpants, and a light zip-up hoodie.
I have a vision of the top surgery stork bringing me home from the hospital and dropping me down the chimney. Swaddled in yellow and green. All fresh and new. Innocent. Reality check: Donna will bring me home in a taxi and I’ll take the elevator to our apartment.
I am skeptical of born agains. Skeptical of people who assume that transitioning will solve all of their problems, that they can leave their old life behind in a cloud of dust. Still, I think of top surgery as a way to reclaim a part of myself distorted by puberty.
What should a butch or genderqueer person expect to get out of top surgery? I will be happy if I can look at myself in a mirror larger than the medicine cabinet, and if I can stand up straight and breathe deep without feeling self-conscious about my chest. I don’t expect top surgery to alleviate my social anxiety or make up for the traumas of my childhood. It will likely complicate my already complicated presence in women’s bathrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms. Despite this, I think looking queerer, and less female-bodied, will feel right. At least to me.
I am looking forward to never wearing a bra or a binder again. To the freedom of an unrestricted chest. I’m going to donate my binders to In a Bind, a group that collects binders and distributes them to trans youth who need them. I’m going to donate my bras to Free the Girls, a group that collects new and lightly used bras and assists women in developing countries to resell them in their local used-clothing markets. I hope they find good homes.
Note: While thinking about what to do with my binders and bras, the two things that came to mind were burning or composting them. I vaguely remembered that “bra burning” is a myth. This video debunks the famous “bra burning” demonstration at the Miss America contest in 1968. This site explains (to ignorant fools like me) why most bras are not compostable.