Top Surgery Revisions: Dog Ears and Nipple Reduction

frankenstein's-monster's-chest

Frankenstein’s chest.

After the drains came out, after the packing and the bandages were unwrapped, after the swelling went down, Dr. Weiss told me that he wanted to do minor revisions. He was unhappy with the dog ears in the center of my chest and with the size of my nipples. He thought my chest could look cleaner and more balanced. He told me to think about it; there is no charge for the revisions, they are in-office procedures, and they can be done at the same time.

I decided to wait and see. To let my chest settle in. My nipples are prominent, but in the range for middle age guys. I’m still a little self-conscious of them. The puckering in the middle that Dr. Weiss called “dog ears” is subtle; it doesn’t even show when I wear a close-fitting T-shirt. It is only an issue if I’m naked, or topless. It is purely aesthetic. A hard choice for someone not used to looking carefully in the mirror.

When I do look in the mirror I see the scars. Two long scars, one on each side, going from the middle of my chest to under my arms. They are much more noticeable than the puckering or my nipples. The scars are healing well, fading slowly from red to pink. It is hard to imagine that they will ever be invisible. The scars do not bother me at all. I’m adding them to the list of other scars: the one on my thumb from whittling wood (age 11), the one on my leg from climbing a chain link fence after too much beer (age 19), and the one across my “bikini line” from getting a hysterectomy (age 48).

Dog ears are common after top surgery. They are little flaps of skin sticking out on the sides, usually under the armpits. They don’t look like dog ears to me. I love Gracie’s ears; her ears are her most precious asset. I like to fluff and play with them. She loves it when I scratch behind her ears. For years my chest was off-limits.

My body will never be a conventional looking woman’s body or a conventional looking man’s body. It is the right body for me.

My chest is neither a woman’s chest nor a man’s chest. It is both flawed and perfect. It will still be perfect whether I get the revisions or not. I am leaning towards doing both revisions in the same visit. There may come a point in the future, when my scars have faded, when I want to take my shirt off.

In my dysphoric youth, I paid as little attention as possible to my body and my clothing. I accepted my unhappiness. If I was clean, if my hair was short, and if my clothes were masculine, that was good enough. That was the best this butch could ask for. There was no point in making an effort to look better; it just highlighted my contradictions. Even if I could have found the perfect clothes, I don’t think I would have enjoyed wearing them. The clothes would have mocked me back.

I don’t feel mocked anymore. When I wear clothes that I like, and that fit me, I feel handsome. I can look at my reflection in the mirror and see myself. I no longer just throw on whatever is at hand. I make an effort.

There is no transgender standard of beauty. There are only cisnormative standards. I never came close and I never will come close to meeting them. I will always look different. I will always be a little eccentric. I can live with that, even if the rest of the world is still catching up.

Notes: The continuing Caitlyn Jenner coverage is making me think a lot about how the media upholds cisnormative beauty standards for transgender people. I don’t blame Caitlyn for this; I have no idea what I would do if I was rich and famous and a Kardashian.

I last wrote about my nipples here when I was getting used to my chest, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back for revisions. Meanwhile, I read two good posts on transgender beauty, the trapped in the wrong body trope, and passing. The first is Reclaiming the Wronged Body from TransGriot; the second is Laverne Cox’s statement on Caitlyn Jenner and the right to be seen as your true self, from Tumblr.

13 thoughts on “Top Surgery Revisions: Dog Ears and Nipple Reduction

  1. J.D.

    I had my top surgery 12 days ago and I love my smooth chest with no nipples. In my clingiest T-shirt the rippled skin at the suture line shows through but I don’t mind that. It’s been a real delight to finally see myself in the mirror instead of a body with alien boob parasites.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is great to get what you want – I had to wear an ace bandage for 4 weeks after surgery, so I had a delayed reaction to seeing myself in a shirt – and it was winter so I was still in layers. I’m also still in the delight phase – I hope it lasts a long time.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. The only thing I didn’t write about (because I didn’t actually have it after top surgery) is the possibility of having some depression/reaction to the anesthesia (I’ve had bad reactions that lasted up to a week from the anesthesia for other surgeries).
      When I had my fibroids out I had nausea, and felt kind of foggy and depressed for several days – hard to focus and hard to read books.
      I was lucky this time around. So if you don’t feel like jumping out of bed and dancing after top surgery, don’t worry about it. The euphoria will eventually kick in.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a little strange to feel this way after a life time of acute dysphoria. And to allow myself to feel entitled to the revisions, and not to just make do with the way my chest is (which is fine, and if the surgeon was going to charge me I probably wouldn’t do it).

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  2. MainelyButch

    My surgery anniversary was yesterday. I was looking at my chest in the mirror last night, admiring that the scars were more pink now and are fading slowly, it’s been a year. I just love my flat chest and I think we can live with some minor imperfections, just now with boobs!!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I still don’t understand why there is such a taboo for butches to get top surgery (or even breast reduction) and why we should have to try to make peace with the dysphoria. Uh-oh I feel a rant coming on about how people love to trot out butches as being non-conforming rebels – but then still expect us to be able to turn it down/off when it is inconvenient for them (e.g. weddings, business/work, and meeting new people for the first time).

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  3. genderneutral

    I appreciated reading this. My historic struggle with looking at my chest has rubbed off onto thispost surgery chest in some interesting ways – specifically not letting myself see the flaws. I do notice them but ignore them as I used to ignore the imperfections of my breasts. And the reality is, i paid good money for a chest that I like that i want that i am happy to see in the mirror. So after reading this i realize the dog ears i have been ignoring and in reality notice but pretend i dont… i am going to have them fixed. I think my doctor must be picking up on my blinded nonchalant acceptance of what is – so he isnt suggesting fixing anything which sucks cuz i think if he were saying something about it, i dont know it would be affirming somehow.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      You should definitely talk to your surgeon – Dr. Weiss does a lot of follow up (he is a plastic surgeon on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and is used to working with wealthy people who are very picky) – he saw me at 5 days, 4 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, etc. From the initial consultation he was very clear that if I was at all unhappy with the results, we would discuss revisions, and that most revisions were not charged for. He also discussed with me what my chest would look like, the contouring, and the nipple placement, and I like how he did it.

      I’m not sure I would have said anything if he hadn’t – but he brought it up – and I’m glad he is holding true to what he said originally.

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  4. txbridgefarmer

    I love the fact that you finally feel as if the outside more closely matches the inside! I’ve never considered top surgery or any other major surgery to change my appearance but I do know how we perceive ourselves, physically, can cause so much damage to our own self confidence!

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  5. Terese Beatty

    Thank you so much for sharing such personal feelings and emotions in this public forum. I appreciate all that I have learned from following your blog and I know your words and their message will help me tremendously in my career as a counselor. Congratulations on your new found comfort and confidence with who you are. You deserve to be happy.

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