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.