Tomorrow I’m going in for a revision to my chest. I’m having a small pucker in my left pec “let out”, and I’m having my nipples slightly down-sized in diameter and height. I’m still a little ambivalent about it.
I like my chest. I ignore the flaws, but I’m still a little self-conscious of my nipples. I’m aware of them when I’m working out in the gym, when my T-shirt is sweat soaked, when I’m watching my form in the mirror. I could live with them as is. If I had to fly to another city for the revision, I might not do it.
The surgery is straightforward. It is in Dr. Weiss’ office, not in the hospital. He is using twilight sedation instead of anaesthesia. I should be in and out in an hour and a half. I should be back to my usual activities by the weekend.
The surgery is the easy part. Asking a friend to take me there, wait for me, and take me home is the grueling part. I procrastinated asking, and then belittled myself for being unable to ask. It is a hard cycle to break.
I’m not ashamed of being butch and trans. I’m ashamed of being butch and trans and needing help. Somewhere, in the back of my brain, I don’t think it is OK to ask people for help if it has anything to do with being trans.
When I was working full-time, and had thirty people reporting to me, I had no problem asking my staff to do work. I was confident. I knew what was reasonable and what was out-of-bounds. I’m not confident in my personal life.
I’m ashamed to discuss top surgery with anyone who is not transgender. I’m ashamed that I need/want a revision. I’m ashamed that I’m not on testosterone and I don’t use he/him pronouns. I’m ashamed that I don’t have it all figured out. I’m ashamed that I haven’t embraced a specific label.
It is all internalized transphobia, and I am ashamed that I have that too. I am ashamed of being ashamed.
I didn’t tell Donna I needed someone to come with me. I didn’t want to her to feel guilty about not going with me (she has a broken ankle). I talked about it a little in therapy. The clock ticked forward.
I went back and forth with myself about raising it at my transmasculine support group meeting. I didn’t message the group members before the meeting, or ask directly at the beginning of the meeting. I was afraid that no one would feel responsible to volunteer, and that they’d all be hoping someone else would go with me. I was afraid of the awkward silence.
Even though it is a support group, and I needed support, I didn’t want them to think I was desperate. I have people in my life that I ought to ask, and I needed to figure out why I couldn’t. I asked the group to help me ask Tracey,
Tracey is someone I’ve known for years – I met her right after I adopted Lena, my first dog. At least twice a week we walk up to the dog run together. We talk about our dogs, the neighborhood, and other people’s dogs. We talk about Donna and we talk about Randy, her late husband. She’s seen me go through my name change and top surgery, but I’ve never had a long conversation with her about it. Or about being trans. Or about shame.
I hate telephones. After the meeting I composed and edited a short direct text to Tracey. The next morning I sent it out, and held my breath. A half hour later she texted back that of course she would go with me. For her, it was no big deal. Unless she reads this, she will have no idea how big a deal it is. I’d like to believe that I learned an important lesson from this, instead, I feel like I dodged a bullet. To learn the lesson I will have to ask for help, and ask again, and ask again, until I believe that asking is the most natural thing in the universe.
Notes: There is an art of asking. It requires that you believe that you are a part of a community and trust that the people in it want to help you. Dar, from An Exacting Life, referred me to Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking (in real life Dar is a librarian and Amanda is a punk-cabaret performer). Before writing the book, Amanda Palmer gave an excellent 14 minute TED Talk on the subject, which you can watch here. Thank you Dar!