As a queer trans man, internalized homophobia intersects with my trans status in complex and painful ways. Being trans put me on the defensive, all the indignities like lighter fluid on the fire of insecure manhood. It’s only now, years past transition, that I feel safe and strong enough to let go.
Accepting that I am bi/queer in terms of orientation has changed my life. I have stopped trying to seem straight–something I had no idea I’d been doing, but which nonetheless severely limited me. Suddenly people are reading me as queer again and it feels really good. I no longer police my body language or my vocal mannerisms. How heavy was the weight of the fear of seeming gay!
[Side note–I am still using the word bi but I’m identifying more and more with just queer. I am realizing that attraction to masculine genderqueer people is a major region of my sexual landscape, which makes “bi” just seem a bit off. While my attraction to men is still feeling kind of vague and confusing, my attraction to genderqueer people feels more fully formed. But I’m cool with either term.]
Wow do I have a lot of internalized homophobia going on. I’m shocked at how deep and how toxic it is. I guess I thought, having gone through so many queer identities, I’d be somehow immune–but of course not. I am now unpacking the special flavor of shame reserved for queer men in our society.
It is such a relief to embrace myself more fully, to be okay with my queer masculinity. I notice people reading me as gay, and people with big question marks over their heads as they try to figure out what letter of the alphabet soup to pin on me. I notice the way I talk differently with different people. I can be a gay boy with a bit of flare or a reliable straight bro–whatever. They’re both me, and neither is. I’m enjoying it.
A key piece of this for me is getting more and more comfortable with my trans body. I’ve recently been exploring sexual pleasure using my front hole. I admit to being a little freaked out just typing that–I have so much shame about that part of my body. Thanks a lot, cissexist, misogynist society.
When I first started exploring my masculinity, I went hardcore stone in the sense of not being touched. This allowed me to engage sexually, which was awesome. As I transitioned and my body changed, I got rid of my dildo and started using my attached dick. But I never started using my front hole, not even by myself, until like two days ago. That part of my body was off limits for about seven years. Seven years is a pretty long time.
Alma and I were talking about my fear and shame around enjoying that part of myself. She encouraged me to put the fear into the format, “I don’t want to _______, because if ________, then ________.” This is an exercise we learned for dealing with jealousy and insecurity around nonmonogamy. (Did I mentioned we’re poly now? We’re poly now. It’s been a fun and eventful summer, haha.) I took a deep breath, quieted my mind, and allowed an answer to unfold. My mind replied,
I don’t want to have sex using my front hole, because if we do that, and I like it, then I will be a faggot.
This thought shocked the hell out of me. Wow, ouch, how horrible. I didn’t even know that idea was in there.
In exposing these contortions to the light, I release them. I get freer and freer. There is no end to freedom.
I don’t tell many people that I’m trans. Or rather, I don’t tell many cis, straight people that I’m trans. I don’t like the questions, the assumptions, the way it makes me subtly different in their eyes. I don’t like being the first or the only trans person someone knows. And I don’t like the surprise.
“I never would have guessed” is a response I hear pretty routinely when I share that I am trans. Sometimes this is a pure expression of surprise; other times, people seem to think it’s some kind of compliment.
This isn’t the worst response–it’s intended to be positive and it indicates that others are reading my gender correctly. I know many other trans people pray for the day they hear something like “I never would have guessed.”
Yet I really dislike hearing this. When I hear “I never would have guessed,” I hear that this person has a narrow, stereotyped idea of what it is to be trans, that this narrow definition mysteriously excludes me, and that this person has no familiarity at all with the trans community.
First, why the hell do people expect they’ll be able to guess? The shock at not having guessed suggests that the person assumed they would be able to guess who is and is not trans. I have no idea on what basis these people believe they can spot trans folks. I guess they believe that all trans people look, act and/or speak in a certain way. This is the very definition of stereotype.
And, why does their image of “trans” exclude somebody like me? Seriously, who are these people picturing? I can’t help but have the sinking sensation that when these folks hear “trans” they have a very offensive caricature come to their minds and can’t think beyond it. Trans = “man in a dress” to them? I don’t know.
I have a horrible feeling it is the fact that I seem “normal” to these people. This leaves me so offended from so many different angles. First, what the hell, trans people are normal. Second, double what the hell, why are you so wedded to your crappy limiting idea of who gets to be a legitimate person?
Then there’s the way this seems to be intended as a compliment. Talk about back-handed: “You’re so normal/gender-conforming/etc., I never would have guessed you’re that weird thing that you indeed are.” This is based completely on the idea that trans people are valuable only to the extent we resemble cis people. It’s a little pat on the head for conforming satisfactorily to cis-normativity and the gender system in general. I deeply resent the idea that I should be flattered for not seeming too similar to my own community.
The funny thing is, for folks who are familiar with our community, I am actually very a typical trans guy. Come on: I am a 5’5″ male feminist; I seem queer in a rather ambiguous way; I love riot grrrl music; my partner is a queer femme; etc. There’s a lot of variation and it’s hard to pin down, but there’s a certain style among young trans guys, and I definitely have it. I don’t know why or even how this happens, but my haircut, glasses, tattoos and clothes are all just…very trans. When I see pictures of other twenty-something trans dudes on the internet, sometimes I’m just scrolling through going, “That’s my haircut. I have those shoes. Wait, is that me?” People who actually interact with the community are never surprised to learn I’m trans.
Maybe the worst part about “I never would have guessed” is, how the hell do you respond to that? I usually just give a weird smile and slowly back away. I am tempted to ask for a detailed explanation of why they would not have guessed. Instead of implying all this weird crap, I’d like to hear the person actually admit that, for example, they assumed I was not trans because I am clearly male, or whatever. Then we could address the weird ideas they are carrying around.
Has anyone ever told you they never would have guessed that you’re trans? How did you respond?
So you’ve decided to take testosterone. Starting T is an exhilarating and highly disorienting experience. Along with much anticipated changes like a lower voice and a squarer jaw, you’re bound for a radically altered social landscape and shifting internal world. You’re coping with the demands of a second adolescence and a gender transition–and you’ve probably got a full plate of regular life stuff, too.
My first year on T was one of the most beautiful, transformative, stressful and challenging passages of my life. Nearly five years later, I feel at home in my body and my social role; gender isn’t on my list of concerns. If transition is right for you, and T is part of that transition, some time on testosterone is likely to give you a similar sense of ease, belonging, and the precious freedom to worry about other things. Testosterone therapy works. The trick is getting through the intensity of transition with your resources and relationships intact. Here are a few suggestions for surviving your first year on T.
Each person is different, so please feel free to take or leave anything here as it is helpful to you. I’ve aimed this post at people taking T with the intention of bringing levels into the male range.
1. Expect chaos. You are diving head first into a storm of transformation–physical, social, emotional and otherwise. So expect stormy conditions for awhile. Your sleep, appetite and libido are all likely to change dramatically (including possibly increasing by an order of magnitude). You may also notice that your moods are all over the map and that people are treating you differently. Know that you are going through an intense period of change. Remind yourself that this does not last forever. Make any accommodations that you can to make this a bit easier on yourself. Eat snacks, take naps, take time to care for yourself. This is not good time to take on any huge new projects. Let transition be your project for awhile.
2. Express yourself. This is an emotional time. Hormones are throwing your moods out of whack. You’re undergoing an important process that you may have brooded over for years. And you’re coming up against the longing, shame, stigma, and hope that characterize the trans experience.
I found that, along with some moodiness associated with my body being in flux, starting T brought up a lot of emotions around being trans. For the first time, I was able to feel my anger at my family and my society for failing to see and accept me. Moving through these feelings is an essential part of the transition process.
Make sure you have plenty of opportunities to vent, share, and connect with other people. See a counselor, talk with friends and family, attend a trans support group, play your favorite sport, keep a journal, create music or artwork, yell as loud as you can from the top of a mountain. Whatever strategies work for you, be sure to create space for your feelings and find ways to express them.
3. Patience is a virtue you probably don’t have. After all the agonizing about transition, after all the hoops and hassles, comes another tremendous challenge–more waiting! You have to wait for your voice to drop, wait for hairs to grow, wait for your body to change shape, wait for others to see you as male. Perhaps you are more patient than I, but this was one of the single hardest parts of transition for me. I was tired of waiting and I had an intense fear that testosterone would somehow not work on me and my body would never change.
But it did work, and it does work. A year from now, you are going to look very different. As much as you’re able, enjoy the ride. Be patient if you can be. At least, be patient with you impatience.
4. Masturbate. Everybody talks about how libido increases with T, and for me, it was totally true. If masturbation is something you enjoy, now is an excellent time to enjoy it. I jerked off a lot during my first year on T. It’s a great way to adjust to any libido changes, and also provides a nice chance to relieve stress and get to know your changing body.
5. Be self-absorbed. Might sound like weird advice. But people in transition are guaranteed to be a bit more self-absorbed than usual. It’s an intensely introspective, self-focused process. After years or decades of living in the closet, our selves need some extra attention. Like the first time around, this adolescence is a process of self-expression and discovery. It’s important to pay attention and try on different ways of moving and being. So don’t fight it–just go with the flow and be self-absorbed for awhile. Trust that by going into this process completely, you will soon enough arrive on the other side.6. Remember to listen. It makes sense to be focused on yourself right now. But don’t neglect the important people in your life, either. Show up for your partner, friends and family by giving them your time and your full attention. Be ready to put the transition stuff down for awhile and hear about what’s going on for other people.
Also be prepared to listen to their feedback for you. At some point, someone is going to tell you that you’ve been a jerk recently, you’re angrier than you used to be, or you’re waving your male privilege around. From one guy to another, they are probably right. Don’t make time for folks who put you down or reject your transition–but be ready to hear challenging feedback from the people who love you. This is just part of being a dude in our society; you’re not going to do it gracefully on your very first try. Listen with patience and openness, and be curious about how your behavior can change.
7. Celebrate small changes. Most of us are focused on the big, exciting changes, like muscles, a beard and being seen as male everywhere you go. But the little changes are just as delicious, and in some ways, it’s the small stuff that really makes your transition. Notice the new hairs sprouting up on your belly, each time your voice cracks, the way people move a little differently around you, the veins just a bit more visible on your arms, even the pimples. It’s all these tiny signals that sooner or later come together and present a new side of you to the world. Enjoy them.
Readers–what advice would give to someone just starting T? If you’ve started T recently, how are things going so far?
Why don’t you ever talk about being bi on your blog? Alma asked me, half asleep in bed on a recent morning. It’s a good question.
I’ve come out four times. The first time I came out, at age 13, I came out as bisexual. Two years later, at 15, I came out as gay (my word at the time–never could get comfortable with the word lesbian). At 19, I came out as butch; at 21, I came out as a trans man. Well, I’m going for number 5, and I’m finding myself circling all the way back around again. I am bisexual.
This is something I’ve concluded recently. Part of what’s made this a tricky learning process for me is that I have extremely lopsided attractions. To get really specific here, I’d say I am bisexual and heteroromantic: I experience sexual attraction to both men and women, but romantic feelings only towards women.
My attraction to women feels fully developed, vibrant, definitive. I know, very clearly, whether I am attracted to a woman or not; and if I’m attracted to her today, I will probably be attracted to her tomorrow. I get crushes on women. I am madly in love with a woman.
My attraction to men feels vague, fleeting, more potential than realization. Feelings of attraction come and go, and I can be uncertain whether I’m attracted to a particular guy. If I’m attracted to a man this morning, I might feel differently this afternoon. When I feel a more stable attraction to a man, rather than feeling romantic-love-type feelings, it’s more like feelings of friendship and comradery with a slight sexual twist. Even if I were single, I don’t think I’d want to date or be in a relationship with a guy.
My attractions towards men remind me a little bit of what I’ve read about how some gray-asexual folks experience sexual attraction in general. I want to give a shout out to the ace community for doing so much groundwork in exploring and coming up with terminology for different types of attraction. I am allosexual, and I wouldn’t have the language to describe what I’m feeling without the asexual community. Asexual people of the internet, you are awesome!
I have felt these attractions, in this imbalanced pattern, since the onset of puberty. But they made no sense until after transition. I experimented with guys a little bit as a young teenager, but the experiences felt all wrong, because I was in a female role. As I realized that I had romantic feelings for girls but not boys, I figured I must be exclusively attracted to women. As I began exploring my gender, I concluded that my feelings towards men were a result of identifying with them–which is definitely part of it. The feelings are a longing to express sexuality with other men, as a man.
So there you have it. I feel it’s important for me to share this here because there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it means to be bi. Until recently, I never considered identifying as bi because to me the term suggested strong, close-to-equal attraction to men and women. But I now see this is untrue, and in fact many bisexuals experience lopsided attraction. I was partly inspired to claim the label of bisexual by that essay by Charles M. Blow on his sexual development and imbalanced interest in men and women [content note for child sexual abuse].
I don’t like the prefix “bi”–there are more than two genders, and I definitely experience attraction towards genderqueer people. But of course, homosexual and heterosexual, gay and straight have the exact same problem–they are all based on a gender binary. I feel like bisexual gets unfairly blamed, when really this is an issue with our whole concept of sexual orientation, and I see that as an example of biphobia. So despite these flaws, I’m using bisexual because it’s widely recognized and because I can no longer claim that the definition does not accommodate me.
“Bisexual” seems to have this strange problem where a huge proportion of people who could be described as bi reject the term. This seems to be a special case; I don’t see large numbers of people who could be described as straight or gay rejecting those words. I respect each person’s self-definition–your sexual orientation is whatever you say it is–but I think the larger pattern here is biphobia, plain and simple. I want to do my tiny part to help change that.
Alma and I have been sharing a process of discovery as we both continue to grow into our queer identities. We’ve carved out a “monogamish” arrangement (to use Dan Savage’s excellent term) to allow me to explore this side of my sexuality. Specifically, I’m curious about fooling around with another trans guy. This is meaningful to me both as an expression of my attraction to men, and as part of my ongoing process of learning to love my trans body and envision myself as a sexually embodied human being.
At this point, this isn’t something I feel any need to actively pursue. It may or may not ever happen. But it always feels good to get a little more honest.
1. My insurance company covers my Androgel prescription, allowing me to afford the medication.
2. I refill my prescription as usual. Suddenly, a new form is required to process the refill. The new form just so happens to ask whether the medication is for female-to-male transsexualism.
3. Poof! My medication is no longer covered. I cannot pay for it without coverage.
4. This is just the most recent time my insurance has denied me coverage; I already know how to get afforable prescription testosterone when paying out of pocket. So I’ll be okay.
5. But it still hurts to be told my healthcare doesn’t matter and isn’t worth paying for, just because I’m trans.
I’ve been processing the prospect of a hysterectomy for the past year. I’m at the point where I definitely want the surgery and will probably schedule it as soon as I don’t have a bunch more urgent stuff demanding my attention (i.e. when the semester is over). I have to say it’s been an excruciatingly painful aspect of my transition. A few thoughts on where I’m at and how I got here.
1. Sterility is a really big deal. When I went in to get a prescription for testosterone, my doctor asked me if I wanted to preserve the possibility of having a biological child. I was like, um, yeah, hell no. I was also 21 years old and way more concerned with paying for beer that night than with being a parent someday.
Letting go of the possibility of having a biological child has been the hardest and most heart-wrenching aspect of this experience. I don’t want to use any of the options available to me for having genetic offspring. There are so many reasons for this, I don’t even want to get into it. Suffice to say that even though I don’t want to use what I’ve got–just the prospect makes me queasy–it’s still hard to let it go. It means letting go of the fantasy that I could ever be a biological father. In confronting this reality, I have felt disappointed, cheated, and humiliated. I have felt left out of the great dance of life, a lonely alien. It feels strange to be so sad, yet so repulsed by the options that are open to me.
2. I am in profound denial about my body. I have never accepted the fact that I was born with a female body. I have to admit that I just straight up do not believe it, to this very day. There’s some pretty solid evidence for my view in that I am, you know, a man. Again I ask, WTF God? WTF?
This is a very deep-seated belief that is beyond all logic and is extremely resistant to change. As far as I can tell, I have always carried the worldview that I am male and it seems I always will. This is the reason approaching hysterectomy has been so painful–it has forced me to experience the cognitive dissonance of being transsexual in a whole new horrible way.
My take on this is, to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle, when you can’t accept, accept your non-acceptance. I accept that I am a trans man, that I have a view of my body as male that is not going to change, and that the thing I can change is my body. I accept that I cannot be a good custodian to female reproductive organs. It’s just not realistic for me at all. So a hysterectomy is something I can do for myself and for my health, out of love.
3. Grieving is necessary. I spent a good while feeling heartbroken about my status as soon-to-be-sterile and never having the option to be a biological father. This was an absolutely essential process for me. It’s normal to grieve over this kind of thing, and we need to allow ourselves the space and time to fully go there.
I can now see that a lot of my grief is about lingering shame and pain around being trans, rather than about parenthood (though of some of it really does have to do with parenthood). I have an ingrained belief that being able to father a child has something to do with being a “real man.” I’m still dealing with this; cultural ideas like that are just hard to shake off.
4. Planning a family is about a lot more than gametes. As I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel of my grief, I got a reality check about my hopes to be a parent. Having a child is something I want to do with my wife, obviously, but it’s only recently that I’ve been able to really consider her feelings. In retrospect, I’ve been pretty myopic and selfish about the whole thing; but at the same time, I really could not have gotten to this point without moving through my grief.
Alma has always wanted to adopt and has absolutely zero interest, or really less than zero interest, in ever being pregnant. I can now enjoy the wonderful match we have in this area and feel good about supporting her in her bodily autonomy.
I’m enjoying my new-found clarity about my own feelings, hopes and fears. I’ve come to realize that I actually do not care about having a biological descendant or sharing that connection with a child. I do care very much about being a father someday and I hope to adopt children with my partner. There is a scary vulnerability in this, as I have no idea if it will work out. But it’s real and it’s honest, a genuine dream.
How has your transition impacted your feelings and choices about fertility and parenthood?
Thanks to Lesboi for teaching me the term “middle surgery” for hysterectomy.
I finally got my birth certificate amended. I’d been putting off dealing with it and finally sent in the papers a couple weeks ago. It arrived in the mail, shiny and official. I was born in Massachusetts, and I’d read online that I could expect a birth certificate with my birth name and assigned sex crossed out, and the correct name and sex written in. But when it came it was complete and perfect, just my name and the word male, no nonsense. Opening that envelope had a real thud of finality to it–the very last piece of paper to get changed.
I’m jumping directly into another legal transition of sorts and changing my name again. Alma and I have put a lot of thought into what to do with our last names now that we are married. I’ve decided to take hers. I’m pretty excited about it. I really wanted us to share a name; she is very attached to hers, and I’m not that attached to mine; and we’re not that into hyphenation for a few reasons. Any why shouldn’t a guy take his wife’s name?
So soon I will have changed every single name from what I was born with–first, middle, and last. I’ve managed to keep the same initials, SLB. Taking her name also allows me to make a gesture of cultural solidarity, as she has a very ethnically marked name. She’s converting to Judaism; taking her name is kinda as close as I can get to “converting” to be Chicano.
I’m finally getting ready to seriously pursue a hysterectomy. It’s been a long emotional process–I hope to give it a proper treatment in a post soon. At this point, I feel at ease with my body and my circumstances, and I want the surgery. I’m hoping to get it this summer.
Between these things I’m feeling like my transition is really ending, maybe over. My paperwork is all changed; I’m getting ready for my last surgery; the big changes in my life now aren’t about my transition; shame’s appearances get rarer and rarer. It’s a good feeling, a spacious absence, very quiet.
I’ve written before about my evolving relationship with my post-transition body. Last night while meditating naked (don’t knock it til you try it), I found myself staring at my junk, which is pretty typical. And suddenly I wondered, why the staring? What am I looking for? In an instant I realized that I am looking at my penis to confirm that I am a man. I am looking to my body to validate my transition, to prove I really am a guy, like I still need to convince a skeptical mother and bigoted society that my transition is right.
I began to laugh then, because, of course, my dick cannot do that. Of course my genitals don’t determine or validate my gender! Hello, I’m trans, I supposedly know this.
Yet once my body became congruent with my lived sense of self, I reverted to hegemonic thinking and demanded that my dick demonstrate my manhood. This left me scrutinizing my body for proof of maleness and any sign of femaleness. And this, in turn, left me rather uneasy and unhappy, blocking my ability to just be in my body.
Seeing this, I let go completely of asking the question “Male or female?” about my body. There was a sense of space and relief, like the refreshing burst of silence when a constant hum suddenly stops. Maybe for the first time in my life, I was inhabiting my body, naked, without subtly trying to categorize myself as male or female.
I saw much more fully then, like a fog on my glasses clearing away. And oddly enough, my body became more comfortably male to me than ever before. It was a relaxed, natural masculinity, with a violet aura of sacred queerness. I felt I was seeing my body as someone else might see it, just a body without the screen of pain and memory. I sat in an easy confidence, suddenly liberated from a terrible hunger that had been siphoning away my strength. My body is male, yes, and trans too, and above all, human and very ordinary, soft and olive and animal, covered in fuzz, not problematic in any way.
We’ve been taught to pose the question “Male or female?” constantly. It’s a core process of our society, the rigid sorting of life into these two constructed poles. As gender-variant people, we know this, and we see the violence it does. Yet it is all too easy to do the very same thing to ourselves, whatever our identity or transition status. It’s the path of least resistance, a conditioned habit deeply ingrained, a reflex we don’t even know we have. We ask and ask and ask, aching for an answer that will make us feel okay. The messages we get about ourselves hurt so bad, we feel like we need to hear the right answer or we will never be alright.
But the asking itself is the problem. The more we ask, the more we look for a definitive category that confirms our sense of self, the worse we feel, and the farther we get from our bodies, our lives and our truth.
We can only see ourselves when we look with eyes unclouded by judgment. We can only feel ourselves when we sense with hearts unburdened by need. Compulsively categorizing the world in terms of a male/female dichotomy undermines our ability to actually perceive. If we need some insight to navigate the field of gender, there are other questions we can ask.
So as soon as you can, just drop the question. Don’t answer it, don’t even disagree with it. Just let it go, like a dandelion seed on its parachute in the wind.
You’ll be glad you did.
If the question of whether to take T inspires a lot of indecision and angst, the choice to have top surgery seems more straightforward. I rarely hear transmasculine folks agonizing about top surgery. It seems that many people just know they need to get something off their chests (or not). To that end, here are a few suggestions for those contemplating, planning and recovering from top surgery.
1. Pick a procedure. You are probably already looking into the available options. There are a few different procedures under the umbrella of top surgery for trans guys/transmasculine people. I had the double-incision with nipple grafts, a great option for people with a medium-to-large chest. I am very happy with the results. Smaller guys often opt for the periareolar procedure, which results in less scaring. There are also a few other options and a number of possible variations on these. This site has detailed info on procedures and other topics. A few things to consider when selecting a procedure:
- What’s suggested for your chest size/shape?
- Is nipple sensation important to you?
- How do you feel about scarring?
Surgeons often specialize in one or two procedures, so you might want to choose your doctor based on specialty (if you know what you want) or choose your procedure based on the surgeon’s strengths (if you are seeing a specific doctor due to location, insurance coverage or preference). When comparing photos of procedure results, it’s important to look for folks who look like you. In addition to the size of your chest, your overall body shape and size, skin tone and other factors come into play.
2. Select a surgeon. Here again, you’re probably already doing research. If you’re not sure where to start, try browsing photos on transbucket and asking other trans people. Before moving forward with any surgeon, you should see photographs of their work and make sure other trans people have hade a good experience with them. If you are looking to change your gender marker to M, ask whether the surgeon will write you a letter stating you have had irreverisble gender confirmation surgery (or whatever language is required in your area). Another important factor is location–if there are any qualified surgeons in your area, you can save a lot of money by recovering at home.
I got my surgery from Dr. Daniel Medalie. This took me far from home, but it was a great choice for me. There are no surgeons specializing in chest reconstruction in my area, and Dr. Medalie is highly skilled, relatively affordable, and great with trans patients. He told me he does top surgery several times a week!
3. How the hell do I pay for this? Cost is a major concern when it comes to top surgery. If you live in the US (can’t speak to other countries), you will probably find yourself paying out of pocket. The surgery itself usually costs somewhere in the range of $6000-$8000. That number can skyrocket if you need to travel, pay for a place to stay while recovering, etc.
Many doctors offer payment plans or accept credit cards. I covered most of my surgery costs using a CareCredit card (a credit card just for medical expenses). I was lucky to get extensive help from my parents, and we paid it off within a few years. Many trans people raise money through donations or a benefit event. This is usually the hardest part, and of course it really depends on your situation. Don’t lose hope–you can find a way to make this happen.
4. Waiting is the hardest part. You’ve worked your ass off, come up with some serious cash, scheduled your surgery, requested time off work…. Now it’s time to sit back and wait six months til the surgery date. Ahhhh! This phase of the process nearly drove me insane. Every day I had to put my binder back on, I cursed time itself. I tormented Alma with an incessant countdown updated several times a day.
I made myself totally miserable. Don’t be like me! Come up with some things you can do to make waiting easier. You might allow yourself a special indulgence during this limbo period or find a way to mark the time that’s actually enjoyable.
5. Get help while healing. In general, you can expect to be thoroughly laid up for about a week, and then functional, but still tender and healing, for a month or two. If at all possible, have somebody available to care for you during that first week. You are going to feel like shit, and it is really helpful if someone can feed you, take you to your follow-up appointments, and so on. Huge thanks to Alma and my mom for taking excellent care of me during my recovery.
The worst part of the recovery for me actually came from the presciption painkillers. I really needed them for the first day or two. By about day three, I started to feel horrible–a miserable nausea and weakness like nothing else. My mom suggested I ditch the percoset and start taking ibuprofen. Once the hard stuff was out of my system, I felt amazing. I was practically skipping when I went in for my follow-up a week after surgery.
6. Scars–a conversation piece? How will you navigate being a person with surgical scars? Some people opt to cover their chests at the beach and the gym to avoid revealing their scars. Personally, I take my shirt off at the slightest excuse. I’ve found that people very rarely say anything about my scars or even seem to notice them. I’ve occasionally had someone ask if I had a collapsed lung or heart surgery. As far as I know, I’ve never had anyone guess that I am trans based on my scars. So I wouldn’t stress too much about people seeing the scars or commenting on them.
That said, it’s a good idea to have a game plan. If someone asks, what will you tell them, and how much? I usually just say something about how I had surgery a few years ago and leave it at that. People are too polite to pry further.
7. Enjoy yourself. The most important part of getting top surgery–enjoying the results! Throwing on a t-shirt without having to scrutinize your chest in the mirror. The feeling of a summer breeze on your skin. Swimming bare-chested. Never wearing a
suffocating torture device binder ever again. Freedom is so sweet.
Readers–what tips do you have for someone preparing for top surgery? If you are considering or planning surgery, what questions do you have?
Sometimes I get sick with the fear and shame of not being man enough. Is my dick too small? Is my body too weird? Are my gestures effeminate? My line of work unmanly? What really sticks in my craw is the sneaking sense that as a transsexual, I am somehow permanently inadequate, a poor imitation.
Yet this sinking feeling and shame and fear lie at the very heart of what it is to be a man in my society. To be a man is, so often, to be terrified of failure. Men compensate with violence, that trump card of masculinity, towards ourselves and others. Homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are, of course, attempts to demonstrate that one is a Real Man. But there are many subtler examples. Overworking is also a popular cover for fear of being an insufficient man. Slow death by incremental alcohol poisoning in another. Preventable heart disease brought on by a steady diet of “man food” is an excellent example. I can’t count the number of times a man has told me that he just couldn’t live without eating meat at every meal. Yeah right. Many men would rather have high cholesterol than risk being seen with a salad.
On some level, we think we would be worthless if we failed to live up to the standards of masculinity. And because we all secretly know we already have, we desperately try to hide it. And because everyone is constantly trying to hide, each man fears he is the only one with a secret. It’s an absurd conspiracy.
I’m not trying to say most men are constantly trying to prove their manliness, though many are. What I am saying is that most men live with the dread of failure. It may assert itself often or occasionally, with a roar or a whisper. In any case the story is the same.
I have no prescription here, no solution, no path to healing. I have something rather humbler, with it’s own quiet power: I know that we are not alone. We are all in this boat together, a crew of stowaways hiding from ourselves. When you know that fear of not being man enough is at the core of what it is to be a man, you may still be afraid. But, at least, you can laugh about it.