I don’t think about my chest as much anymore. Pre-op, my chest was all I thought about. It was uncomfortable–wearing a binder 10-12 hours every day. I knew I was wearing it too much, I knew I relied on it and that it probably was not good for my back and/or ribs–based on what I had read from other peoples’ experiences of binding for long periods time.
“Just don’t wear the binder!”
That would have been a sensible solution, but I felt a worse kind of discomfort without a binder. I couldn’t even lounge around my house without my binder. I got used to it, and my binder easily became a part of my person.
In the summertime, I would wear my binder under tank tops. It would be visible since the straps were wider than the tank tops’ straps, and that was something I was always conscious of. I hated that I couldn’t just have a flat chest without having to wear a tight half tank top under anything I wore. When it came time to go swimming, I wore something called a “swimee” which was like a binder, but it was made of swimsuit material. I wore that with swim trunks.
My chest had always caused me discomfort. I distinctly remember when I was a preteen and I started developing breasts, I didn’t even want to acknowledge them. My mom told me it was time to start wearing a bra, and I fought tooth and nail against that. I didn’t want anything to do with the ladies’ underwear section, or any kind of specialty lingerie store. I hated training bras, sports bras, bras with wires, bras without wires… any and all bras were my enemy.
I felt like I had no other options. I don’t remember when I learned about top surgery, but I remember that I knew that was what I wanted as soon as I found out I could have my breasts removed. Regardless of my gender identity, they didn’t feel right on my body.
Fast forward a few years, I finally got to talk to my gender counselor about top surgery. I had been on T for a few months at that point and I knew top surgery was my next step in transforming my body to how I felt it always should have been. I had some slight hiccups in finding a surgeon that would accept insurance and that was within a reasonable distance. I mentioned this to my endocrinologist and he gave me the name of a surgeon in Buffalo, where I currently live. He said she was a Buffalo native as well, and that she had just opened her own plastic surgery center.
I went with my mom to meet Dr. Dawli for a consultation less than a week later. My mom wanted to be a part of this huge step in my life, which I understood, which is why we made it more of a family thing.
I scheduled my surgery for December 12th, and I set up my countdown app on my phone. It was only a few months away at this point.
As it grew closer, I got more and more nervous. I had never had a major surgery, and there was a lot at stake here. I knew I would feel better, freer, relieved afterwards–but I was worried about scarring and my long-term results.
The day of my surgery, my mom sat with me the whole time. I was on the brink of a panic attack nearly the whole time, and having her there was a huge help. When she had to leave the pre-op room they were keeping me in, I started to feel scared again. But before it could escalate into them needing to give me a nebulizer treatment again, I started to fall asleep from the anesthesia they gave me through the IV. The last thing I remember is being wheeled into the operation room.
I woke up a few hours later in the post-op room to a nurse asking me what my name was. I groggily responded before drifting back to sleep.
I woke up again in a different room to Dr. Dawli removing a big foam block that was strapped to my chest–presumably to provide pressure to the newly operated part of my body. My parents and girlfriend came in shortly after, and they were all extremely relieved to see me, even though I had thrown up in my bed pan. I guess anesthesia makes me nauseous.
I recovered at my parents’ house. For two weeks I slept on a reclining section of the couch, mostly playing video games and taking my dog for walks.
Looking back, it all feels like it was forever ago. But it has only been six months. It feels like my body has always been like this, but I had to fight for it to be like this. Now, I sleep shirtless, I swim shirtless, I go outside shirtless, I walk around the house shirtless. I no longer feel weighed down by breasts that didn’t belong to me. I feel free, and I feel like I’m substantially closer to having the body I was meant to have.