Something Off My Chest

Today celebrates five years since I’ve had top surgery, which for me was a double mastectomy with some reshaping of my chest to masculinize its shape. I wish I had pictures to show, but like most of my transition, I either didn’t document it, or anything I did have were lost to time.

Me in 2016, shortly before surgery, wearing binders. Ironically, today I wear men’s binders as undershirts to keep my stomach tucked in.

Why was this date especially important to me? Eight years previously, I lost the right to bodily autonomy. I was shamed my body couldn’t nurse, shamed for suffering from post-partum psychosis, shamed for choosing western obstetrics over traditional midwifery, shamed for using epidurals and not having a “natural birth”. Again, all while still undergoing a double dose of conversion therapy to make me “straight” and “gender normative”.

I chose this date specifically reclaim my body as my own.

Have years of mental and emotional abuse lead me to disassociate with being a woman and eventually become a man? No. My desire to “be one of the boys” has existed since I was a tyke. Being in women’s-only spaces or events has always alienated me. I saw myself having a more male physique, male appearance, male identity. Being butch was not enough; agender was just too confusing.

Happy and healthy as a trans man.

Those few weeks of healing afterwards wasn’t all mentally rewarding. The stiff foam suit around my chest to minimize swelling restricted my movement. Not being able to shower left me in a funk, figuratively as well as literally. A natural workaholic, I hated not being able to do much. Upside? No drains, which did lighten the depression.

It took years for feeling to return to my chest. Took years to retrain my hands to not have to cup when I had to feel my chest for whatever reason. Took years to feel comfortable taking my shirt off in front of others.

I never did anything to erase my scars. Didn’t use vitamin E oils, shea or cocoa butters, no deep massages. I never even got tattoos to cover them up. I usually wear shirts, and even when I go poolside I wear sleeveless rash guards. In private, those scars remind me of the journey and struggles I’ve endured to become the man I am today.

As I posted last year, even if I didn’t live as a man, I would’ve done the research to get an “elective” mastectomy. I never cared for the fact that my initial puberty robbed me of a body I was quite comfortable with, and replaced with one that caused almost 15 years of self-alienation. An uneven chest size made wearing even sports bras uncomfortable, tank tops with “bra support” made me look uneven. Layering up, or constantly wearing binders, wasn’t an option when you worked in food service/retail near an always-on oven, especially in summertime.

And as of this past Friday, almost thirteen years to the day, watching this video in the early hours of the morning, showing such a beautiful birth, helped me finally overcome the panic attacks and unlock those memories of when I gave birth.

With community comes liberation from the triggers of a weighed down past. Do not tell me that Internet friends are any less real, valid than the friendships you hold offline.

While the feeling of a flat chest for a trans man is often described as “liberating”, for me it’s about feeling natural. Not as a state of “authenticity” or “truthfulness”, but about correcting a physiological mishap akin to removing benign tumors, and finally establishing that mind-body connection. If anything, the video above has liberated me.

I’m not a man trapped in a woman’s body—I’m a man who just healed his body.

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