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 my body. Besides being raped and prevented from getting an abortion, I was shamed for the fact that I couldn’t nurse, shamed for suffering from postpartum 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 “feminine”.

I chose this date specifically to 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 long before, since I was a tyke. Being in women’s-only spaces or events has always alienated me, because I felt like I shouldn’t be in such spaces. I have long seen myself as potentially a boy when I was younger, long before any of this shit happened to me. Being butch was not enough; agender was just too confusing.

Happy and healthy as a man.

Those few weeks of healing after coming home 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 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, because of how easy it is to suffer from a heat stroke.

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 was a man trapped in a woman’s body, who was lucky to heal his body on the anniversary it was stolen from him.

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