And now, after coming out to my therapist, and my girlfriend, and my parents, now, after entering a new community online and creating a blog and writing real and intimate details about myself to an unfiltered audience, now after contacting a doctor and making an appointment and arrangements for surgery, now I question, do I really need top surgery?
I am not worried I might change my mind. I will not change my mind since I have never wanted breasts, there is nothing to change back to: I have always wanted a male chest. This chest, the one I am approaching, was always mine. I am not worried about what other people think: people I don’t know won’t care, and the people that matter to me, are important in my life, are supportive.
I am worried about surgery: look, I know this might sound ridiculous to some of you, but I am worried about dying. Ugh. Even reading it now as I type it I cringe. I sound like a little bitch. This surgery, as I understand it, is fairly safe: how many boob jobs are happening right now? How many people are having liposuction right now? How many people, in the United States alone, today will go home without an appendix, or with a new penis? They gave Dick Cheney a new heart, A new HEART, for chrissakes. A DOCTOR PUT HIS HANDS INTO DICK CHENEY’S CHEST CAVITY, REMOVED AN ESSENTIAL ORGAN, AND PUT A NEW ORGAN IN. THEY TOOK HIS OLD VAMPIRE HEART OUT OF HIS CHEST AND PUT A NEW INNOCENT ONE IN AND SEWED HIM UP, AND HE’S LIKE 800 YEARS OLD, AND he survived. I will be fine.
The thing is this, that I have a switch in my head that is stuck in the “on” position. The switch is labeled “overactive pessimistic imagination.” And it is in this position because I had it rough as a kid. It was traumatic and ugly a lot of the time. A lot was taken away from me that shouldn’t have been, innocence, my ability to trust, things of this nature were damaged in largely irrevocable ways. And so you find the nervous adult before you. One that has overcome quite a bit of that trauma, but also one who hasn’t forgotten that this world we live in, guess what–it isn’t fair and shitty things happen to good people all the time. I’m not in that house anymore, not terrorized by those people anymore, but that fear, that gut-level instinct sticks with me and colors how I navigate the world I live in now.
Now, my life is the best it has ever been: I have a good job that pays my bills and is only as stressful as I make it. I am writing regularly again. I am in love with a kind and supportive and intelligent and really fucking hot woman. She loves me back the same and I am embarrassingly happy with her. I am more comfortable in my skin now than ever before, in large part due to the acknowledgments I have made to myself and to others about my gender, and in large part due to the upcoming surgery. So with this OPI switch on, it seems only natural, and almost inevitable, that because everything is better than it ever has been before, that it will likely all be taken away from me.
I am in good physical condition for surgery. I am vegan, and go to the gym at least three times a week (but usually five), and I don’t smoke or drink. I get an appropriate amount of sleep most nights, when I’m not lying in bed worrying about things I can’t control. I have a healthy sense of humor and laugh a lot. I will live through surgery. But, I still ask myself, is this surgery worth risking my life for?
I have said it before, I was comfortable “enough” with breasts, but I can’t go back to that, to ignoring my body. The way I was living before was about repression, and just like coming out as gay, I can’t go back into the trans closet. I can’t unlearn everything I have found out. I can’t bind for the rest of my life in public and hunch my shoulders at home. I don’t want to spend the summer months under multiple shirts and never go to the beach. I’m a Pisces for God’s sake–I want to get in the water. I want to have sex with my girlfriend with the lights on. I want to come out from under all these covers.
When I squint into the horizon of my future, and see the blur of what life is like without tits, I see not only good posture but also what that symbolizes. I can feel some of the tension leave my body, and the tension that is released from this surgery is an old tension, one I have been carrying around for decades. One that reaches out and sticks to other insecurities in the air, and weighs me down. I know surgery is not some magic potion. The magical is often mysterious and misunderstood and that is why it is magic–how it works is hidden. But I know how surgery works: I go in, my breasts are removed, I come out and am able to be in the world in the form best suited for me.
Is it worth it? Ask yourself: everyday of your life you are mistake for someone else. You look in the mirror and see someone else’s reflection. You start to feel like that other person, you think, but you can’t be sure if this is how that other person feels or if that’s just what you think that other person is supposed to feel like. That uncertainty becomes part of you. You start to hate that other person for trapping you like this. You are given the chance to have surgery that would correct the mistake. This is not about controlling how other people see you, as we can do very little about how others choose to interpret us. But after the surgery you would be able to see yourself, for the first time. In the mirror, at home, in the world, you are no longer haunted by the reflection of that other person–now it’s just you there looking back. So of course it is worth it: the risk of this surgery to me is minimal. I might have a greater chance of being hit by a car crossing the street to get to my bus stop than dying during top surgery. If I turn tail here, if I change my mind then I am not only a coward I am also a liar. And I want more for my life than that.
What I risk by not having top surgery is far more terrifying than death: a life full of doubt, doubt of myself, doubt about what I could have had, what my life could have looked like to me. I risk losing respect for myself. I risk finding out who I really am. I have this opportunity in front of me, to be honest and brave in a way few people ask of themselves. We watch t.v. and go on Facebook and eat a lunch that is too big and yell at strangers and we do all this to avoid looking at ourselves. I am not pretending I am not here anymore. I want to learn how to look. I am trying. And maybe through this practice, the practice of looking at the fear and acting anyway, I will finally start sleeping through the night.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli