Well, here I am (we are, really, [thanks for sticking around]), two weeks post-op, and I feel good. My body seems to be healing well, and I would like to take some time here to break down where I am at and chronicle some important things to note if you are considering this surgery.
I got to take my compression vest off for good yesterday, and while I was pretty careful with my movement out of fear of causing any pain, I had no trouble at all. I wasn’t playing tackle football, but I put a t-shirt on and went outside. In this time of healing I have to remind myself that those small victories are actually large ones. It was my first night out in a t-shirt, and if you knew me, you would know that I love t-shirts, that I have a nice collection of them, and that I have missed them.
Today has been good as well, I wore a backpack for the first time and it went fine–I am still most tender where my arms meets my torso, and that is where the backpack straps come down from over my shoulder. But still, I had minimal discomfort, and my laptop was in it, so it was of medium weight. The incisions are completely closed, and just this morning I pulled off what I thought last night was more surgical tape, but was in fact skin glue. Now that that is off, no more blue lines across my chest. The scars are thin and the same color as my skin, for the most part, and are healing so much better than my hysto scar. I am pretty certain my hysto scar healed like that because I overdid it during recovery. Cest la vie.
I am trying to gently increase arm range of motion just by holding my elbows straight out from my torso and making little circles in the air, and that movement feels good, like a little stretch. When I do that I feel no pain in my incisions, and the skin around the incisions is happy be stretched a bit.
I have had some discoloration on my right nipple, that last night looked to me like an infection. My buddy Tam reassured me it was nothing to worry about, and although I believed him, I am a great big worrier when it comes to my body, so I sent a picture and an email to Dr. Medalie’s nurse and she gave my nipple trouble a name: “superficial skin loss,” which yes, did actually reassure me. I am to continue with the Bacatracin for another week on my nipples and send her a picture in 7 days. Below is said nipple.
***NOT SAFE FOR WORK…UNLESS YOU WORK IN A NIPPLE FACTORY***
So here I sit, at my kitchen table with petroleum jelly on my incision scars and Bacatracin and bandages taped to my nipples and I am feeling alright.
Although I still have my bandages and moisturizers to content with, this is the first time since before sprouting tits that I will be going outside without a bra or any binding. Obviously, I feel a bit exposed. When I put my shirt on after K finished applying the bandages I felt as though I was missing something, felt like I had forgotten something important and I felt a bit of panic well up. Of course I knew immediately what I was missing, and there was some sadness there. I don’t miss wearing bras or the binder, and I will be much more comfortable now. But something is gone, and every physical layer I remove is a reminder of the change my body just went through. I am happy, but sad too.
This sadness is a process, and I am really looking forward to having my healthy body in tact, and making good memories with my new chest. I realized that although I made the right choice, I only have experiences with my bloody and numb and tender chest, not memories with the rad chest I will have in 6+ months. After trauma we all need time to heal, and so I am in the middle of that time. As I regain feeling in that part of my body (to whatever extent I can), I will shake this sadness when I start to regain some more range of motion, when I start to regularly wear my cherished t-shirt collection again, when my chest is not healing, but healed.
But last night I had a bit of a panic: I felt trapped, trapped by these incision, trapped in the middle of genders, after two things brought these emotions up:
1. K told someone at work I prefer male pronouns, and
2. I was introduced to a friend of a friend, and in that interaction I saw her eyes go from my face, to my chest, then back up to my face: she couldn’t tell what gender I was. I am small, and have a female voice, but don’t have tits and go by Eli. I was freaking her out. And that look on her face, that blank look of confusion, freaked me out, too.
Let’s dissect a bit:
1. I do prefer male pronouns. And I have given K the ok to approach the pronoun issue as she sees fit and as it arises. I am glad she told this co-worker I prefer male pronouns. But I started to think about the reality of going back to work, the reality of correcting co-workers but not customers, the inevitable uncomfortable conversations, the confusion. There are many questions I don’t have answers to, and it is easy enough for me to tell the questioner to mind their own business if they ask me something I am not certain about. But in that moment, it will feel ugly. And so last night I found myself thinking, seriously, for the first time, that I might have made the wrong decision.
Of course I didn’t. I made a choice. If I still had tits I would be bemoaning their existence. I knew this would be hard. And here is some of that tough stuff. I didn’t panic because I missed my tits, I panicked because I don’t have the cushion, as they were, of my birth gender makers anymore. My tits afforded me a certain level of anonymity, a certain barrier of protection: I could want to be a man, and think of myself as a man, without declaring that to the world and without being forced to muster the courage of my convictions. Now, as I tell people I am trans, and have surgeries, I have to own up to my insides to the outside world. And that shit is hard and scary.
2. While I was a bit freaked out by this woman’s reaction, in that split second facial expression, I can hardly condemn her for it. She was trying to figure out what pronouns to use, and it wasn’t lost on me that she only used my name, no pronouns, the entire time I was in her presence. ISN’T THIS WHAT I WANTED? Didn’t I want to be seen as Eli, or as male? Now I am getting that and I am freaked out. So no, I didn’t make the wrong choice, I made the scary hard choice and here comes some of the scary hard parts. Sometimes, I will want to run to the shelter of familiar female recognition, even if it isn’t right for me, just because I was safe there for 30 years. Problem is, I am burning that shelter to the ground. I felt exposed, and I felt like I had no place to go for solace.
I know there is somewhere to have solace: I am building that new place within myself. But it’s not built yet, and so I freaked out a little. I talked all this out with K, and she was a great help, and that is why community is so important for trans folks. Sometimes we need to be reassured we are not crazy, or making the wrong choice, just because the world tells us we are mentally ill. We, like everyone else, sometimes need to be validated and need to hear, outside of our own heads, that we are not insane. That is, we need our humanity to be recognized. And that is what K did last night, when I was feeling inhuman, she reminded me I was just another human going through some shit. It was good to be reminded I am not special, and that this will pass.
Economic Healing (if you are not considering surgery, skip this part–it’s boring)
I am waiting on insurance papers from Valerie, Dr. Medalie’s secretary, in order to file my own claim. I was told, after I paid for it upfront, that Valerie couldn’t file a claim for me to see if the insurance company could reimburse me. So beware, if you know upfront that your insurance won’t pay for it, I would say, ask Valerie to file a claim anyway, just in case. The worst that could happen is that they turn it down. But if you pay upfront, you will have to file a claim on your own. It doesn’t sound too difficult, but I would have rather she filed it for me. I will post how it goes as I get further into the process.
I am pretty pleased with my process, and every time K changes my bandages I thank my nipples for doing such a good job of healing, thank my incisions for scarring so minimally and timely, and I remind myself that my body is very good at being a body. I don’t see too many (actually, I saw zero) pictures of pre-op chests in my online research, and I remember wishing I had something to compare to when I was looking at post-op pics, trying to determine if I thought I would get a justifiable result from this surgery, and when then trying to discern what doctor was right for me. I have decided not to post any here, but if you are reading this, and considering this surgery, and seeing some photos for comparison would be of help to you, please leave a message here and we can talk via email.
Show and Tell
Remember those flowers I bought my tits?
I laid them to rest in my backyard:
My life without tits, 2 weeks post-op:
A left side close-up:
And the right side:
And one more for the road:
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli