Greatest (T)its

Dear Readers,

I’ve missed you!  I didn’t post these last two Fridays because I’ve been busy with another writing endeavor, one secret at this point, but as the project evolves, I’ll consider some sneak peeks…

I thought, in the meantime, I’d do a top ten list of the most viewed posts.

The Homepage, at 25,800 views, is killing it, and my About Me page was in the top ten as well.  I took those two out of the list below, as to limit to only posts and not pages.

And so without further adieu, let’s start this party off right with…

10. Post-Op Depression: Ugh. Ok…that was a rough start.  Anyway, on to number 9…

9. Photo Comparison: Face Shape on T: Wherein you get the pleasure of gazing upon me.

8. At Home in the Underground: Departures and Returns: Where your hero says goodbye to an old friend.

7. 11 Weeks Post-Op: What a slick baby!

6. Blog Brothers: Some of the dudes I looked to for fraternity and inspiration when I first started this journey.

5. Day Six: First Look at the New Chest, or Parade of Photos! Gross.  But informative!  (Still gross.)

4. Two Weeks Post-Op: You guys are really into the topless pics, you old pervs.

3. The, as it were, titular post.

2. Top Surgery How-To: Compression Vest and Bandages Daily Regiment: Boring.  But if it makes you happy, I’m supportive.

And the number one most visited post, with over a thousand views is…

1. Top Surgery Check List! Hooray!

You have a favorite that didn’t make it on the list?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Have a favorite trans blog you’d like to inform me of?  Leave it in the comments!

Thanks for reading, friends, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

You Can’t Go Wrong With Skulls

Yesterday I stopped by Revolution Tattoo in Bucktown for an appointment with Omar, the owner.  The shop is on Western Avenue in Chicago.  I did a lot of research on shops in the city, googling artists and studios, asking friends for suggestions, and contacting the shops for consultations.  Revolution was my pic for many reasons: the traditional tattoo designs on the leggy walls, the antler collection above the doorway, the large bat hanging from the ceiling.  When I arrived Omar was just putting the finishing touches on a design he and I talked about two weeks prior, so yesterday was the day I got the outline for my chest piece.

2222 N Western Avenue

2222 N Western Avenue

The design has quite a lot of detail, so we did the outline in one day, and are doing the shading in a month, after Omar returns from two weeks in Europe, and I’ve forgotten how painful chest tattoos can be.  While sitting in the chair yesterday I got to know Omar, listened to some stories about his shop and the time and effort it took him and his wife to build it.  K came with me for support* and was great about helping the conversations along.  She asked Omar about his wife’s role in Revolution’s genesis and he told us about her curatorial interests and the art space they have next door.  She was responsible, largely, for the decor of the studio, which made sense to me.  Another part of the reason I chose Revolution for my tattoo wasn’t just because of the impressive bone collection or because Omar is talented, seasoned, and trustworthy, but also because the shop feels homey.  It has, as Omar said, “a woman’s touch.”  Each artist has his own station, and I’m sure they’re filled with objects specific to that person.  But there is a cohesive warmth to the space as a whole, the details make it not only comfortable and evocative, but authentic.  Revolution is a classic tattoo shop, it feels small and broken-in and interesting.  That’s the kind of local business I want to support, and it’s the kind of place I want my tattoo experience to find its home in.

Something that I didn’t expect is that Omar reminded me of my uncle Tony quite a lot.

It happened like this: I’m reclined in the black tattoo chair, Omar’s telling me a story about his beloved green 1971 Chevy truck** and out of the corner of my eye I catch this little smirk rustle his cheek, the twitch and shift of his full beard gives it away and that movement on that cheek reminds me of Tony.  Until that moment I hadn’t noticed how Omar’s beard and hair are the same color as Tony’s before he went grey.  Omar’s nose comes to the same rounded point as Tony’s but the similarity is most surprising in the eyes.  They both have playful, sharp brown eyes.  At first, I found myself avoiding his gaze at times because it felt like Tony was looking at me and that stirred up all kinds of ugly feelings.  But as I laid there, because it wasn’t Tony leaning over me, something turned over in my gut.  Sometimes clenching my fists in my pockets as Omar worked the gun’s way over my sternum, sometimes leaning into the many needle points because that felt better than to feel the ticklish vibration in my ribs, I thought about Tony and it was actually quite nice, thinking about Tony as a younger person, someone not related to me and without all that ugly baggage and I felt like maybe I was capable of healing Tony’s legacy by forgiving him in those little moments.

So I thought about healing for a little bit, how it can be healing in that moment to let Tony be free of his pain, and so then I could be free of the pain he caused me.  I could just listen to Omar’s stories, and let Tony step in and out of that room, and I concentrated on the little belly breaths I took to keep the canvas still and felt calm and pleased and at peace about my relationship with Tony.  And when Tony would lean back and out again, I thought about how my chest was healed after surgery, how my body was healed with my soul, how healing it can be to cut out things that don’t fit and aren’t representative of you.  I wish Tony would have cut out alcohol, but he couldn’t.  It was nice to imagine getting a tattoo from my cool uncle Tony.  Maybe we were in his shop, or in his garage, and maybe we were talking about girls.  Maybe we were talking about Led Zepplin.  As the gun made the arch of a wing on my chest I knew what it was like to have that guy in my life.  It was only for a few seconds here and there, and it was after he died, but Tony and I found our way to each other.  Wings are funny that way, when you don’t know how to use them they take you to mysterious places you have never been.

I looked down and saw another little feather appear.  I thought about wings and flight and how I cut out my breasts and how the scars helped me to get above myself.  I thought about how those scars arch like wings.  And I thought about that Leonard Cohen line in Anthem, “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  I thought about how much light those scars have let in.  And sometimes when I would look down while the gun was being dipped in ink I would see this black image drawing my eye away from my scars.  Which is part of the point, but also I looked at my scars and thought about how this was their first time being really looked at in public, and by someone who wasn’t K or my doctor.  I thought about how those scars lift me.  So soon I found myself smiling easily in that chair, K sitting a few feet away and chatting with Chito, another artists in the shop.

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Chito and I discovered we’re from the same home town and so for a while we talked about how the town has changed, talked about the roads that used to dead end and now they go over a new bridge and all the way out of town.  There’s a pause in the chatter and he seems far away, but then he steps closer to me, away from his table and he squints at the design emerging on my chest.  Almost inaudible over The Sword’s Barael’s Blade, Chito says something.

“Skulls,” he breaths wistfully, “You can’t go wrong with Skulls.”

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Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*I have many tattoos, so I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand for that.  But it was my first time being shirtless in public, essentially, so it was more of a “stick around until I can gauge whether this feels like a safe space for me.”  I got a good feeling there right off the bat, but then she stuck around for the conversation and fun and ended up staying all 4 hours.  What a champ is she!
**For many years when I was a kid, Tony parked that same model in our driveway in powder blue.

 

6 Month Surgery Update! [NSFW]

Well gang, here we are: 6 months post-op.

Still pale and skinny, still rockin’ crooked nipples.

Physical Update I have regained most of the sensation in my chest, but still lack erotic sensation in my nipples.  This I may regain someday, or I may not, but, for now, I’m just glad to have most of the feeling back.  My right side still has some intermittent aches and pains, mostly due to the drain that was in that side.  When I lay in bed on my left side and my right arm is resting on my right side, it’s quite painful.  Also, when I wake up in the morning, my chest feels tight, around my armpits and above the incision lines, but just moving my arms around a bit dissipates this tension.  Nonetheless, it is tension that was not there before the surgery.  Yoga obviously helps out quite a bit in this area. My nipples are staying, I think, for the long term.  They still expunge a stitch now and then (as do the incision lines), and in those moments I get a bit of blood, but the spot heals up very quickly, like a popped zit.  The nipple color is still a bit splotchy, but they are continuing to heal and settle and I think they will even out over the years.  I seem to have some scar tissue on my left side that pulls the symmetry out of whack a bit, but that is not something I am concerned with. I have regained full range of motion at this point, and this month, have gone back to regular workouts.  Cardio I keep at 20-30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week, weights I rotate upper and lower body every other day, 5 days a week.  Upper body weights, just this week, are starting to reach and surpass pre-surgery limits.  For example, I’m doing 55 lbs. on the bicep machine, whereas pre-surgery I was only up to 50.  And I am up to 45 lbs. on my pecs, the same as pre-surgery. I’ve stopped wearing the silicone strips, many months ago, basically because I was so over wearing a sports bra.  And while they might have reduced the level of scarring, I am still happy with the results.  I am planning on getting a rather large chest tattoo, say six months or so from now, but the specifics of that are still TBD.  I do lather on a good amount of shea butter at least twice a day, as the scars tend to dry out rather easily, and it keeps loose the skin in my upper chest, which I think also helps with minimizing scar tissue.  No matter the benefit of it otherwise, rubbing lotion on my chest just feels good. Emotional/Psychological Update I love my new chest.  Just love it.  Of course, it will be nice to see some more definition as I continue to work the pecs and in the event that I start T, but even without, I dig it, how it looks and how it feels, both when I touch it and when it is touched by one sweet K. What does hurt is when little miss Violet steps on me when I’m laying down.  She manages every time to find the incision lines and basically gives me an impromptu deep tissue massage.  It is good for breaking up the scar tissue, though. Having a flat chest, has, not surprisingly, but still disappointingly, accentuated my hips.  Before, my tits sort of evened things out.  Now, without more muscle in my upper body, I think my hips appear slightly wider than they are.  This is probably mostly in my head, but when I look in the mirror, I don’t like those proportions.  Continuing the gym routine will undoubtedly move that ratio in the right direction. Overall, I know I have some more healing to do, but I am very happy with my six month progress. Let’s end with some more pics:

Right side profile: teenage boy.

and the left:

Flat-chested never looked better.

Some nipple and incision close-ups:

Right side

and the left:

You can see a bit of that scar tissue swelling on the outer side of the scar here, not a big deal, but something to be aware of if you’re weighing the pros and cons of the surgery.

And one more for the adoring fans:

I’m sorry ladies, I have a girlfriend.

Be nice to yourselves, Your Pal Eli

Matt Kailey on Michelle Kosilek

Agreed, and well-stated:

Matt Kailey's Tranifesto

Our community seems sharply divided on the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf to allow convicted killer Michelle Kosilek to undergo transition surgery while in prison, paid for by the state of Massachusetts.

I understand the anger and frustration of those who have worked three jobs, sold their possessions, and still can’t afford to pay for this surgery. They think, “I have been a law-abiding citizen all my life and I can’t afford to have surgery, but a convicted murderer can get it for free? How fair is that?”

Probably not all that fair, actually. But, in my opinion, the Michelle Kosilek decision is about far more than one person – one murderer, even – getting her transition surgery covered by the state. I think there are some points that we have to look at with regard to this decision, all of which take Kosilek out of the…

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11 Weeks Post-Op

I’ve been hella-lazy with the photographed, post-op milestones, but here we are–11 weeks!

At this point, my baby would be just over 1 1/2 inches long and about the size of a fig.  But thank God, I just have top surgery scars, not some disgusting immaculate conception.

Like a hung painting, I’m only crooked when immobile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, my left side is still a bit swollen (it bows out at about nipple height) and I am beginning to accept that this might be some scar tissue.  Or, this might be only 11 weeks into healing.  In any event, this is not my long term, healed chest.

I haven’t done any profile shots in a while, so I thought I would take some today:

RIGHT SIDE:

Additional scars courtesy of my binder and the draining tube. Oh shit! Is that the Virgin Mary hoola-hooping in the background? Why, yes it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT SIDE:

Ignore all that shit in the background here–we’re packing to move; you know how that is. Wait a minute, that’s just our over-the-door coat rack and additional floor-supported coat rack.  Shit, it always looks like that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The scars are puffier the closer they come to my armpits, no doubt because that’s where they get the most stretching.  The bits of the scars that look blurry or smudged are actually much lighter in real life and are healing the best.  In a year I imagine those bits will be almost invisible.

Left side: the sergeant at full attention, a little dry, but healthy and happy to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In an effort to exert his manhood, the Sarge has recently sprouted his first hair, a tiny prick of a thing, coming in on the southwest hemisphere (still too diminutive to be spotted in this picture, oh, but trust me, it’s there).

Right side, our little Cody is growing up so fast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cody was the late bloomer, purple and gross for most of the first few weeks, but look at him now, so pink and symmetrical and sexy!

How do I feel?  I am happy: I am pleased with my body’s progress, and thank it nightly for all the hard work it’s doing.  I have been lax about using the silicone strips, but I do see a difference between the days when I wear them and when I don’t, and K sees it too: the scars are much less raised and much more skin toned when I wear them, and if I don’t wear them my scars are puffier and more red.  I have only an occasional shooting pain where my body is continuing to regenerate tissue and nerves, and have regained full range of motion.  I am still a bit tight when I stretch far overhead, but it’s a pull in the scar tissue I feel, not any pain.  And that pull feels good, like a healthy stretch, not a painful injury.  I need now to be working on my scar tissue massages to loosen that area up, and continue to moisten my nipples, as they still get dry if I don’t put some vitamin e or aloe vera on them at least twice a day.

In closing, a shot of the view from up here:

Untitled 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

6 Weeks Post-Op!

The Update:

Today I did yoga for the first time post-op.  It was a gentle class, done at home, focusing on yoga and illness (I have been fighting a summer cold for a few days, the first cold I have ever had in the summer in my life).  It felt really good to do some child’s pose, some forward folds, some legs up the wall.  Stretching my arms above my head was a challenge, and I went easy on it, but it still felt good.

I am still numb, mostly around my nipples, and I can feel scar tissue under my skin when I rub the incision lines–there is hard tissue over my pecs concentrated between the incision lines and the new nipples.  K has been working to massage my chest in those areas a bit, God love her for it.

The part that hurts the most, oddly enough, isn’t the incisions, or the nipples, or even the front of my chest.  It’s the area on my torso under my armpits: I can’t even hold a piece of paper under my arm, it’s that tender there.  And I still feel slightly numb just below my clavicle–but otherwise lots of sensation is returning to my chest.  I still also feel a bit swollen under my arms, I can tell they don’t sit against my body like they did before the surgery, and this may still change.  But I also notice this swollen area is hard, like the scar tissue area under my nipples, so this slight bulge on both sides may be worked away over time with massage.

Some Pictures:

Full frontal

Right side close-up. This nipple I named Cody.

And lefty, because he is perpetually erect, I call the Sargent.

And one last artful shot, for the connoisseurs in the audience:

Untitled.

Last week marked my triumphant return to work.  The folks there were happy to see me, and the few who asked where I had been (I had told many people why I was going to be out for a month, and word spread organically, which is how I wanted it) were supportive, or at least awkwardly polite.  I have been on what we call transitional duty.  This will last for two weeks, where I will be facing the shelves and greeting customers, and generally making myself look busy without doing any actual work.  It’s boring, but temporary, and at least I’m not sitting at home on my ass.  At least I’m getting paid.  And so, friends, I will leave you with a picture of me in my work shirt, without tits.

Another fantastic example of my graphic design ineptitude. But at least the trendy grocery store chain I work for won’t sue me for using their name in my trashy tranny blog.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

One Month Post-Op

May 25th was my surgery day, so we find ourselves at one month post op.  I am noticing that I feel better, seemingly, in leaps and bounds now.  The last real bit of soreness or muscle discomfort comes from the part of my pecs that connect my chest to my arms, and only if I am reaching really high do I feel that burning sensation I used to feel with almost any arm movement at all.

There is still some residual swelling under my armpits, and this swelling is hard to the touch–perhaps this isn’t swelling but my burgeoning pectoral muscles?  Unlikely, but I can dream!  My nipples are still a bit askew, but are getting closer and closer to even.

I am putting Vasoline on my nipples twice daily, putting a small non-stick bandage over them, and wearing a sports bra to keep them in place, because as you can see in the pictures, I am developing some sweet red welts in reaction to the tape I was using to keep the bandages and silicone strips in place.  I go topless when I am at home, but when going out or to bed I wear the bandages and bra over the greased up nipples.

Dr. Medalie’s nurse advised me to wear the silicone strips on the incision lines for 12 hours a day, and of course longer won’t hurt, but given that I have to put a bra on to keep them in place, I just wear them overnight, and for a few hours in the morning before the shower, to get my 12 hours in.  This goes on for at least 3 weeks, maybe longer, depending on how I feel about it.

My mood is stable, and fine.  I have less than a week before I go back to work, and for this I am glad.  I look forward to my regular routine and to getting some of my strength back that I built up from the kind of physical work I do.  I also look forward to getting back into the gym–albeit at much lighter weights than I was using pre-surgery.  And regular paychecks will be pretty sweet, too.

One Month Post-Op Pictures

For comparison, this was the first time we saw my new chest, 6 days post-op:

Whoa.

Overall, I am pleased with the results so far, with the understanding that I have a lot more healing to do before all is settled by way of “results.”

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli