Purveyor of Pleasure

Pleasure is my business, my life, my joy, my purpose.

Tag: surgery

Eight Hours

Sitting and watching the minutes tick away until it is 8 hours to my surgery (or at least, the start time they’ve given me), when I’m no longer allowed to eat. I am wondering how much I’ll be able to sleep tonight, given my level of anxious anticipation of the event.

A brief aside, though, I installed a fancy new bidet toilet seat today, which will be of great help to me while I am unable to use my arms. It will also be of great help to me in life, because bidets are rad and I have wanted one for a long time. This is as good of an excuse as any! Those of you who are coming over to help, visit, or drop off a meal will be welcome to try it, or at least marvel at it, or ignore it, idk, you do what you want!

I’m certainly scared. The level of certainty around this that came after the pre-op appointment has melted a little bit in the last few hours and all those questions I posted about previously are back in my head. I kind of anticipated this, and also was hoping to avoid it.

As the time creeps slowly onward and I get closer and closer to surgery time, my thoughts are thinking of aesthetics. At the Community Queerituality meeting I attended this evening we discussed a lot of things, including queer aesthetics. Some of the things cited by the facilitator as queer aesthetics were brightly colored hair, piercings, and an undercut, all of which I sport on the daily. My response to this had me contemplating aloud the ways those aspects of my appearance had been constants over the last sixteen plus years and came from other countercultures I have been part of, not initially markings (to me) of my queerness, but certainly of some kind of alternative social affiliation. I also shared about my strong desire for many years to be seen as queer while I was trying really hard to be cis. Definitely these aspects of my appearance are markers of difference, but not inherently (to me) of queerness.

In typical post-sharing-in-a-group anxiety, my brain is going over the things I said in that context and the responses I got. Another participant, not long after I spoke, mentioned disliking the idea that queerness had any particular aesthetic, and I’m not sure if it’s my anxiety that is telling me they were addressing what I had said directly, meaning I hadn’t quite explained what I was trying to say adequately, or if they were riffing off of the topic itself. I agree with them, ultimately, but this is part of the basis for what is coming up in me tonight. The hook that the transphobia is able to get in through, maybe.

The questions swimming around my brain are about aesthetics. This is a procedure that is designed to change my aesthetics, designed to change my outward physical appearance. It is different than a purely aesthetic surgery, however, because it is a trans surgery, because it is about gender confirmation, and yet it is still about aesthetics in the sense it is about what we can perceive and about beauty and reality. It is about what other people will see when they look at me, and what I will see and feel when I am with myself. It is about sensation and senses and perception and we may talk about these things as being superficial, but they really aren’t, they’re about how we experience the world and manifest reality.

Writing this out has been useful for those thoughts so freely floating around. I have never disliked having a large chest, exactly, though it hasn’t felt like mine or part of me in a while. Certainly it has been both inconvenient and wonderful at times. When I was younger and striving/trying/pretending to be cis, I placed a lot of emphasis on my chest and the way it looked in clothing. I was proud of my fat hourglass figure. I hung a lot of my own self-worth and self-esteem on being sexually desirable, and my chest was always a part of that. It was rarely for me, but as a symbol or indicator of something. It took me a long time to unpack that for myself, part of those two plus years of talking and thinking and feeling into this surgery as an option for me was really investigating where my desires were coming from. I’ve said for a long time that my ideal form is as a shapeshifter, being able to play with my form however I like. I’m sure most of us would choose that, if given the option, but not all of us would play with the same aspects of our form.

There is a declaration in this action as well. I am claiming ownership of my body and my ability to declare who I am. I have had other body mods that have functioned as me claiming my body as my own, both in the form of piercings and tattoos, and in some ways this is the same, but in other ways it is completely different. I don’t entirely understand gender, honestly. I don’t think anyone does. My experience of it is something innate, something sacred, something that can also be fluid and changeable. I have been worried that my desire for this has more to do with expectations of what being trans looks like in an AFAB body, or because of the trans narrative that says this is what I should want. I am afraid of a lot of things, but that is a big one.

The more I think about it, write about it right now, and really feel into my body, the more I know my body is done with having this large chest. That’s kind of as much as I can know right now. I am supposed to have this experience, for whatever reason, maybe including because it is part of the dominant trans narrative. But this is not for superficial reasons. This is not for fitting in reasons. I think this is the important part, what was bugging me about the exchange earlier. My appearance has never been intended to fit into any particular sub- or counter-culture, even if it does or has. I am always, before anything else, wearing what I want to wear and looking how I want to look. This is, of course, influenced by cultures of various kinds, but it has to do with what aesthetics please me the most. I am forever trying to figure out how I can be comfortable with the person staring back at me in the mirror. That is the most important factor in all of this for me. The change that surgery marks is both big and not big in this sense. It will change everything and nothing all at once.

Four Days to Top Surgery

I had the pre-op appointment on Thursday. I felt so much better after the appointment, not just because of the information that was given to me, but moreso because the level of care, compassion, professionalism, and humor that everyone I spoke with had. I feel in very good hands. Not sure if I’ve mentioned already in here that I’m having surgery with Dr. Megan Dreveskracht at La Belle Vie in Tukwilla. I’m scheduled for Noon on Thursday, October 4th. Now just four days away (basically three and a half as I’m finally posting this)!

I was pretty paralyzed for a while there… or at least moving very s l o w l y through my days. Basically, I had a whole lot of freeze happen in my nervous system after I scheduled surgery. A microcosm of the macrocosm of surgery freeze I have experienced over the last few years, no doubt. I had a challenging time staying in my own experience for a while, feeling stuck and having to sort out a lot of feelings, preferring to distract myself. I scheduled nearly a month ago, which seemed like plenty of time. I had assumed the year I waited between consult and surgery was enough time for me to have sorted through my myriad of feelings about surgery, but obviously not. Not only have I never had surgery before, making this experience terrifying in and of itself for that reason, but this is a trans surgery, so I also had all that to contend with.

My fear and freeze had to do with the questions that I had no answers to. I wondered what it would be like to have surgery. I questioned how I would be able to let myself be the kind of vulnerable and receive the kind of support I know I’ll need. I felt a whole lot of internalized transphobia come up. It had already taken me many years to come to the decision to have surgery, each movement forward finding a new set of blocks within me. Already wrestling with so many transphobic questions for years, I had paused in my road to top surgery after my initial consultations a year ago because of the way they bounced around my internal landscape. All the questions came back after I scheduled. It was no longer an abstract interest or desire, it was happening. There was a date.

Of course, this transphobia isn’t coming from me, not really, but it is inside me. It’s coming from the culture and has seeped into all of our bodies through conscious and unconscious messages. It is coming from the current power structures and social institutions that we collectively agree to. We can call it heterocisnormative imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy if we want to, but no matter what we call it, it is the water that we swim in and where we get our nourishment (and, coincidentally, why we are all actually starving). The assumptions. The caveats. The questions. The comments reminding me not to rush into anything (my response: I’ve been talking to my therapist about this for over two years. I’m not rushing). The assurance that I’m still loved if I do this (my response: that was never in question! And yet, it is, thanks, transphobia). The commentary on the politics of trans surgery or how it may or may not impact my mental health and my life to have this surgery (my response: too much for a small aside, but I’m doing this for me and the personal is political). Then there are the questions I have grappled with for years, why it took me so long to do this: what if I don’t like it? what if it’s the wrong choice? what if it means people will think I’m a man now? why does it matter so much to myself or anyone? why will it make me a “more valid” trans person (as if I’m not a valid trans person already) in the eyes of so many? why can’t I just be fine without it?

So many questions.

These questions, and more, have been running through my head pretty regularly for years. Those responses are all ones I have received directly. This is all transphobia. It’s exhausting.

It has been a long road to this surgery. I recently looked back over old journal entries to find dates for transness/transition/top-surgery-related milestones: I started binding in 2011, using gender neutral pronouns in 2010 and id’ing as genderqueer in 2007. I’m pretty sure it was also 2011 that I finally began thinking my genderqueerness might be enough to consider myself to be trans. I had previously been told by a number of trans folks that I couldn’t possibly be trans because I’m femme and AFAB, an experience that, no doubt, set me back a bit in terms of my self identity and gender expression. For a few years, at least, I was terrified and anxious any time I tried to express anything other than (cis) femme, certain that someone would realize I was a fake and call me on it. Instead of feeling like I could embrace other trans folks in my process of gender exploration, I was at least as terrified of us as I was of cis folks invalidating my gender.

I first really talked with my therapist and doctor about the possibility of top surgery well over two years ago. It always seemed like something other trans folks got, but not me. Actually, I am sure they both asked me about it prior to when I started testosterone in 2015 (which also took me over a year to actually allow myself to explore, my first appointment with my Doc to discuss T was in late 2013 and I didn’t start T until early 2015), and I have been uncertain about surgery all those years. Questioning if it’s a good idea, if it’s really for me, all those questions above, all the thoughts. I wasn’t regularly binding until a couple of years ago, having previously utilized it as part of my gender expression rather than a central indicator of it. Now, and for a while, I have been binding daily (unless I am at home all day with no visitors). I experience more social dysphoria than physical dysphoria.

Because of my level of privilege, the barriers to top surgery have all been personal and cultural, with a minimal amount of medical and/or class barriers to the experience. Because I have private insurance through my husbear’s tech job, I have a trans-knowledgeable therapist I see every week and a GP who is one of the best trans-related healthcare providers in Seattle, also arguably one of the best places to be trans in the country. My fat body has been a barrier to my choice of surgeons, and I did have to endure some fatphobia in the selection process, but there are still plenty of surgeons in Seattle who would take me as a patient. I met with three doctors to choose the one I am going with. I hit a bit of an insurance snag last year, as we switched insurances in August and again in January, and that was enough to be a factor in my stalling, but not the main cause. I took my time getting to this place because of all the barriers I had built up in myself against surgery, against getting what I want and need, against doing things for myself.

Ultimately, though, I’m doing this for me. Sometimes I wonder if transitioning is the only thing I’ve ever truly done in my life that is just for me. For so many years I tried to be cis. I tried to be happy and content with being read as a woman, even though I’m not. I tried to be content with being assumed to be straight, even though I’m not. I tried to be happy with my body the way it is, especially after so much work to love my fat body, and I will be. Surgery isn’t necessary for all trans folks, but for some of us it is the answer. Even if it eases just a little discomfort, makes our lives just a little bit easier, or makes us a little bit happier, it is worth it. It will not eliminate my experiencing transphobia, either internal or external, that is something we all have to work on every day. It will not mean I will no longer be misgendered, though I’ll be more likely to be misgendered as a man than as a woman, so that will at least be a change. At very least, this surgery will free up a whole lot of brainspace that has been dedicated to the “what if” of surgery. At best, I will feel more comfortable, more at home in my own body and in the world.

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