I had my breasts removed. I didn’t know it would affect me like this.

“It’s awesome,” I said looking into the huge floor-to-ceiling mirror in my surgeon’s office and seeing my new breasts for the first time.

I was at my first post-op appointment, three days after my top surgery. I was struck by how normal my chest was. It felt so familiar, a seamless accompaniment to the rest of me. My chest was there the whole time, waiting to be uncovered under the weight of what was piled on top of it. Like digging a fossil in the ground. It was there. Here I am.

Finding a home in my body has always been an exhumation: digging up and revealing the forgotten, the despised, the pieces of me that I had deemed inadmissible – which was too gay, too booty, too visibly provocative. I worried about being unaccepted by those around me growing up, worried that my blatant displays of masculinity were too strong, my homosexuality too bold. It fueled the engine of my hesitant embrace.

I dipped my toe in the pool of gender nonconformity. A little here, a little there – be careful not to “overdo it”. I dared not go beyond the vague limits of the invisible measuring stick I had constructed in my head.

But inch by inch, I submitted: I shaved my head in college and kept my hair short, bought a leather jacket and butch boots. Once I freed myself from the agita of “but what will people think of it?!!!” I found freedom and fulfillment in the dress of masculinity. Further bending the norm led me to superior surgery.

Through therapy and extracting old journal entries, I realized how uncomfortable my chest was making me feel and how long that discomfort had been there. My chest constantly bothered. It was something that needed to be toned down and minimized, diminished to the point where it couldn’t be felt, noticed or seen. I had to make it imperceptible.

The author is recovering at home after his surgery.

Dysphoria around breasts has always seemed to belong to trans men, and therefore inapplicable to me. But once I stopped stratifying my discomfort into a normative gender binary, top surgery became a reality. The indefinable nature of “non-binary” filled me with a fervor for color off the lines, choose your own adventure. I felt a freedom from binary gendered expectations—I was neither male nor female—and gave myself permission to hold myself firmly in the non-categorical definition and bypass my path to acceptance.

In the days following the operation, I felt like I was entering a different perspective. What once seemed incongruous has begun to fade. I loved my body. I loved… my… body. I loved parts of myself that I didn’t know I could love. My hips and stomach weren’t big and protruding; they felt integrated. These were no longer areas to be scrutinized and sorted; they were another facet of this great ship that I wanted to take care of.

Easing the discomfort I was feeling in my chest also aligned everything else. After the top surgery, I started to see and feel my body as a whole. It was a single entity, not a bunch of different cobbled together parts. I guessed that’s what people were talking about when they said ’embodiment’.

I felt reoriented and I discovered new grounds. It was so weird and wonderful to touch the area just below my incisions, that happy medium between the chest and the stomach. A place once constantly occupied by my breasts, now free. It was so special and delicate, this new territory. There’s a mole that’s been hiding under there for years. Hello mole! I like the existence of space, now that I know it.

Healing was a gradual explosion of self-knowledge. An extreme recognition of the new, the changed, the wonderful. I was a superhero transforming overnight. On my second appointment, I had my drains removed, nipple shields removed, and stitches removed. I came home and took so many pictures of myself. My body was still covered in purple marks, my nipples were covered in scabs, and there were small, dried up drops of blood from the sewers, but I didn’t care. I loved my appearance so much.

The author after their top surgery.
The author after their top surgery.

I put on one of my favorite button-up shirts, and when the fabric hit my chest and back simultaneously, I was so upset I cried. I looked at myself in the mirror with pure disbelief. I had no idea it would be like this. How long had these neural receptors been dormant, finally awake to sensations?

So many joyful milestones lay tucked away in the unspectacular. Three days after the operation, I was getting ready to take a shower, and as I slowly moved into the bathroom, I felt the July breeze creep in through the open window beside me. I realized that the feeling of the current on my chest was new. When had I ever felt a breeze on my bare chest before? It was like a baptism, my new chest blessed by the Seattle summer wind.

I wondered if it was normal to have regained such a sensation so soon after the operation, a thought quickly followed by the realization that I was completely naked in front of my rickety second story window for everyone to see. see. And I didn’t care. I didn’t care if anyone looked up and saw me; I had nothing more to hide.

I had no breasts that I had to cover. Previously, I buttoned all the buttons on my shirt, all the way to the top, to isolate myself. Now I regularly leave the top button unbuttoned and maybe even the bottom one. I love the way my chest sticks out in the unbuttoned space just below the crook of my neck, or says hello through the drooping collar of a shirt — a space I now want to draw attention to, not conceal.

Constructing outfits was a puzzle to unravel, energetic with a hostile fabric I blended into. The clothes were an obstruction – a stark, triggering reminder of a body that didn’t look like me. Now I can’t wait to get dressed. I’m excited to slip into old shirts I haven’t worn in ages, anticipating how they will look, the way the soft cotton falls nicely and hugs the subtle rise of my pecs. The binders revealed the beauty of flatness, but they cost me compression and discomfort. Now, without restriction, I could stand.

The author at home.
The author at home.

I had gained so much in such a short time, it was almost incomprehensible. It was mutual aid on steroids. I didn’t think it was possible to be so beautiful. It broke my brain every time I saw myself. Today, I get dressed and sincerely look at myself in the mirror. Each shirt contains a revelation. I smile a wide, goofy grin as I stare at my reflection, stunned by my attractiveness, amazed by my love. I gyrate my hips and roll my shoulders back and forth, dancing on my bedroom floor. My love for myself had lain dormant under a certain amount of fluid ounces of flesh and fat.

Who knew that wasting years of existential sediment would bring nothing less than a spiritual awakening. I watched my chest heal itself, an anatomical incantation. The incisions on my torso sealed in purple-red rivers, running through my abdomen back and forth.

Someone literally cut me open and now my body was just… falling back into place? Magic shit.

I couldn’t believe that such mysterious intelligence was possible and that it came to mind. The rewards of self-definition seemed nearly endless. I felt anointed – witnessing the unlimited benefit of my radical self-acceptance, of my shameless pursuit of the euphoric.

Every day before jumping in the shower, I look in the mirror and smile. I move my body from side to side to see my back, to see the rest of me, all of me, because everything feels better. Everything looks better. There is better. The whole fucking ship. All hail gender deviants.

Jaime Lazich is a freelance writer in Seattle. Once upon a time, they wrote about music and regret amid the wet bluegrass of central Kentucky; nowadays, they mostly wax poetic about gender and sexuality. When not pondering the evils of cis-heteronormativity, they can usually be found jamming or walking a dog. On the Internet side, they are @jaimelazich on Twitter and @jamplesjamples on Instagram.

Do you have a compelling personal story that you would like to see published on HuffPost? Find out what we’re looking for here and send us a pitch.

Comments are closed.