Transsexuals prevail despite laboring under a loathsome metaphor: You are born in the wrong body.
I have spent countless lost minutes and hours unraveling this assumption. For years I believed it, and hated myself. Now I find it a pointless and stupid metaphor. The richness of our relationships to our very corporeal being simply can’t thrive. Neither nuance nor complexity of feeling can flourish in such a pernicious environment.
Breast Reduction Surgery
In late 2003 I had breast reduction surgery, known as top surgery in FtM argot.
Without top surgery, I would be unable to change my birth certificate. Without changing my birth certificate, I would be unable to change my passport.
Without changing my passport – which would provide some measure of legal assurance, at least from Uncle Sam’s perspective, that I was/am a man –
I would be unable to marry legally.
Even had I wanted to continue to live with a birth certificate that stated my gender female, and marry under that designation, I could not. In 2003 only Massachusetts permitted gay marriage. Michigan, my home state, had a constitutional amendment against gay marriage.
I wanted to get married as a man. As I have written elsewhere I love the binary of male and female in the binary gender system. And I wanted to marry the most attractive, sexy woman ever!
Top surgery, in theory, creates a male-looking chest. For FtMs with tiny breasts, maybe an A cup, plastic surgeons use the keyhole procedure. They make an incision in the areola, remove the fat, then suture the incision.
With the keyhole procedure, doctors do not remove nipples, ensuring continued erotic sensation.. There is no visible scarring.
A cup and a half too large for the keyhole procedure, I needed a full-blown reduction. This is a more difficult procedure.
The surgeon must remove breast fat and breast tissue along the muscle, and hope the scarring will come to reside along the pectoralis muscle line, underneath the ridge created by superior chest muscles.
Nipples become sacrificed to remove breast tissue.
In the ledger of transsexual accounting, I must debit the loss of erotic sensation the overall credit of becoming a man.
Governmental changes to gender occur through the medium of exchange known as documentation. In exchange for a small change to a single letter on a piece of paper given State imprimatur through printing techniques and water marks (and yes, social agreement), I voluntarily relinquished an
important source of sexual sensation.
I’m not bitter. I hated my breasts and am glad they are gone. I do miss
the loss of erotic sensation, still, nearly thirteen years later and now understand my experiences as a transsexual as ones of intertwined loss and joy.
What is the question?
This combination gets ignored in the “born in the wrong body” narrative.
When I transitioned in the mid-1990s I felt I had to lie to psychological and medical experts about my body regarding any feelings of fear or concern or ambivalence . If I revealed one iota of anxiety, I feared losing access to hormones.
Since I was born in the wrong body, how could I possibly be anxious about anything? The hormones and surgeries were simply going to fix the problem, which was my body, a thing that also did, on occasion, bring me joy.
Of course, I feel compelled to say I felt an unbearable discomfort in my body. But I also feel compelled to say I believe now, after years of sitting with this horrible metaphor, that my body amazes and protects and comforts me.
We have little ability in the English language to describe living in the middle of a contradiction, every waking minute of a very ordinary life.
This reality seems almost entirely nonverbal. I fail to explain it every time I attempt it.
Let me try another way. If being born in the wrong body is the answer, what is the question?