Masectomy Feelings

So after watching Maria Catt’s video and Kat’s video I decided to make one too… ended up making three. I’m prolific! Here’s the first one.

Hey! Um, I’m Max, um, so I watched Maria Catt’s video, and she’s great, wish her the best, um, and, she talked about, mentioned that people have a lot of feelings about having mastectomies, and, I myself am someone with a lot of feelings about having a mastectomy, and I know that there’s a lot of stuff out there that talks about how great it is, and I made stuff like that, when I thought mine was really great, and when I thought this had gone really good. Um, so I just kind of wanted to talk about my experiences with that.

Um, initially what I wanted to do was film this somewhere pretty, because it’s not really a pretty conversation, but um, it’s kind of windy, so instead I’m doing it in my dusty shed. So yeah. I wanted surgery initially- I mean I started wanting surgery when I started wanting to transition. I, I thought it would help, basically. I was uncomfortable with my chest in a really profound way. I really did not like looking at myself or thinking about what I looked like. I REALLY did not like other people looking at me or thinking about what I looked like. I thought that top surgery would help, I guess, is kind of, the main reason why I did that. I kept thinking that for years afterwards, for three years. I thought it had helped.

And kind of… you know, the reality of that was, that what it helped me do was think about my chest less, because there was nothing there. When you’ve got a flat chest, there’s not as many logistical concerns that you need to address, so it’s easier minute-to-minute, to not think about my chest. Um, it did NOT make me more comfortable with what was there. Even immediately after surgery, I was pretty horrified by what it looked like. Um, and you know, that’s the reality of surgery, is that it’s kind of gross to look at. Um, but I had assumed it would be worth it, and I kept talking myself into that, um, narrative, that I was becoming who I needed to be, that I had been born wrong, and that there was this other person that I could become, who would have an easier life, who could be happy.

So yeah, trying to get back on track here, got a little notebook. So yeah, when I went in for surgery, I thought it was going to be really great. I was really excited, this was what I wanted. I asked my surgeon the day of, when he was marking on my chest with marker, um, I asked where the tissue would go. I wanted to know if it was like Fight Club, in a trash can and shit. He said no, it got incinerated, and I was like yeah, I’m right. Um, and, everyone was really nice to me, everyone was really nice to me.

When we got to the operating room, I was surprised by the kind of dentist-looking chair they had there, I thought it would be a big flat silver table, and I expressed that to Dr Crane, Curtis Crane in San Francisco, and he was like what, it’s not a morgue. And I was like haha… I thought this whole thing was all very funny. I was excited to experience going under anesthesia. And looking back, that is not how I feel. It is terrifying to me that that’s how I felt at the time, because to me that speaks to how disconnected I was, from my body, and how little I cared about what happened to me.

And you know, this was a time in my life when I was regularly having intense suicidal ideation, and transition felt like an alternative to that. Like, I wanted to die- I never actually- you know, I wanted to die, but the reason I wanted to die was because I didn’t think I could have a better life. So with the prospect of transition, I thought, hey, this is a way to have a better life, and not, um, kill myself, so you know, I was down for that. And I think that was a lot of what- was a part of why, I was up for something as intense as surgery.

So for a few years after my surgery, like I said, I was cool with it, in that I didn’t have anything negative to say about it. I didn’t look at my chest much, I didn’t think about my chest much. It was easier to detach myself from the way I had felt about my chest then, and from the way I felt about my chest now, which, whoo, I was not ready for that. I would occasionally- you know, I would have thoughts and feelings about distress, with surgery, and confusion, and a lot of complicated feelings about my chest, but I wouldn’t engage with them, I wouldn’t think about it. I tried really hard not to think about it.

And actually, it was months after I had decided to stop transitioning at all, it was months after I had gone off testosterone, that I felt really able to say that this surgery was something I regreted, this wasn’t something I wanted to do, this wasn’t the way I wanted to live. And I feel, I think that the framework of grief is really relevant here. And you know, the way stages of grief work isn’t that you go through them in perfect order. How it works is that you kind of move around through them and sometimes you’re spending more time in one or the other. And I mean, before people start engaging in that process, a lot of times where they are is denial. And that’s, that’s very understandable, this is a lot of fucking feelings to have. It’s really fucking intense. I don’t think it’s wrong not to want to talk about this.

But yeah. I spent a lot of time- I mean, three years, guess it could have been longer, but it felt like a long time- um, trying to convince myself that what happened was okay. And it’s not, it’s not. I don’t feel okay. I don’t feel like what happened was okay at all. Um, I feel, like… it… I tried talking about this with like, people who aren’t very familiar with the very specific kind of issues that are relevant here. Um… and a friend of mine told me that what I was talking about sounded like I should look into, like, losing a child?

It feels, I mean, it’s a loss. It feels like, it feels like I killed a part of me on purpose, because I blamed that part of me, for the mistreatment that was attracted by my chest. You know, I feel like I was blaming my chest for, the way I was treated- I put a LOT on that part of my body, and I felt that, by removing my breasts, I could remove those feelings. That you know, I could amputate, my uh, my fucking feelings. And unfortunately, you know, it would be super convenient if that was the case, I would so super love if that was true. For me it was not, it was not true at all. So… so… I mean I got all the feelings that led me here in the first place, that led me to transition and surgery, those feelings are still there. They’re not gone, they’re not better at all. And now I’ve got all the extra shit that transitioning added.

You know, for me right now, especially surgery is kind of what’s big for me. Yeah, I guess I just wanted to talk about that, that this doesn’t always turn out well, and I think it’s important to be realistic about that, that this may not go well, this may not be something you feel good about in three years. Even if you feel good in one year, even if you feel good in two years. I mean, I would have told anyone that I was having a great fucking time, I would say yeah this isn’t something I regret, this is so awesome, I would argue with people about it, you know? I wasn’t different until I was.

And a lot of that is that I’m in a place now, you know, I’m in a good relationship, I have a stable house environment, I have support online from other women of these experiences. I’m in a place where I can, where I’m safe enough to start unpacking these feelings. I mean, if I was still… if I wasn’t with my girlfriend, you know? If I had been alone, and as isolated from lesbian community as we are right now, and as I have been for the last few years, um… I don’t think I would have figured this stuff out myself. I would have kept saying my surgery is a great fucking decision, I would have felt stuffing my feelings down, and having other problems because of that. I mean… I drank a lot more, I smoked a lot more, when I was trying not to deal with those feelings.

Actually, I… I think around six months after I had surgery, I had- eight months after? I had like, a psychotic break, I lost it. You know, I thought, aliens were after me, and stuff. So you know, stuffing that shit down didn’t really do me any favors, but you know, it did feel like my only option for a long time.

So basically yeah, just… this wasn’t very organized. I wrote a bunch of really good notes and then I just kind of… departed, departed from that. But yeah. Basically… it’s important to be realistic about how this might go. And you know… if you haven’t had surgery yet, and you’re idealizing it, I think it’s important to seek out reality checks, in terms of how this might go. I… this did not go well for me.

I feel like I lost a part of my body and like I lost the chance to do the really intense and challenging, but ultimately worthwhile, emotional work of figuring out how to live with my body, the way it was. And now that’s gone. And what I have- the work that I can do is, figuring out how to live with a body that is permanently marked by my desire to destroy it. You know, I, I have permanently made a part of my body, my hatred of it. And you know, I was into self-harm before, that’s not new exactly, but it’s kind of another level, it feels like, to me, in terms of my own relationship to cutting or burning myself, versus my chest being so different. It’s a lot.

Um, and if, if this is something that you’ve already done, and you’re having complicated feelings about it, um, regardless of whether you’re intending to transition or whatever, we can talk about that. It’s, it’s a lot to be alone with it. You don’t have to, you know, we all make our own choices. There’s no pressure to, for you to deal with this the same way that I have. If you’re feeling alone with this and want to talk about it, hit me up.



2 thoughts on “Masectomy Feelings

  1. I am so sorry for all you’ve been through, all the anguish.

    I am sad that younger women feel so alone when it comes to reconciling to being lesbian or bisexual. Certainly, it was really difficult back when I was your age, but we kind of had to face it square on and figure out how to live with ourselves. We didn’t have the option of surgical transition. I’m no TERF, but I would like to see young women provided with more support for reconciliation to their orientation and their gender. Surgery should probably be the last option, not the first. If only the young ones would turn to us older folks who have been there, who survived, who feel good in our skin, rather then closing themselves off from our time-tested life experiences, looking for a quick fix. There is no quick fix to growing up, to becoming comfortable with yourself. It takes time and a hell of a lot of thinking and being and support.

    It is hard to have a butch presentation. We never quite fit in in hetero society. We can’t pass as anything other than what we are. It is incredibly helpful to be around other butches or masculine-of-center women, as long as they are good people. Hell, just being around other queer women is good for you, and it sounds like you are seeking that out and finding the support of female community. Female and queer community has literally saved my life.

    Thank you for speaking out about your experiences. Your story, and you, are important and have great value.


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