Only three days now until my chest surgery. I’ve set the Out of Office message at work, palmed all my outstanding cases onto a lovely colleague and made sure there’s nothing that’s going to go rancid in my locker for the next couple of weeks. On the surface I’m pretty well organised – I have a long ‘To Do’ list for tomorrow, including pyjama buying, hair cut and library raid, and I’ve read every bit of paper relevant to my hospital visit at least twenty times.

I am terrified. Not least because I have had a breast reduction previously, so have an approximate idea of the pain to come. I’m scared, of course, of the ‘What Ifs?”. What if the anaesthetic goes wrong? What if I end up a really weird shape? What if I lose a nipple, or both? What if the scars end up a mile wide and florid scarlet? And many more.

I think the terror is a good thing. I’d hate to go into this thinking everything’ll be just rosy. There are all sorts of risks involved in what I’m doing,  life-threatening, aesthetic and practical. They say a little adrenaline is a good thing to get you through a hard time, and I sincerely hope my fear is just the thing I need to get me through the days and weeks ahead.

People have been very kind in their good wishes, a little surprisingly. After all, let’s face it, what I’m doing is voluntary, and also, I’m not totally convinced that people really know what’s being done. One recent friend did look at my tightly bound chest and say “Well surely it’s only a small op – there’s not much there”.

I’ve heard FTM chest surgery described as a number of things, including ‘cosmetic’. I appreciate that in purely linguistic terms, this procedure could be described as ‘cosmetic’. People have all sorts of things done to try to achieve their own vision of how they wish to look. I seek to have my breasts removed in order to look more masculine; to bring my body into line with how I see myself. ‘Cosmetic’ is a word that should be used carefully, though, as the reasons that this surgery is so vital to me run far, far deeper than looks and surface gloss. Can I point you towards my posts Take my breasts awaaaaay and FTM Q&A for further discussion of how my breasts have shaped my happiness (or lack) over the years.

Another word I have heard recently to describe this type of surgery is ‘mutilation’. To be precise, I have read it once, and also been told the story of someone using the word when told about my surgery. Props to the member of my family who put the person she was talking to right on this one.

Mutilation is a strong word. It implies violence, force, malice, gore, lack of consent, darkness and wrongdoing. My chest surgery involves none of these things. It is sweet, longed-for relief from both a physical and a psychological burden. I find it interesting that nobody ever suggested my earlier breast reduction was mutilation. I can only assume that some people might see what I am undertaking as such because of the connections in their own minds between a transman removing his breasts and a woman being de-sexed. They are not the same.

Far from being a dark destruction of some aspect of my gender identity, I feel that this surgery will be quite the opposite, helping me to be grounded and confident in my own body for the first time in…well, since puberty, probably. As easy as it might be to see this as losing my feminine, I view it as a joyful gaining of my masculine. My breasts make me unhappy. They make it hard to function socially. They embarrass me, make it impossible to enter masculine spaces and make it necessary to put in a super-human effort to be accepted as who and what I say I am.

Part of that super-human effort has been to bind my breasts. I have now been doing that for over a year. Binding makes me hot, breathless, sweaty and uncomfortable. My skin is showing all too clearly the effects of being encased in nylon every day. My breast tissue is starting to suffer and break-down. I long for freedom and comfort. I long to put on a cotton shirt and actually feel cotton against my skin. I long to be able to move freely. I long to just be me.

So really, which is the mutilation? Where is the darkness, destruction and wrongdoing? It lies in being unable to live as I wish, to enjoy the freedom of my body as I see it. It certainly is not the surgery I face on Monday.







It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.

Maya Angelou