Change is a Beautiful Thing

Change can be a beautiful thing.

When I first met Liv, my partner, I couldn’t help but think he was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. He’s tall, with soft blue eyes and the impish charm of a schoolboy, and dresses the part, too. He’s covered in some serious ink, and dons heavy, colorful stone gauges. Basically, he was my dream boi. But Liv didn’t think so.

Every day, Liv wore two layers of chest-constricting binding to hide his breasts. This often made daily activities a struggle- he’d have to stop to cough at the top of a flight of stairs, and had a tendency to faint. On mornings when Liv couldn’t find his binders (this happens a lot when you have a few attention deficits), he would either be late or would stay at home altogether, sometimes missing class.

Why wouldn’t he just go without them? You might ask. This was not an option for Liv. When you spend all of your time thinking about how well you pass as a guy, the thought of being in public without binders is probably your worst nightmare. For a long time, Liv didn’t even feel comfortable with his binders off around me. So, you get the picture.

About a year after we started dating, Liv convinced his mom that he needed top surgery. Top surgery, for those of you who don’t recognize the term, is an elective double mastectomy, most often performed on female to male transgendered individuals. There are only a handful of doctors in America who will perform the surgery, and it’s a pretty penny- anywhere from 5,000-9,000- none of which is covered by insurance (unless, of course, you happen to have the gene that pre-determines a high chance of breast cancer, in which case it’s free).

Lucky for us, one of those doctors just happened to be twenty minutes from where we go to school. Liv made the appointment for a few days after Christmas in order to ensure that he’d have a full month to recover before returning to school at the end of January.

I think the day Liv got surgery was the slowest day of my life. Liv and his mom woke up early and arrived at the hospital at 7 a.m., two hours before the surgery was scheduled. Liv’s sister and I showed up around 11:30, just as Liv was being taken into the recovery room. My nerves had kept me up most of the night, so I was beyond relieved to see Liv eyeing us groggily when we arrived. Ten minutes later, the surgeon came in to update us.

“The surgery went well, I was able to remove all of the tissue on the right side, but had more trouble with the left. Let’s take a look.”

She slowly removed the cotton binder and layers of gauze, covering the area so we couldn’t see. She told us that there was a small, sub-dermal hematoma forming, and she would have to open him up again. My stomach sank.

Thankfully, we were able to bring Liv home the next morning. But the fun wasn’t quite over yet. For the next 6 days, Liv was pretty much dead to the world. Though he only took the heavy-duty meds for two or three days, the general exhaustion of having your body pried open left him lethargic. He couldn’t have anyone get too close to him, since he still had drains protruding from either side of his chest (drains which Liv’s sister and I had the pleasure of clearing out twice daily).

All I wanted was to crawl into bed and snuggle with him, cry to him about how hard everything felt, to have him tell me, too. Alas, I slept diligently on the floor, waking up at four hour intervals throughout the night to feed him his pain medicine. Suffice it to say, it was a long process.

Change can be scary. It can be long, and hard, and traumatic, and painful. But it can also be a beautiful thing. Almost a year post-op, Liv feels better than ever. He was more than happy to get rid of those damned binders (donated to another ftm friend, of course), and loves nothing more than to prance around the house topless. In March, we are spending spring break on the beach, something that wouldn’t have even remotely been an option before the surgery. It was a long haul, but the destination is beautiful.

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More In This Series:

Change

From marriage to health, education to homophobia in sports, this week’s posts will be discussing both personal experience and the larger cultural implications of change.

About Michaela

Michaela

Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.