Sunday, April 13, 2014

I had my meeting with my surgeons.

Last week I went to the Slotervaart hospital in Amsterdam for 3 meetings.

The third one was with the anesthesiologist. He turned out to be a very nice guy who clearly enjoyed his job of making people as comfortable as possible. He told me not to worry and he would take good care of me. I'm getting an PCA which means as much as patient controlled pain medication after the surgery. I'm very happy about that because being dependent on whenever the nurses can find the time to listen to you and decide you might actually be right and either need more medication or not, is not exactly ideal. I have a high pain threshold but also get used to pain medication really quickly. So that's something that could go either way. Like this I will be in full control and will get what I need.

The second meeting was with the gynecologist. He's a bit of a quirky man but he's a professional alright. He told me what he is going to do. They will put air in my belly to make room to work. Then they will make 4 tiny incisions; one for a camera so they can see what they are doing, and the other 3 for tools. There's already a larger opening they can use to pull out that annoying bit of tissue. Then all they have to do is stitch it shut at the top and they are done. He told me a whole bunch of things that can happen after the surgery that might freak me out but I don't need to worry about. He also told me a few things that could happen that would mean I should call him. But in all cases I don't need to worry because if anything goes wrong they'll just fix it, no problem. Okay doc, what ever you say. I an 100% confident that he will indeed set things right.

Now the first meeting was the one I was nervous about. It was the surgeon that will fix my chest. In broad terms there are two ways of doing this. The big surgery and the small surgery. The big one means two large incisions below the breasts. With the small one they make circular incisions around the nipples. Clearly, the big one causes bigger scars then the small one. Most transmen are really set on getting the small on. It's a big deal. It's important because else you are mutilated for life with those huge ugly scars across your chest that will remind you for ever and always what you went through and will cause the whole world to ask what the hell happened to you. People had told me I should be able to get the small one. People told me it was important for me to get the small one. Everyone wanted to small one so of course I would want the small one as well. So when my surgeon took one look at me and said: no way, I was in shock. I had counted on getting the small one. After a while I realized I felt like I had lost some sort of competition. This confused me and later got me mad. This is why it took me a while to write this update. I wanted to figure out where this feeling came from.

Among transmen, or trans people in general really, there is this silent competition to be as passable as possible. I feel very conflicted about this. The problem is that if all transsexuals just disappear after their last surgery it makes it harder for the people who live further away from the norm to find a place in society. As a transsexual you stand out for a while during your transition. It's a big deal. It's heavy. It's hard. And also, it's very visible.You can't go into a cave and come out a few years later and go: tadaaa! It doesn't work like that. You are forced to do it in plain sight. This is why transsexuals get a lot of media attention. But once you are done, you are done, and you can pretend it never happened most of the time. You can go back to your ordinary life. Sure, some will still stand out but these days people can start transition during their teens and most of them are absolutely passable once they are done and sometimes even before then.

A lot of people who are transgender but are not transsexual don't have that luxury. They don't go though an awkward phase and then come out as themselves and can fit one of the boxes on every bloody form on the planet. A lot of them are somewhere in between. They always stand out. They can't just put on a shirt to cover the scars and pretend they're one of the guys. They need our support.

The other things is that there seems to be a shame culture happening here. Even though people are now coming out as trans on television and there are shows being made about trans people and all the media attention and people shouting that transsexuals should be accepted a lot of trans people still seem to be ashamed of the fact that they are trans. It's like being ashamed of being black, or of being ginger, or of being short, or of having blue eyes. It seems to me that a lot of transsexual people feel the need to be as passable as possible because they are afraid that people will still see them as less, as inferior, of not one of them. They are afraid of not fitting in, of being cast out. They want to hide part of who they are, part of their history, in order to secure a future.

I am not ashamed of being a transsexual, just like I'm not ashamed of being ginger and short. I'm not ashamed of having Indonesian ancestry even though no one sees it. I'm also not proud of it. I didn't do anything to be any of these things. These are the cards I got dealt. That's all. There is no shame in that. There is also no pride in that. It simply is what it is. So why did I freak out when she told me I was getting the big surgery? Because people had told me I should. Well, not directly, but they did make me feel that way. Personally I don't have a problem with a few extra scars. I have plenty already and they all have a story. This would just be another story, one that I'm not ashamed of. So that's why I got mad. My peers had, unintentionally, made me feel like I should be ashamed of who I am. This makes me sad and it worries me. I am able to take a good look at who I am and how I feel about myself and get past this. But not everyone can. There are a lot of trans people who are very vulnerable and who are unable to stand up for themselves. I can imagine some people would get very depressed hearing such news, maybe even suicidal. If they really feel like they should be ashamed of who they are and that they will be rejected by society if people find out there is something seriously wrong. It's all fine and dandy that we have those tv shows now and that there are so many people coming out publicly but there is still so much work to do.

I'm getting the big surgery. I am getting two scars on my chest that tell my story. I'm okay with that. I'm still waiting for the date but it should be before my birthday in late July. The surgeon really is a nice lady and she knows what she's doing. She is one of the best in the country. She saw how shocked I was and did her best to reassure me everything would be okay and she would do her best to minimize my scarring. In the mean time I am coming up with all kinds of ideas for tattoos in combination with scarifications for my torso. So I'm not worries at all anymore. Right now I'm just curious about the final result so I can start designing.

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