You can do it!

Max talks to his mate Art about their experiences obtaining chest surgery with no intention of taking testosterone. Max is a 26 year old boyish PhD student in Cultural Studies, who also works as a journalist and is suspicious of authority and institutions. Art is a fifty year old butch builder.

Max: I think we were in different situations because I ‘played the game’ a little more: saying I ‘identified as a guy’ and wanted chest surgery ‘first’, neither of which is necessarily true. I just wanted chest surgery and not to take testosterone. But regardless I was pressured by practically everyone to start taking hormones. Like, they couldn’t understand why someone with breasts wouldn’t want them, unless they were quintessentially and essentially male, and therefore wanted body hair and all that. What was it like for you?

Art: From the day they sprouted I always thought they were wrong on me. I saw the results of a lot of ftm mates and thought that is finally what I want. I never wanted pert little boobies that a massive reduction would provide, so I started the process in January 2011. By March I had the interview and the all clear by the psychiatrist that I wasn’t mad to want what others had got, without it necessarily being a ‘gender issue’.

Except for my boobs — and how a lot of the outside, uneducated queer world respond to me — I’m actually very comfortable with who I am. I’m not on T. I have underlying health issues and don’t have a massive drive to go on it at this stage. To me it was about body dysmorphia, like a big nose or big ears. I had the op[eration] in October and had a very good recovery. I could dress myself et cetera straight away and took panadol only for a week or so… I had full nipple sensation and this nearly drove me through the roof while they were healing!

I am very happy with my results and have started back at the gym and my regular life a couple of weeks ago. I was out of pocket about $9K, as I did not do it through a private health fund. For me it has been worth everything. I would only encourage those that want/need/desire the surgery to investigate it further and see if it’s for you.

Good work man that’s awesome. I remember you saying that you wished you’d been able to do it twenty years ago — and that was quite inspiring for me to just do it now, thinking it pretty likely I would just spend the next twenty years wanting it — so thanks! I think our age difference was pretty affective in the ways we were received by medical professionals. I think younger people have to do more convincing docs in terms of not wanting to reproduce. I certainly felt that way. Not that I don’t think it was hard for you in other ways of course. Can you tell me about refusing to ‘trans identify’? I find that really interesting and brave. Like, you just went in and said “I’m butch. I’ve always lived an androgynous ‘lifestyle’ and this is what I want.” Is that right? And what was the reaction to that?

Sure, I do trans identify but not totally and I did not feel that this was anyone’s business when it came to this particular procedure. I don’t think that any particular gender ‘own boobs’ and it does not make sense to me that only if you are on T can you have this procedure… I felt like a new avenue needed to be opened up for butch id[entified] bio women that just simply hate having boobs. I often feel I swing in between and along side trans/butch. I used it to do this: only the first 15-20 min of my assessment was talking about this, the rest was standard questions to test my frame of mind, etc.

I know what you mean. For me it was a cosmetic procedure I was happy to pay for. And I would’ve gladly refused the medicare rebate (about $1000) in order to avoid the assessment process: I found it really humiliating. As someone who works in universities and other places that are awesome — where people are judged by how they think not how they look — I found it pretty offensive that I got a lot of ‘You’re not man enough for this!’ I really like your attitude. I just hope more people who thought they didn’t have access to ‘trans procedures,’ and maybe have more diverse ideas about gender, go through this process, and hopefully the docs will see it’s totally legitimate. It wasn’t easy; I was really pressured to go on T, and forced to see two psychiatrists because of my ‘unusual desires.’ So I would want people to know you do need to be steadfast and assertive about what you want. But you can do it!

max gets his stitches out


  1. This is a great interview. I am also biding my time until top surgery and am not on hormones- and have no desire to be. It’s great to hear from another person who feels the same. Thanks!

  2. Im so glad to be among my people! I just had this procedure done at the end of December. And like you, I don’t need or want to go on T — I just really wanted to look “right” in the mirror. I feel like im finally free of the costume. Its SO nice to be free of bindings and take full breaths when I run. I feel less self conscious (even in the women’s bathroom) than i did with breasts on….that waa a pleasant surprise. My recovery was quick. I was back to regular work outs with my trainer in less than a month. Really worth it to be in good shape before a surgery like that. Its major. The contouring that was done with lipo was brutal and painful. But worth it! My nipples are smaller and flatter. He created beautiful pecs for me and my scars are flawless.. Luckily I was referred to a plastic surgeon who didn’t ask questions at my consultation when I said “I want to be flat chested. I’ve wanted this since they appeared at 13. I’m athletic, 41, not planning to have a child, and they are in my way. Additionally, I have two maternal aunts with breast cancer and it would really piss me off, if my un-timely death were caused by the very things I have never wanted in the first place. A little too ironic for this lifetime.” He said OK – and started decribing the procedure. No notes from psychiatrists to validate my desire were required. And I must express how grateful I am. Its my body and my money. If “Jane” wants a ridicuously large breast augmentation, she doesn’t need a note from a shrink to validate her desire to match her mind’s eye. During my research for a surgeon, there were a few offices that responded to my inquiries with “We. Do. Not. Do. Breast. Amputation. At. This. Office.” There’s such a shaming that is conveyed to a women who doesn’t want her breasts. My friend’s knee-jerk reaction to me exploring having them removed was “OH NO, don’t do THAT.” (My response: “Wait, have you met me?”)
    I’m right smack in the middle of masculine/feminine –always have been– and now I feel like I’m in alignment with what I feel on the inside. The spectrum of gender is wide and varied, America.

    Thanks for listening to my rant. And, more importantly, thank you for sharing your experience with everyone.

    Take care!

  3. Tracie, where did you get your procedure done, if I can ask? I’m in the process of researching doctors who will perform top surgery on non-binary people.


  1. […] you may have figured from my interview with Art, I’m into spreading the word that surgery without T is possible; I was pretty shocked to […]

  2. […] -Dude Magazine has a brief interview with Max and buddy Art on top surgery without T. […]

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