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