Tag Archives: chest surgery

Top Surgery… My Experience

Disclaimer! This is my experience and mine only. I give some advice and things to consider, but they are only based on my own experience and I encourage you to completely take or leave anything I say. When it comes to surgery, you must do whatever makes YOU feel safest, healthiest and happiest. Cheers!

I just wanted to finally take the time to write about my experience having my top surgery. My surgery costs were around $5,700 (with a $2,000 discount from my surgeon, Dr. Rumer out of Philadelphia). I fundraised over $3,000 (through dance parties, an online campaign, storytelling events, etc.) and took out the rest in a low-interest personal loan from the Federal Credit Union.


I spent the month before surgery getting as healthy as I could. Thankfully I already didn’t smoke, and I quit drinking entirely for that month. I was 26 at the time of my surgery and I love a good beer with good friends. However, I wanted to give my body a chance to be at peak health before the surgery. I exercised when I could and ate as healthy as I could. I’m normally pretty active and eat pretty healthy (mostly vegetarian, trying to stay away from processed foods, refined sugary foods, etc.) but I wanted to step up my game. No more pub grub binges for a while!

I really recommend doing this. I believe it sped up my healing time and kept complications at bay. If you are overweight or eat unhealthy, I would recommend getting into healthy mode for a few months before surgery. It is hard, but keep in mind how bad you want your chest to heal nicely. Keep that goal forefront in your mind. Giving up beer was hard for me. One of my most divine indulgences is just relaxing with friends and having a nice hoppy craft ale, but it was easy to know that the reward overwhelmingly outweighed the temptation in that moment.

Two weeks before surgery I had a giant list of food and medications to avoid (you can see that list here). Although it was really hard, I followed the list to a T. I also feel like this aided in the smoothness of the surgery. A lot of the foods are banned because they can interfere with anesthesia, and since I’m terrified of anesthesia, I adhered closely to the list and had no problems. I wasn’t even groggy when I woke up.

I also did some work to prepare myself mentally and spiritually for the surgery. I took time to breathe, meditate; I journaled my thoughts and feelings leading up to the surgery. I was also in therapy at that time and it helped to have a safe space to have a continuing dialogue about my fears, anxieties, concerns, joys, and excitement over surgery.

Journal excerpts from prior to surgery:

“This next chapter is beginning and I’m doing my best to flow in the fast moving current. I think I am doing OK. I’m pretty nervous about my top surgery. It’s a big change. I’m excited and sort of just amazed at how lucky I am that I have the opportunity. There are lots of thoughts running through my head about it on a daily basis. Nervousness is the guiding emotion right now…

…I am ready to let go of my breasts. It is hard, though. It’s my body — it’s comfortable. Well, it’s extremely uncomfortable, but it’s comfortable at the same time. It’s weird. I’ve been using this mantra: TRUST. It’s been helpful. I am trusting myself and my body, my decision…

…I am really at peace with my surgery Friday. I am ready.”

As you can tell from reading the journal excerpts, I gave myself space to feel nervous about surgery, to realize that it was a huge change. It’s kind of surreal to be removing a part of your body that isn’t physically “sick” and aside from the mental anguish it causes, would remain attached. I recommend sitting with these thoughts. I think there is a fear that if you sit with these thoughts, you will rethink your decision and freak yourself out about surgery. But in my experience that wasn’t the case at all. Instead, I just slowly dissolved these feelings and worked through them. My personal mode of thinking when it comes to dealing with mental health hurdles is to deal with it as soon as possible, sit with it, examine it, even if it’s hard. It’s better to be absolutely sure about something than to ignore your feelings and be unable to escape them later.

I held off on overloading on Youtube videos or blogs because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with information that wouldn’t necessarily be accurate for me and my body. The last week leading up to the surgery I finally watched a day-by-day, then gradually monthly series of videos from a guy’s surgery and post-op experience. It was really helpful to see his experience, however there were some clear differences to how he ate, felt mentally and physically, and experienced the surgery. Still, it was helpful to get a vague understanding of what I was in for.

I started off the weeks leading up to my surgery feeling really nervous. However, the more I sat with these feelings and experienced, the less and less nervous I felt. The week before my surgery I reached a place of tranquility and acceptance that was pleasantly surprising to me.

I also did something to honor my “birth form” – if you will. My surgery was October 26th, and I got a meaningful tattoo on October 1st. The explanation of the tattoo is kind of long, but I got a small reminder of who I had been up until this point. It was comforting. I also treated myself really well in October. I indulged in hikes, alone time, and kept my schedule pretty mellow. I had a dinner party with friends at a restaurant that is named after me. I’m a stand-up comedian and I wrote a really funny break up letter to my tits that I read at a show. Two days before my surgery I flew a plane for the first time. It was something I’d always been wanting to do, and I found a web coupon that put it in my price range, so I went for it. It was an absolutely incredible experience, and a celebration of my life and myself.

The night before my surgery I felt my breasts for the last time. I kind of said goodbye. It wasn’t sad… it just was. I asked my partner if she wanted to touch them one last time. To my surprise, she said no. I put my hand over them as I fell asleep that night.

Nothing to eat or drink after midnight and amazingly between my mom, partner and best friend – I was the only one who got any sleep that night.

Day of Surgery

We got up bright and early, 5 or 5:30am I think. We had to be at the surgery center at either 6:30am? Maybe 7… I can’t remember. We got there and I signed in, signed paperwork.

The surgery center was a little disappointing because at that point I hadn’t legally changed my name, so my birth name had to go on my wrist bracelet. I also had to have “F” for female on my bracelet. I think I had to explain my preferred name and pronoun. One of the nurses accidentally called me “she” but the other nurse quickly stepped up and corrected her and she quickly apologized and didn’t do it again. It wasn’t a malicious or ill-intended experience, but it was disappointing. I know they do a lot of these procedures in the center so I wonder why they don’t have protocol in place? I never asked my surgeon about it – I just moved on.

In the morning before we left for the center I wrote my partner, mom and best friend little letters. Right before I got taken back and away from them, I gave them the letters. It was basically just little thank you love notes to them for their ongoing support through my decision, fundraising, and finally the day of.

I changed out of my clothes into a gown and those weird socks with the rubber bottoms. My surgeon came in and drew the marks on my chest of where she was going to cut. I picked out my nipple size and placement. Small nipples creep me out and I wanted the nipples a little bigger than what she originally drew and she was fine with that. Don’t be afraid to advocate for how you want your body to look. I questioned when she placed the nipples kind of off to the sides of my body, and she explained that men’s nipples are a little off-centered. I trusted her on that, and she trusted me on what I wanted with my nipple size. It was a sweet moment, when she was drawing me up. I really like my surgeon and knew her personally as well. I relaxed a little in that moment because I just knew she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I knew I was under her care. We celebrated the fact that I was finally, finally here.

I got in the gurney, got some vitals done and got an IV started. I met with the anesthesiologist.

Now, I hate anesthesia. It scares the shit out of me. I underwent another procedure when I had IV sedation, which is NOT the same as general anesthesia  that you are under for top surgery, however, I woke up in the middle of the procedure and became aware of what was happening and felt pain. Not good. That experienced produced a huge amount of anxiety over anesthesia in me. Another thing that made me uncomfortable about that experience was the anesthesiologist started to administer the anesthesia without telling me he was doing it. So all of a sudden I began to feel woozy but I was still coherent for a few minutes before I fell asleep. It just seemed like wrong to have medication administered without full understanding and consent – I did not like or appreciate that, at all.

So, I told the anesthesiologist all of this. He assured me that I would not wake up during the surgery, that I’d be fine. I asked him to PLEASE let me know if he puts ANYTHING in my IV before he does it. I wan’t an explanation about what is happening. He told me would. Well, he didn’t.

After I met with anesthesia my family came back in and I gave them all kisses. Then I got wheeled into the operating room. On the way I noticed the anesthesiologist push something into my IV. As soon I was pushed into the operating room, I got that woozy feeling again. I asked the anesthesiologist if he put anything in my IV. I think he was kind of surprised that I was coherent and cared that he did, and he sheepishly said, “Yeah, I did slip something in there…” I asked him again if he would please, please, please let me know when he was doing anything next. He said OK. I was transferred onto the operating table. I got a quick glance of the surgical instruments, but the substance in my IV had me a little out of it and my anxiety over it was barely there. The anesthesiologist explained (thank you, finally) that he was going to put a mask on me and that I would feel really relaxed after a few breaths. He put the mask on and I took a breath or two and the world went black.

Immediately Post-Op

I don’t recall waking up initially. My first memory is speaking to the nurse about how I was cold and she got me a heating pad and tucked me in with a blanket, and I think I fell back asleep for a little bit. (A side effect of anesthesia is being cold and shivering). I don’t really recall waking up again; the next thing I remember is just being awake and asking for something to drink and eat. I think I had some juice and graham crackers. I felt awesome. I wasn’t in pain, I wasn’t groggy from the anesthesia, and I was ready to go home. The nurse made me stay in bed, and finally I had to pee so I was allowed to get up. Once I got up, I was steady on my feet and still felt fine, so the nurse said I could sit in a wheelchair for a bit until I could go home. After I went to the bathroom, where I got changed back into my street clothes of sweat pants and a button-down Hawaiian T-shirt, my family came back in. I think they were shocked to see me sitting up in a chair, smiling and munching on a graham cracker.

The nurse explained how to empty the drains, I got my post-op instruction sheets, IV came out and it was time to go home!

We only lived a short ten minute drive from the surgery center, and when I got home, I felt fantastic. I didn’t even go to sleep at first. I was up and talking, showing my friend pictures that I’d taken during my flying lesson. It was really bizarre, I think lol. I attribute it to getting myself super healthy and following the list of banned medications/foods. However, I’ve heard a range of experiences all over the spectrum, some that include really terrible immediate post-op experiences. My advice would be hope for the best, but somewhere in the back of your mind, without freaking yourself out too much, be mindful of the worst.

I spent the day the morning watching movies and I think finally sometime in the afternoon I dozed off. No pain whatsoever the first day, and the bandage I had to wear was even tolerable at that point.

That about sums it up for my pre and immediate post-op experience. Thanks for reading!



About an our or two post-op at the surgery center. Feeling good!

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Meds and Food to Avoid List (from MY surgeon – check with yours)

This is a list of medications and food that I was directed to avoid by MY surgeon 2 weeks prior to my top surgery. I have no idea if this is standard practice, but you may want to prepare yourself to go off some of your medication, including antidepressants and testosterone, prior to surgery. Your surgeon will discuss this with you when you have your pre-op appointment and sign papers, etc.

Fortunately I do not take any medications regularly, so that did not affect me. However, I am vegetarian and some of the diet restrictions were really challenging and I ended up eating meat out of desperation. I joked that I was surviving on turkey sandwiches, oranges, and water.

If you have to go off antidepressants, it may be a good idea to have a trusted friend or online network available to talk if you feel depressed, or be in touch with your therapist or a maybe a drop-in (and usually free) peer counseling group if you’re not in therapy. Also, if you suffer from depression (as I do) and you have to go off your meds, it’s a good idea to have a crisis prevention number saved in your phone. Self care is sexy!

Aspirin Medications to Avoid: Affect blood clotting.

4-Way Cold Tabs

5-Aminosalicylic Acid

Acetilsalicylic Acid


Adprin-B products


Alka-Seltzer products

Amigesic Argesic-SA

Anacin products

Anexsia w/Codeine


Arthriten products

Arthritis Foundation


Arthritis Pain Formula

Arthritis Strength BC





Ascriptin products


Asprimox products



Azulfidine products


Backache Maximum

Strength Relief

Bayer Products

BC Powder

Bismatrol products

Buffered Aspirin

Bufferin products

Buffetts 11



Cama Arthritis Pain


Carisoprodol Compound



Choline Magnesium


Choline Salicylate



Cortisone Medications


Darvon Compound-65





Doan’s products





Ecotrin products

Empirin products



Excedrin products

Fiorgen PF

Fiorinal products





Goody’s Extra Strength

Headache Powders

Halfprin products


Isollyl Improved





Lortab ASA


Magnaprin products

Magnesium Salicylate




Mefenamic Acid









Motrin products



Night-Time Effervescent


Norgesic products

Norwich products


Orphengesic products

Orudis products


Pabalate products


Pain Reliever Tabs



Percodan products

Phenaphen/Codeine #3

Pink Bismuth


Propoxyphene Compound





Saleto products


Salicylate products



Scot-Tussin Original 5-




Sodium Salicylate

Sodol Compound

Soma Compound

St. Joseph Aspirin









Tussanil DH

Tussirex products




Willow Bark products


Ibuprofen Medications to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting.

Acular (opthalmic)

Advil products

Anaprox products




Dimetapp Sinus

Dristan Sinus





Indochron E-R

Indocin products










Nalfon products

Naprosyn products

Naprox X


Ocufen (opthalmic)







Sine-Aid products



Tolectin products




Avoid ALL Diet Aids – Including Over-the-Counter & Herbal 

Intensify anesthesia, serious cardiovascular effects.

Tricyclic Antidepressants to Avoid 

Intensify anesthesia, cardiovascular effects.












Etrafon products



Limbitrol products














Other Medication to Avoid: Affect blood clotting.

4-Way w/ Codeine


A-A Compound






Arthritis Bufferin

BC Tablets

Childrens Advil

Clinoril C



Dalteparin injection





Enoxaparin injection


Fragmin injection






Lovenox injection





















Tenuate Dospan







Vitamin E


Salicylate Medications, Foods & Beverages to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting.

Amigesic (salsalate)

Disalcid (salsalate)

Doan’s (magnesium


Dolobid (diflunisal)


Pamprin (Maximum Pain




Pepto-Bismol (bismuth


Salflex (salsalate)


Salsitab (salsalate)

Trilisate (choline

salicylate + magnesium








Chinese Black Beans












Vitamins and Herbs to Avoid 

Affect blood clotting, affect blood sugar, increase or decrease the strength of anesthesia, rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure, liver damage.  Note: Just because it is not of this list does not mean that it is safe to take while preparing for surgery.

Ackee fruit






Bitter melon

Burdock root

Carrot oil





Dandelion root

Devil’s club

Dong Quai root




Fenugreek seeds






Gingko biloba




Gotu Kola

Grape seed




Horse Chestnut


Kava Kava


Lemon verbena

Licorice root

Ma Huang



Nem seed oil





St. John’s Wort

Valerian/Valerian Root

“The natural Viagra®”

Vitamin E

Willow bark

Yellow root


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Top surgery PRE-op tips and things to consider

Hello! I had my top surgery October 26th, 2012 with the amazing Dr. Kathy Rumer of Philadelphia, Pa. I just wanted to make sure I posted some things for any ftm dudes seeking top surgery out there to consider BEFORE your surgery. These were just some things I learned along the way, so I hope it helps! Good luck! If you have any questions just leave a comment and I will get back to you! Also, if you are a post-op ftm and there is something I missed or something unique to your experience, please feel free to mention it in the comments.


Going off Meds, including testosterone and antidepressants:

I’m not sure if this is unique just to my surgeon or not, but I had a list 3 pages long of of food and medication that I had to avoid two weeks prior to surgery. You can check that list out here.

This is protocol for Dr. Rumer, but I have no idea about other surgeons. You will find out when you go to your pre-op appointment to discuss the surgery and fill out your paperwork. You just may want to be prepared to go off some medication, including testosterone and antidepressants. If you have to go off antidepressants, it may be a good idea to have a trusted friend or online network available to talk if you feel depressed, or be in touch with your therapist or a maybe a drop-in (and usually free) peer counseling group if you’re not in therapy. Also, if you suffer from depression (as I do) and you have to go off your meds, it’s a good idea to have a crisis prevention number saved in your phone. Self care is sexy!

Fortunately I do not take any medications regularly, so that did not affect me. However, I am vegetarian and some of the vegetable diet restrictions were really challenging (garlic and onions?! really?!) and I ended up eating meat out of desperation. I joked that I was surviving on turkey sandwiches, oranges, and water.


If you saved up all your pennies or Grandma finally kicked the bucket and you have enough money for your surgery, unfortunately you can’t just stroll into your surgeon’s office, throw the dough on the table and say “Take me, I’m ready!” Even if your surgeon (and the surgery center they operate out of) has a crystal clear calendar, you will have to get blood work, a physical, and your surgeon may want you to restrict your diet and medications for up to two weeks before your surgery. I was financially, spiritually, physically, mentally and socially/work ready for my surgery the second week of September, and with all the pre-op work and scheduling and I had to do, the earliest my surgery could be done was October 26th.


You might get a quote from your surgeon that the price of your surgery is say, $7,000. Make sure you have at least a couple hundred dollars beyond that for anything else you might need. If you write your surgeon a check for $7,000 and you have $5 left in your bank account, that’s bad news. Here are some things I didn’t expect to have to pay for, and some things that I even expected and want to share with you.

Breast Cancer Screening/Lab

My cost: $500 (?)

My surgeon (and I feel like this is probably universal) required my breast tissue to be sent out to Quest diagnostics to be tested for breast cancer. If you have insurance, your insurance will cover this (although you may have to navigate complications if you are listed as male on your insurance but I’m not sure). Since I don’t have insurance, I have to pay out of pocket. Nobody could actually give me an exact quote for this. My surgeon guessed that it was around $500. I am being billed from Quest and am actually still waiting for the bill to come in the mail. I will update this post when I find out how much it actually costs.

Pre-op Blood Work

My cost: approx $100 through a low-cost lab called Any Lab Test Now Philly.

Any surgeon worth their scalpel is going to make you get blood work done before your surgery. This is to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery and to see what your blood type and clotting factors are. I had to get a full metabolic profile done and a urinalysis. As a low income person in Philadelphia I have access to amazing free health care through the city, however only some of the testing I needed could be done for free. My pre-op blood work ended up costing me around $100 through a low-cost lab called Any Lab Test Now Philly.

Your surgeon might automatically recommend a lab, like Quest for example. Or perhaps they suggest that you get the blood work done through your primary care provider. However, I would ask them if, to better fit your budget concerns, it was OK for you to “shop around.” Better yet, I would do your shopping beforehand and go into your pre-op appointment knowing exactly which lab you want to use. The tests are exactly the same, and any lab is simply just going to fax the results anyhow, so what lab you use should be, under general circumstances (assuming you are healthy and excluding special health risks and concerns) irrelevant. The only difference between one lab and another sometimes is price. My advice would be to do an online search for low cost blood work or labs. Even if you have to travel, it might still save you some money.

Pre-op Physical

My cost: free

Again, any surgeon worth their sutures is going to make you get a cleared by a doctor with a physical prior to surgery. You may just go to your family doctor for this. Now, this won’t work for everyone, but if you live in or near a big city you might be able to follow my example.

I would have paid a $35 copay for my physical if I would have gone through my primary care office. Instead, I went to an open LGBT community health night that was free and you could get seen on a walk-in basis. I got just a good of a physical and care had I gone to my primary care, got my paper signed, and it was free!

(Philly folks: I went to the Washington West Project Community Health Night, held every first and third Friday of the month from 6-9pm at the Washington West building, 12th and Locust. Look up Washington West Project on Facebook for the info).


My cost: Approx $95 for two antibiotics, Percocet and Tylenol PM.

If your surgeon isn’t a masochist, they will prescribe you pain pills and antibiotic to stave off infection. I was prescribed percocet for pain and Keflax as antibiotic, which cost me $40. I picked up some tylenol PM to help with sleeping at night, since your first week post-op you can only sleep sitting up and it’s hella uncomfortable. Then, on my fourth day post-op the Keflax made me sick with nausea and a low-grade fever and my Dr. had to call in a script for a less intense version of Keflax called Cefadroxil, which cost me $27.

Anesthesia and Surgery Center Costs

My cost: $2000

My surgeon built these costs into the initial price she quoted me, but make sure you ask your surgeon if these are included in the price they quote you. It would really rain on your parade to find out after the fact that you still owe a few grand. Also, note that anesthesia is paid by the half hour that you are under it. I only paid for two and a half hours of anesthesia (my surgeon said that 2 1/2 hours is the common time it takes for top surgery), but if your surgery is complicated you may end up paying more. It might also be a good idea to ask if you will be billed if your surgeon goes beyond the amount that you initially paid for.

Other pre-op needs

There are other miscellaneous things to consider into your budgeting. I spent about $70 on surgery groceries: juice, soup, snacks, etc. Also consider transportation to and from appointments, travel and lodging if you aren’t local, supplies like gauze or surgical binders (I spent about $20 on nonstick pads for my nipples and I also needed neosporin but I had some at home already). We bought new pillows because I could only sleep propped up for the first week and our pillows were old and worn out. Your first week post-op you can only wear button-down shirts because you can’t lift your arms to pull a shirt over your head, so I spent an extra $10 on two whacky hawaiian shirts because I thought it would cheer me up. Other friends of mine borrowed button-down shirts from friends. You may spend extra money on renting movies or a Netflix subscription (I borrowed from the library). The list could go on, but the point is to just have a little extra put back for the things that will make your recovery smoother and happier.

Emergency Needs

Believe it or not, my partner and I actually did incur some emergency costs because Hurricane Sandy hit when I was 3 days post-op and we had to buy water, batteries, etc. just to be safe. It was a blessing that my apartment had no damage and we didn’t lost heat or electric, but some people in my neighborhood did. If we lost heat and electric we would have been in a world of trouble. We don’t own a car, so we might have had to rent a car or gotten a ride to a friend’s or a hotel. Also, what if you have to visit the ER? I’m not saying that you should take out a thousand dollar loan or something “just in case,” but you should have a plan. Make sure you have a credit card or that your partner or mom or someone close can afford to loan you the money if you need it up front. One time I got a concussion and went to the ER and incured a $3000 bill, which was paid for 100% through the hospital’s charity care program for low-income individuals. If you have the time, it might be wise to just do some research of what hospitals in your area provide these kind of services. You could call billing and most likely easily find out in one phone call.

There are also a lot of ways to cut down some of these costs. Discount food stores like Save-A-Lot, thrift stores, house-sitting, swapping or room renting or subletting if you’re traveling for surgery, community health initiatives, borrowing, libraries, and pre-op party with a wish list are just a few. If you have relatives or friends who didn’t donate to your surgery fund because they either couldn’t afford it or didn’t think you’d go through with it, maybe they could donate supplies or money toward medication.

It’s been my experience that a little patience and creativity can go a long, long way! Also, if you’re getting bummed about spending all this money on surgery, think of it as an investment rather than a cost. You are investing in your comfort, happiness, and lifelong dream!

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What is binding? It is using something – a tight shirt, a specially-fitted garment, an ace bandage (dangerous though, do not use that) – to compress and flatten your breasts to give yourself a flat, masculine-appearing chest.

A lot of transmen have disdain or at least discomfort surrounding their breasts. Breasts are a secondary sex characteristic – just like widened hips and menstruation for women and deeper voice, facial hair, and muscles for men – that is developed by your body during puberty to prepare you for child rearing and make you more recognizable as the male or female biology that you were born as. Children who haven’t gone through puberty often are very gender-neutral looking because they lack these secondary sex characteristics.

Because the world can easily recognize and assume that a person with breasts, softer curves and a higher-pitched voice is a woman, transpeople are often pressured to try and disguise most of these aspects until we are ready for and can afford surgery and/or hormone therapy treatment. One aspect of that disguising is trying to erase the appearance of our breasts by binding. The end goal is to look simply flat-chested.

Not every transman binds. Some transmen bind every day. Some transmen bind occasionally, for job interviews and professional appearances. Some transmen can’t go get the mail without binding. It all rests on one’s personal level of comfort. I even know transmen who could give a shit less about what people think and refuse to bind. There are many varying degrees all over the spectrum.

I personally bind every day. I can go get the mail without a binder on, but I hate doing it. I won’t go get coffee or run to the drug store across the street without my binder on. I bind when we have guests over, even if they are dear friends.

My binding has been an evolution. At first, when I was still identifying as female with a lot of question and gender issues, I refused to bind. My breasts always get extremely tender and sore during my lovely menstrual cycle, and I couldn’t imagine binding. It seemed so painful.

After I started coming out more as trans, I started binding when I gave transgender lectures or when I performed, or when I went out to a bar or to dinner. At the time I was using an ace bandage: bad move. To try and get my chest flat, I would wrap it entirely too tight. I could barely breathe. Performing was the worst because my heart would race since I was nervous and I could feel that it was under stress and pressure due to the huge force of compression that I was subjecting it to. At times I felt I was going to pass out right on stage. There is one picture taken of me performing in which my face is literally purple.

However, at that time I was poor and uneducated and desperate to look closer to who I imagined myself as. Those circumstances put me in serious danger – probably more serious than I even realize.

I next switched to an abdominal binder that I would use to wrap around my chest. It was meant to apply compression to the stomachs/abdominal areas of patients who had just had some kind of stomach abdominal surgery. This was also made by Ace, but it was less constricting. It was more expensive though – about $40. However, a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to breathe and not feeling like I was going to die, but the binder looked awkward under my shirt. It was basically a big, stretchy band about 7 inches across that I wrapped over my breasts then velcroed. It never velcroed evenly, and the velcro always scratched me. The velcro never layed flat and there was always this one weird, pointy edge sticking up right underneath my left breast. I was constantly self-conscious about it used to always hold my arm in front of it so nobody could see the little piece poking through my shirt. Whenever I wrote tighter shirts, you could sort of see the band across my chest, so I stopped wearing a third of the clothes that I had in my closet.

When I got a new, physically demanding job I could no longer keep my posture hunched inward and my arm in front of the pointy piece, so I eventually chalked up the $60 for a professional binder from the company Underworks. (http://ftm.underworks.com). The binders from this company are the only binders I recommend. It is the safest and most comfortable. They are actually a company that makes surgical chest compression binders for post-operative cismale patients (cis meaning men who were born men and stayed that way: check the glossary page if you’re having a hard time keeping up with terms!). They found out that a lot of transmen started using their binders as a means to flatten their chests until they could afford chest surgery, and they started selling and advertising them directly to transmen.

I’ve had the binder a few months and it’s definitely a welcome change from my last two binder experiments.

This is the Underworks binder: it actually kind f just looks like a tank top or undershirt.

This is the end product: a really flat chest under my t-shirt.

Here is a video about my binder:

Binding is a necessary step for me. It helps me feel more like I have the body that I’m supposed to have, and it makes me appear more male in society. It’s not easy though, and not fun. Binding is painful. Although my breathing isn’t restricted (anymore), my muscles are, especially those in my back. The binder holds my body in the same posture all day. There have been times when the single only thought that filled my mind was the moment I could go home and tear my binder off and stretch my back muscles out. At the end of a double shift at work when I am standing and moving all day long, my spine sometimes feels like it is going to snap in half since I haven’t been able to stretch it for hours. I also wear it every single day, and I have very sensitive skin, so I’ve developed acne all over my back (so hot, right?). I also shudder to think what compression and probably restricted blood flow is doing to my breast tissue. The hardest thing to know is that until I can afford the $7,000 chest masculinzation procedure – that most insurance companies won’t pay for because they view it as “cosmetic” surgery – I have to make a choice of whether or not I want to do serious harm to my mental health (not wear it) or physical health (wear it).

Sometimes I dream about my binder. I had a nightmare last February while I was camping in a cabin with my Fiancee and friend. In the dream, I awoke in the cabin and went to the kitchen where I got some plastic wrap. I began wrapping my chest with it over my pajamas and started putting random things against my chest and wrapping them tight to me. I realized the wrap was too tight and I started to have a seizure and I thought I was dying. I woke in the middle of this but was still too sleepy to differentiate between wakefulness and dreaming. I went back to sleep but awoke later feeling extremely anxious. Later in the day I had a severe panic attack.

Just yesterday I also dreamed that that I was wearing my underworks binder. Sometimes, with certain shirts, the binder makes my chest look large and puffed out. In my dream I saw myself in a picture, and my chest was hugely puffed out and distorted. In the dream, I thought I looked like a monster.

If what I’ve said has troubled you, there is something you can do. Part of the reason transmen bind is because our appearance of breasts in society is automatic “female” label. Sometimes we even slap that label on ourselves when we don’t have our binders. Next time you see a person with breasts who you’re not sure how they identify, don’t automatically assume they are female. Also, if you have a loved one who you know binds, gently remind them that you will still see them for who they are even if they aren’t binding (don’t be pushy and insistent about it though, some transmen are just too uncomfortable to take their binders off). Even if seeing the outline of their breasts as opposed to a flat chest is a bigger mental stumbling block to seeing them as male, try really hard.  Think man boobs – you know, that 400 lb dude at the beach who should really be wearing a bikini top. Being reassuring. Be on your A-game with pronouns. Make it seem like it’s not a big deal at all and it doesn’t change who they are and how they identify. Because it really doesn’t, only society tells us that it does.




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