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Upcoming Workshop Collaboration- Pleasure (Your) Chest: coming in September!

For many years I have witnessed a narrative told both by transfolks about our own experiences, but even more so from people attempting to tell trans stories from outside our lived experience. It’s a simple story, overly simple. 

I hated my chest. I had surgery, now I can live in my body. I am fixed, affirmed, correct. 

It’s not that this narrative is untrue. It has truth to it for sure. But, like I said, it’s overly simplified. 

Having breasts (honestly even typing that word is unsettling for me) can be challenging for folks who occupy a more masculine of center gender presentation. Many of us grew these protruding ‘problems’ during a puberty that we might have rather dodged. Others of us didn’t start to feel as opposed to these tissues until later in life. 

For me, the pain of growing breasts was uncomfortable, but I didn’t have the context to understand all of the ways until years later. When I first started medically transitioning in the mid aughts, top surgery was commonly understood as a part of the package of “full transition”, which at the time was really only conceived of from a very binary point A to point B switch. That being said, getting in for the teet yeet was largely inaccessible for many. Wait lists for publicly funded surgery were years long, and required years of Real Life Experience (RLE) in order to get on them. Those were the days of regular top-surgery fundraiser parties, hosted by a trans-masc who needed surgery and couldn’t wait. The friends and lovers of their community would pool resources, selling drinks and dates, auction off crafts and consultations to rally the 6-10 thousand dollars it would cost to access top surgery in a private clinic. Many femmes shook their titties onstage to pay for the procedures that trans mascs of the time needed. We were doing this every few months, but the demand persisted until the public surgery program was threatened with legal action and revamped itself into something that could better meet the needs of the community. The amount of surgeons available today, in the amount of locations, is nearly inconceivable to me of 15 years ago. 

At first I was looking at a short list of 3 surgeons in the province and a long waiting period of at least 2 years that I wasn’t even eligible to get on without a series of assessments that also had long wait lists. Before I got very far in that process I met up with a friend who had top surgery about 10 years before having a child, who described for me the complicated feelings that came up for them when they were not able to nurse their newborn. I wasn’t even sure that I was headed towards a reproductive future, especially since the informed consent procedure that I went through to start hormones included some misguided warnings about the impacts on fertility, but until I was sure that I wasn’t going to need them, I decided to hold on to what chest I had. 

I didn’t bind for very long, but again, given the time, getting a proper binder that could be worn without causing damage wasn’t as easy as it is today. I used a neoprene back brace strapped tight over an undershirt. Tight enough that I broke a rib. Not that I really noticed at the time, my awareness of that came much later. I found breathing hard with that amount of compression, and once my facial hair had grown in I had stopped binding most of the time. When I did choose to grow a baby in my body the increased pressure inside my body pushed that fractured bone from the other side. Even though I hadn’t bound my chest for years, I recognized the pain and remembered trying to mask my tits under layers of strategic layers of compression and draping. 

I fed my baby at my chest for 18 months. I was super grateful to have been able to have the quick on hand food, no need for sourcing donor milk or buying formula, cleaning bottles or SNS lines, and of course the bond between my baby and I was also supported by our feeding relationship. While I was able to detach the mammalian capacities of my body from societal gender perceptions, society wasn’t always. I experienced a wide range of responses from people when I was witnessed feeding from my body, everything from confusion and disgust to support and reverence. Ultimately what it meant to other people was irrelevant, it was really between me and the kid, and luckily, we were by and large able to carry that out without too much problem from the public. 

After weaning and deciding that I wouldn’t be having any more biological children, I started looking into top surgery again. 12 years later than my first investigation, I found myself in a different world. I was able to have surgery in my home community, within a relatively short turn around, and my surgeon was amicable to the specifics that I brought her in terms of desired outcomes, acceptable incision plans and flexibility around timing to account for child care and post surgical support needs. 

I could over simplify and repeat the narrative that I started this all with, I was unhappy with my body, I had surgery, then my post-surgical body was better and I felt better in myself. These things are not untrue, they are just overly simplified. 

A more honest version is much longer and less binary. My surgery had complications. My healing had complications. There has been a long process of learning my way towards feeling better in this new body. I have been helped along the way by Somatic Sex Educators, Registered Massage Therapists, self administered massage, herbal salves and concoctions, myofascial microneedling, fitness training,  acupuncture and a fair amount of therapy. One of the other pieces that I have been vocally grateful about was the Pleasure (Your) Chest Workshop series that I took online with teachers Jess DeVries and Jaiden Love. I have recommended many people check out this course, but unfortunately, it hasn’t run since I took it. Jaiden moved on to focus on other things, and Jess had been sitting on the offering and waiting until it might be something that could be revisited with a new co-teacher who had the personal lived experience that she lacks on this subject. 

I am very pleased to announce that I am going to be that new co-teacher and that Jess and I will be offering our first cycle of the Pleasure (Your) Chest workshop series in September 2023. It’s a small group, closed container that supports participants in embodying their post-op bodies while exploring consent, grief, presence and pleasure. We will be holding space for the parts of chest surgery transition that don’t fit neatly in an overly simplified, universal narrative. The parts of our stories that may be more complicated or nuanced than we share with the general public. 

Whether you are having surgery this summer and will be freshly post-op in September, or maybe you had the chop so long ago that those old paradigm stories about RLE and waiting for the one surgeon around are yours, you are welcome to join us. The workshops include a mix of supported embodiment practices, small group discussion, ritual, and scar care.

Sign-up for the workshop series will open in July, be sure to follow me and Jess to get the registration as soon as it goes live. 

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