The Girl Who Was Secretly a Boy

This week I swallowed my financial anxieties, moved a big lump of money from savings to checking, and paid my final deposit to Dr. Brownstein. (I still have to pay about $3500 to the hospital and anesthesiologist, which I am not panicking about. Nope. Nosiree. Cool as a cucumber am I…) Tuesday I got my blood tests done, and today I went in for an EKG (I have a completely benign heart murmur, but they like to be careful about that sort of thing.) I’m avoiding ibuprofen and aspirin. In twenty-one days I’m having chest surgery.

It’s funny, though, it still seems a little unreal.

One of the awesome women I go to church with, Betsy, is a nurse at the surgery center that takes care of Brownstein’s patients (in fact, if you saw the Chaz Bono documentary, she was his nurse). She’s going to be my nurse, too, thank heavens, because Betsy is awesome. On Sunday she greeted me with “Hi, Zach! Are you excited?” And I stared at her blankly for a moment, trying to figure out what I was supposed to be excited about. The song the choir was doing for the offertory? The fact that it was just 4th of July? And then I remembered, and laughed, and said yes.

I am excited. I think. I’m certainly looking forward to being done with surgery, and I keep staring at myself in the mirror trying to imagine how I will look with a truly flat, male chest, no binder required. Will I look slimmer? Will my shirts fit better? Will I feel suddenly naked without the extra layer of undergarment? Will I have to start wearing undershirts just to feel fully dressed? Will I be able to brush my teeth in the morning with my shirt off and not cringe away from my reflection? Will I feel more like I really am just a guy?

I’m a little apprehensive about the surgery itself. For one thing, it’s going to hurt, and while I’m sure I’ll survive, I’m not the kind of guy that looks forward to pain. More importantly, I’m not going to be in complete control, and not-in-control is not exactly my comfort zone. I’m going to be dependent on my housemate Ryan for help and looking after for several days, and I won’t be able to drive for a couple of weeks, either, or lift things, so he’ll have to do all the driving and grocery shopping and so forth. He’s taking time off work to stay home with me for the first week, for which I am beyond grateful. It’s really hard for me to be okay with asking someone for help, even someone who is giving it willingly, so despite the fact that it sounds completely ridiculous when I say it out loud, there’s this frisson of anxiety that bubbles up under my breastbone every time I think about it.

And speaking of not being in control, there’s anesthesia. I have a few issues with anesthesia, including having had problems with it in the past due to asthma, a minor phobia about waking up in the middle of surgery, and another phobia about just never waking up at all. Anesthesia is scary the way you’re there one minute and gone the next, and then you’re back with no sense of any time having passed at all. Luckily for me I have a friend who’s an anesthesiologist and also a trans guy who has had this surgery. Sam, I apologize in advance for the degree of quiet panic you’re going to have to deal with from me in the coming weeks.

But all that aside, there’s also this. On February 17, 2011, I wrote about my chest, “Long before I was willing to use the word butch or transgendered for myself, I would stand in the bathroom looking at my naked breasts and fantasize having them gone. I dreamed of surgery to reduce them, at first, and when I grew more comfortable with the idea, to remove them altogether.” And now, one year and not quite six months later, I am signing the consent forms and finalizing preparations for a “bilateral mastectomy & nipple areolar reconstruction.”

It’s the big step. This, then the legal name and gender change, and I’ll have made the transition. It’s a little daunting, even though it’s what I want. I spent most of my life being the girl who was secretly a boy, then the last year and a half becoming that secret boy, and now I guess, I’ll be the boy who secretly used to be a girl? I’ve been growing in my beard, so I’m almost never called “ma’am” anymore, but I still get a little shock of, “huh? you mean me?” whenever someone calls me “sir.” A pleased shock, but a shock nonetheless.

I’ve been thinking about my teenage self, and all the effort I put into learning to wear heels and nylons and makeup. Thinking about whether there were things I legitimately liked about being a girl. Were there ways in which I felt authentically female? I don’t know if I can answer that, really. It seems long ago and far away, and I was so focused on hiding the secret boy that I never really gave myself time to consider how real the visible girl was. But now, as I make the preparations to render her invisible at last, I wonder… Will I miss her? Just a little? Or will she, like my long hair, leave me feeling free when she’s finally cut loose?


~ by Nezu on 12 July 2012.

9 Responses to “The Girl Who Was Secretly a Boy”

  1. So much love.

  2. I love this post as I love most of your writing. So articulate, honest, humorous, vulnerable. It all makes sense.

  3. Wishing you so much luck for the surgery!

  4. I’ll be thinking good thoughts about you for your surgery! (I think good thoughts about you often anyway, but I will make sure to think some extra ones, too.)

    I’ve been meaning to call you, by the way — I miss hearing your voice.

    • Thanks so much, Maria. I miss your voice, too, and likewise keep meaning to call you. I’ll aim for this week 🙂

  5. It’s funny how when our dreams come true it feels kinda weird, isnt it? I wrote (but haven’t posted yet) on how I’ve realized I am actually living my childhood dream of being a real live artist. My dream has come true. Wow. Really big Wow. It feels really odd at times like I am going to wake up and someone is going to take it away from me or tell me I can’t be an artist. Most of the time I am just plain happy.

    Which is a long way of saying that in a small way I can relate to what you are going through having your dream come true and all the feelings coming up. Congratulations and thank you for being willing to share your journey.

    love you!!

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