Ode to the Knife: A Top Surgery Tale

identity queer top surgery transgender Apr 05, 2022

What is it like to get top surgery?  There are a million ways to answer that question.  Here's one tiny slice of my experience:


In February, I went under the knife.

Claire was one of the first people I confided in, snuggled into a Tiny House sleepover back in early 2019:  I really don't feel like I'm a woman anymore. 

But where did that leave me?  My whole professional life was built around being a woman teaching hunting and outdoor skills.  I was the butch lesbian in whom other women could see their own potential ruggedness reflected back to them.  In an arena so long enclosed by men, my value as a symbol was high .  So where did that leave my work and my livelihood, if I wasn't a woman anymore?  

The knife sliced away what was extraneous, vestigial, anachronistic.

What was I becoming?  Non-binary?  No, it was more distinctly masculine than that.  A man?  That's a loaded identity for a lifelong feminist to shoulder, and so much of my past experience felt erased by that three-letter word.  A transman?  Maybe.  I settled on transmasculine as a word I liked.  It held a little more breathing room, and told a whole story about transition and trajectory: a journey all in one word.

The knife revealed me, like the sculptor's chisel reveals a form from marble.

In my heart, everything felt aligned.  The masculinity that was welling up in me felt authentic, honest, and real. 

Professionally, it was terrifying.  But integrity is part of my feminist brand too, and I didn't want to be dishonest with my students.  "If that's what you decide is true for you, I think your business can hold that narrative," Claire whispered back in response to my anxious confession.

The knife, like an arrow, flew true.

I woke after the surgery feeling nauseous, achey, weak, and definitely still myself.   I was the same person, but with two fresh scars to nurture along into a new wholeness.  

As I massage St. John's Wort oil into my scars twice a day, my heart beats a rhythm of gratitude.  Each moment feels a teensy bit more true, and all that truth...  Well, it really adds up to something.  I catch myself smiling so much more often.  The weight and obstruction are gone.  My heartbeat is closer to the surface, closer to every person I hug.

Praise be to the knife.


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