Dear friends new and old,
When I was a teenager, newly experiencing the miracle of puberty, I remember weeping bitterly to my mother about the two large appendages that had inexplicably sprouted from my chest. I knew that they were not supposed to be there. My mother first told me I needed to be grateful for them as many people wanted them and that, if I still felt similarly as I got older, I could get them reduced.
These attempts at placation did nothing for me. I did not want them reduced. I wanted them gone. I wanted them gone long before I could verbalize why. They got in the way. They did not let me fit into most of the clothing I wanted to wear. They were alien parasites that had taken up home on my chest. They created a bodily landscape that I loathed with every fiber of my being. Their mere existence paralyzed me and often prevented me from even leaving the house. I would rage at every item of clothing I owned, whether it fit or not, because it either showed them off or showed a blob of a body hidden by bulky clothing. I was ashamed of them. I knew they were wrong.
When it was discovered that I was also going through a second puberty with testosterone enough to make an NFL player blush, I felt vindicated. Those chest appendages? Nothing but a mistake! I knew what was up and my body had tried to course-correct. That made sense to me. But I was still under 18 and instead of being met with the support to get the mistakes removed, I was instead treated as a transitioning male-to-female, put on hormones and medications to suppress the only aspects of my body that felt right.
When I obtained the vocabulary to articulate my own desires and have any legal autonomy, my family, to whom I attempted to appeal for a number of years regarding my needs, ensured that I would not have the support or finances to pursue surgery. That's how it remained for over 14 years.
In that time, I've had tumors removed from my chest appendages. I've had pre-cancer discharge warning signs. I've had more surgeons look at them and tell me "they're not concerning yet," but I was still supposed to start having regular mammograms when I hit 30 because they were "enough of a risk." And yet, I haven't been able to have them off.
I've also grown clever on how to mask and manage them, but that paralysis that I experienced when puberty first hit? I still have it. It gets worse almost every day. I've never experienced a day since that I was not ashamed of my body. I've never felt comfortable in clothing. I will not, not until they come off.
And they will be off soon. I have a surgeon and a surgery date at the end of September. But my surgeon is not through insurance -- like I said, no one has thought any of the tumors serious enough to pursue surgery -- and so my debts will grow. But it's been 14 years since I've been able to articulate my need to have them removed and it's been almost 20 since I first started struggling with them. This is something I need to do, for my health and for my happiness.
If you are in a position to contribute to something that will change one person's life in an immense and meaningful way, I would be humbled and honored if you would. If you are not, please share with those who may be able to. I have a challenging path ahead of me but with your help, it may not be so difficult.