A day-to-day account of my transgender breast augmentation journey ? with pictures, charts & sidenotes AND other random thoughts (some of which are funny)
I have them now ? my new boobs.
Three years, I?ve been waiting, hoping.
Kaiser in California had made it such an arduous process. I remember arguing (with a male, cisgender nurse!) about my need for breast augmentation.
?Well, a lot of women have small breasts,? he told me.
Ever get the feeling men should just? stop talking?
But I have them now. The great state of Oregon covers some of the surgeries for gender transition. This is one of the covered procedures. (If you?re trans and you live in Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Carolina, girl, pack your goddam bags and do your own Lewis & Clark thing.)
I started my second puberty in March, 2016. That?s when I got on HRT (hormone replacement therapy). For the last three years my own, natural boobs have been valiantly trying to grow. My daughter, going through her own puberty, used to joke that we?re racing. When she saw me taking my estrogen pills, she?d scrunch her nose at me. ?Cheater,? she?d accuse.
My boobs did come in before hers. Sad little things, though, they were. Growing on the frame of a middle-aged male torso, these misshapen, prepubescent-looking breasts were woefully inadequate. ?You were supposed to be perky!? I would yell at them, in the mirror. And they would look down at the floor, embarrassed. Something had to be done.
Over the years I?ve used a number of solutions to make my breasts look more presentable. I want to show you some of the tools I?ve used on the way here:
Chicken Cutlets (well, not really, but that?s what I?ve always called them)
The Chicken Cutlets
The Breast Forms
Two years ago, at a retreat, one of my quinoa-powered boobs broke open as I was getting dressed after a shower, and the bathroom floor became awash with quinoa. Thank heavens my partner, who had been showering with me, had enough of a sense of humor to help me clean up the mess.
This has been my easiest, most reliable helper. For the last two years, as my breasts were growing, this is what I wore.
When I told people I was about to get a breast augmentation, they?d often say, ?but you don?t need one!? (Yeah, you?d think that ? except what you see is mostly bra padding.)
Finally, the day was growing closer. I got my first authorization in September, then got confirmation in November, then a pre-surgery consultation with the doctor in December. The surgery would be on Wednesday, January 15.
The night before the surgery I had one of those nights where I kept thinking, I gotta get some sleep. I better get to sleep. I need to be well-rested.
Didn?t sleep one wink. I was awake the entire night. Too nervous.
At 4am I started getting ready. At 5am, Sarah was at my door.
Sidenote: I have great friends.
If you?re keeping track of the things you need for a successful transition (or for a happy life, for that matter), get yourself some friends.
Get yourself a posse. Like the old man said in Legend of Zelda, ?It?s Dangerous to Go Alone.?
Sarah was at my door. We said hellos and I grabbed my stuff, headed for her car. No breakfast, that morning. No solids, the night before. I guess the medicos don?t want me puking or pooping on them. (I can understand that preference. I don?t like people puking or pooping on my workspace either.)
We talked a bit on the drive. Sarah was clearly checking on my emotive state. I felt I was doing ok ? though I was doing most of the talking. (I get talkative when I?m nervous.)
Rice weighs roughly the same as breast tissue. These bags of rice had helped me choose an implant size.
It was drizzling in Portland. We got to the hospital, parked the car and headed for the front door. I was a bit peeved the front desk wasn?t manned. I was asked to be there at 5:30am ? I was in front of their desk at 5:31am (It?s hard to convey how huge an accomplishment that is, for me). There was no one behind the desk. I immediately felt like bitching about it. (I?m getting to know myself ? this is another indicator of anxiety.)
Sarah and I made small talk. Twenty minutes later, a medical assistant came to get us. She ushered us into a small anteroom where I filled out two basic forms and answered some questions. She then walked us in through that anteroom into a pre-surgical space, where I was assigned a bed in one of those curtained-off partitions.
Sarah stayed with me the whole time. At this point I really was very, very anxious, and her presence was so, so helpful. She played with the gadgets by the foot of my bed, making jokes about them. Then she sat by my side and listened, while I told her? I think the whole story of my life, maybe? (I was talking a LOT.)
Meet The Staff
I think I met the entire hospital staff at Good Samaritan. Tiffany came in and did a thing. Then Jennifer came in and did another finite thing. Then a third person came in. Each had a very specific, finite task they tended to. I remember Jennifer being timid about interrupting Sarah and me. ?I?m pretty sure your thing is more important, hon,? I told her with a smile.
Everyone was being so nice. I absolutely hate hospitals. Loathe them. (A few hospital stays in my life. All emergencies. Bicycle accident, car accident, kidney stone, etc. ? never a happy thing.) But everyone at Good Sam was just great. I also liked that most of the staff were female. The anesthesiologist was a guy, but he was friendly and approachable.
My anxiety still remained high. ?This is a GOOD thing,? I had to keep telling myself; ?We?re here VOLUNTARILY. This procedure is elective, and I have full agency. Everything is ok.? My anxiety wasn?t buying it.
My anxiety still remained high. ?This is a good thing,? I had to keep telling myself; ?we?re here voluntarily.?
Dr. Thakar came in to draw magical incantations on my chest, to ward off the evil spirits. Or maybe to invoke the boob demons. Or maybe she was just playing tic-tac-toe on my torso, or tagging me with graffiti. It tickled.
I asked Sarah to take some pictures, to show you all. 🙂
At some point, maybe about two hours in (close to 7:30am), someone gave me a sedative. Then Jennifer came and got me. She told me she?d be wheeling me into surgery now. The bed/gurney started moving, and I said goodbye to Sarah. I was fading.
And Just Like That?
I woke up, alarmed. The bed wasn?t moving. ?I have to get to surgery!,? I thought. But then I looked down at my chest, which was? bigger.
My chest was covered in gauze, and a pink medical bra covered it all. Everything felt numb. Stiff and numb.
Sarah came in, smiling. Soon Yaz joined us.
(I had sent out flares, on Facebook. Well, I created a Facebook event for my surgery, and invited a handful of local friends who I thought might be willing to help out. Both Sarah and Yaz were part of that group. Most of the other friends I mention here were, as well.)
Yaz asked me how I was doing. I was in a strange state of mind. I was tired, and a bit depressed, but mostly I was bitchy. I was very irritated and wanting to bitch. Thing is, NOTHING irritating was going on. The doctor had been wonderful, the hospital staff was great.
?What do you need help with?,? Yaz asked.
?I want to bitch. But there?s nothing to bitch about,? I said.
Yaz synced up with my wavelength immediately, and offered up a person we both find irritating. And then I bitched about that person and felt better. And we laughed and laughed. (Bitching, the new therapy!)
We spent some time talking. I imagine I rambled. If I was annoying, Yaz & Sarah never let on.
Two hours later, Yaz had to go, and Sarah got ready to take me home.
I think it was Jennifer once again who brought in a wheelchair and wheeled me out to Sarah?s car.
I remember reaching for the door to close it and finding it painful to do so. I asked Sarah to close the door for me; she did.
Some of the bumps along the drive gave me stabbing pains inside my chest. I felt numbness, stiffness, and just a lof of tautness. The discomfort of my skin being too taut, along my chest. It?s hard to convey. Mostly sore.
We got home, Sarah hung out for a little bit, but then she hugged me and said goodbye.
And so I was left alone, in my home. Alone with my new boobs.
I had to go look.
I got in my bedroom, took off my dress, carefully took off the pink medical bra. The two large pieces of gauze fell off. It hurt a bit. Stabbing pain on my left aureola. And I could see why ? I had a half-moon of stitches, spelling a Capital C around my left nipple. Ouch.
Time For a Peek
My new boobs looked? weird.
The looked like two upside-down bowls attached to my chest. I did NOT like the way they looked. I especially did not like the convex shape of the top of the boob ? my sense of aesthetics expects a concave slope there. And I didn?t like that there wasn?t enough of a convex, teardrop bulge happening on the lower half. These things were SOLID AS ROCKS. Two porcelain cereal bowls attached to my chest.
I told myself, ?don?t rush to judgment.?
I told myself, ?they?re swollen, and sore, and they?ll settle.?
I told myself, ?remember post-surgery depression is a thing.?
I decided to give my new boobs the benefit of the doubt.
Sidenote: Romantic/Sex Advice
My love life had blossomed in the few short weeks just prior to the surgery. I currently have a lover, a partner, and maybe, hopefully, a girlfriend. (If you?re not familiar with polyamory, here?s a quick primer.) Since many have written to me on the Empowered Trans Woman FB page, asking for dating advice, I figured I?d share some tips. Two months before the surgery I taught a sexuality class???Kate came to that class. Two weeks after that, I stood in front of an audience of 400 people and I told the most awkwardly intimate details about my sex life. Terri, whom I had met at a women?s event a few weeks earlier, came to see my performance.
I met Mara on OkCupid (a rare 99% match!).
You meet people by making yourself visible. Get out there, join groups, be vulnerable. Be real.
And also, ideally, to the extent that it?s within your reach, be witty, be lighthearted, be caring, be self-sustaining and grounded. Those are qualities that encourage others to engage with you. (I?m not saying I have these nailed, I?m saying I avidly work on them.)
A Promising Start
Kate came to see me two hours after I got home. She brought me tulips. I love tulips. Soon we were making out on my bed. She caught herself a couple of times. ?I keep wanting to grab them!? she laughed.
I felt great.
The doctor told me I should expect a four-to-six-week recovery. Two hours in, making out with one of my lovers, I wondered what in Goddess? green earth the good doc had been talking about. ?Well, she probably means that?s when the stitches will be fully gone, I guess,? I told myself.
Two hours after surgery, making out with one of my lovers, I wondered what in Goddess? green earth my doctor had been talking about when she talked of weeks of recovery.
Day One post-surgery (Thursday) started with more staring at myself naked in the mirror.
?I hate them,? I thought.
?Now, now. Let?s give them a chance,? I reasoned with myself. I told myself I can bring it up in the post-surgical appointment. ?I bet she?ll tell me they?ll settle in the coming weeks.?
Knowing that Terri was coming over later that day, I took a shower. And I learned that shaving the armpits is now more challenging. Breast mass in the way.
Breasts still sore, not reacting well to touch. But if I left them alone, I felt fine.
My friend Nick stopped by, carrying gifts. He gave me a big hug and made me feel better. He brought me a delicious chicken & pasta meal in a plastic container. And he brought me Cannabis (CBD and THC) ? to be used at my discretion.
I?m not much of a stoner at all, so I immediately decided I?d use the CBD, but I would leave the THC alone. THC makes me too foggy for too many hours.
In the evening Terri came in, bringing a thermos full of yummy soup. Once again I found myself in a fun makeout session, feeling great, and waving aside Terri?s concerns about my post-surgery strength. ?I feel fine!? And I really did feel great. Terri had complimented my boobs, as had a few others. I kept my reservations to myself.
Day Two post-surgery (Friday) I poured myself into work, and again wondered what all the noise had been about. I mean of course, I was taking CBD, Tylenol and an Oxycodone pill per day. But I felt fine.
That night I went to a women?s sensual massage event. Surrounded by half-naked bodies, I lost myself in the moment and forgot about my stitches entirely. Halfways through the night though, as I was leaning forward to massage someone?s back, I started feeling woozy and took a break. And again twenty minutes later ? almost fainted. This time I took a prolonged break, sat out the next round of massages. Still, all in all, feeling fine.
Day Three (Saturday) I went to the Women?s March.
Making friends at the Women?s March ? Downtown Vancouver, WA
The event was held in the park where Nikki Kuhnhausen was killed last year. That got to me. I went to sleep early on Saturday.
Day Four (Sunday) I did nothing. I felt low-energy, and I stayed in bed.
?Hell, it?s Sunday,? I told myself. ?No big deal.?
CBD, Tylenol, and Oxy. My boobs felt SORE, and angry. The pain meds helped.
Crash & Burn
Day Five (Monday) I woke up in a stupor, after a night of weird dreams.
A scary dysphoric experience:
Before transition, I was aware of an outward male persona, which felt like a fortress under siege ? with these waves of feminine energy at the gates. And it would be breached, from time to time. I remember the fear, back when I was presenting masculine, in feeling this feminine presence take me over.
Then, for several years during my transition, the feminine and masculine battled for control, for ascendancy. I thought I was genderfluid, for a while. The way I figured out I?m not genderfluid is, I have a genderfluid friend. They?re comfortable in their masculine self, as Char, for a few weeks. Then they fluctuate into their feminine self, as Charlotte. And in each gender they feel comfortable and at home. Not me. For me, the masculine role felt like a chore, like a job. It felt like ?something I have to do.? Over the weeks I would drift away from the masculine, shopping for blouses, buying nail polish, listening to Pink on the way back from work. And I?d give in to the feminine, and find myself wanting to lean into it, and I felt more alive, and more authentic, more vibrant. And then something would happen ? some trigger would fill me with shame and internalized transphobia. And I would purge (oh gosh, all the pretty things I threw away!). And I?d promise myself to ?walk the straight and narrow.? I?d promise myself to ?cut the bullshit.?
(Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this ring a bell?)
Ok, that was context.
On Day Five, I had a scary, dysphoric experience. I woked up, saw myself in the mirror, and this masculine self, this DUDE, who hadn?t inhabited my thoughts for over three years and hadn?t haunted me for at least six months, this guy was ANGRY. ?What the fuck did you DO to my chest?!?? He accused.
?What the fuck did you DO to my chest?!?? He accused.
?Go away! What the hell are you even doing, still here!,? I thought.
Like some ex-boyfriend, who somehow still has the keys to the apartment and just shows up one evening. Just sitting on the couch when you get home.
Fuck. Not ok. NOT ok.
I had taken two CBD gummies that day. Maybe three. I forget. Those gummies are tasty.
Well, I thought I did. Here?s the story. Two weeks after surgery I was heading for my birthday party, and I thought to myself, might as well bring the THC Nick gave me. I mean, I?m not into getting stoned alone, but someone might want them at the party. I had finished the one container. I went to grab the second container, and that?s when I noticed THIS one is the CBD.
Yeah. I had been getting stoned pretty much daily.
I took two CBDs that day. Maybe three. Except now we know the gummies were the THC.
Which explains why I spent Monday hallucinating and did not get anything done.
All of Monday was awful. That dysphoric moment, with the ghost of my male self yelling at me for putting boobs on him, left me really shaken. My boobs HURT. It was an angry pain ? like two animals biting my tits with full force. I felt out of sorts, depressed, uncomfortable. I felt like crying.
To some extent, I felt that my hubris for thinking I could rearrange my body into female shape was being punished with this pain. Internalized transphobia and gender dysphoria running amok. Awful day. I mean, lucid enough to know this is just a thing, this is just a stage. Ride it out. I took an Oxy and went to bed. Tomorrow I?ll feel fine. Tomorrow I?ll get all the things done. Tomorrow I?ll conquer the world.
Day Six (Tuesday) was just as bad. Boobs felt tender, sore. They hurt when I moved. I couldn?t get comfortable in bed. I didn?t want to get up. I took an Oxy early in the day and slept through most of that day.
The highlight of Day Seven (Wednesday) was my first date withMara. We met at a coffee place, escaping from the rain. (That was a Plan B???the original plan had been to take a walk in the park, but Portland winters are far too wet for that.) I had happened upon the 36 Questions For Interpersonal Closeness, developed by Arthur Aron (yes, that WAS a free tip for your Valentine?s Day, you lovebirds. Get on that)???we enjoyed picking at those.
It was a good day, and my new boobs were only mildly annoying. Until dusk. Then, they turned against me. The ?angry animals are biting me? pain came back. I took some pain meds and went to bed.
Day Eight (Thursday) I felt ok. Boobs hurt less, my mood improved, and I got work done. Not a great day. Not happy. Just functional. Just a ?getting by? day.
Day Nine (Friday) was my day to volunteer at the prison. Every other Friday I run a support group for trans women imprisoned at a men?s prison. It?s challenging work on a normal day. It?s a bit more challenging with new boobs.
Itchy Nipples Day
Day Nine was The Day of The Itchy Nipples.
Oh my Holy Mother. By day eight my nipples had become the puffiest of puffies. If you don?t know what that is, it?s when the aureolae stick out substantially from the rest of the boob mass. I?m guessing it has to do with the nipple tissue being thinner than rest-of-boob tissue? Those nipples were on the offensive. The whole drive my nipples itched spectacularly. I kept one hand on the wheel, and alternated nipple-soothing hands. But I knew what was coming next! Four hours inside a maximum-security penitentiary, in a male-dominated environment (I facilitate a support group for incarcerated trans women). Not an ideal place for nipple scratching.
OMG that was a hard day. I kept pulling my elbows close to my chest, gently brushing my forearm against my nipple while leading the support group. No idea if anyone noticed.
Itchy Nipple Day was rough.
It was also flattering, in a way. And exhilarating. My boobs were not in pain. And I had read a lot about loss of nipple sensitivity post-surgery. It was delightful to find that this is definitely not a concern. Which leads us to?
Day Ten (Saturday) was masturbation day.
I?m exaggerating. I didn?t spend all day on this. But that?s the way I remember it ? because that?s the memorable thing that happened that day.
My libido had gone from nill to none, up until October. I forget how it came to mind, but I became aware I hadn?t masturbated in months. This concerned me. I understand penile tissue shrinks during gender transition; more so if the penis goes unstimulated a long time. ?Use it or lose it,? basically. And this is important because during a vaginoplasty (SRS, GRS, GCS, GAS) penile tissue is the primary building material for the restructured genitalia. So I decided to take a proactive approach, and I stopped taking Spironolactone (the one active testosterone blocker I?d been taking). No changes happened in October of November. I did masturbate a couple of times, but it was forced, laborious, and climax was uncomfortable, itchy, almost painful. While not on the forefront of my mind, this issue did cause me concern. I value my sexual self, and I worry about losing that aspect of me. In early January, as Terri and I had our first sexual encounters, I noticed my libido was fully active once again. (I hadn?t lost function, I just had lost interest.)
On Day Ten, I woke up with an actual erection. (Yes, I know. It weirds me out too, to speak about this stuff. I?m trying to normalize women with penises. We do exist, and this does happen.) (I was about to write ?it does come up.? ? I simply cannot resist a good pun. I’m so, so sorry! LOL)
Something magnificently euphoric happened to me next. It?s fairly common for me to watch pornography while I masturbate. It excites me, and it also allows me to escape into a fantasy ? a beautiful vacation home, two young, fit and beautiful bodies, perfect curves. It?s a vicarious experience ? I project myself into the girl on screen. Then I happened to look down, and my eyes found my boobs. It was a delightful sight. The girl on the screen had a nice rack, and I had a nice rack as well. We matched. It was so happily congruent. It filled me with happiness. Not even a sexual happiness, just a feeling of calm, serene joy. Truly meaningful moment.
Day Eleven (Sunday) was the most pain I experienced in my left nipple. I?d been trying to get off pain meds, so I was only taking Tylenol. I think I underestimated those stitches. The pain went deep inside my boob ? a searing, cutting pain. I finally caved and took an Oxy.
Day Twelve (Monday) my boobs felt softer, less inflamed, less sore. More ?me? ? more a part of me. The emotional rejection that had first come upon me had faded. They still looked a bit odd-shaped (too concave on top) but, as I looked at myself in the mirror, I kept on smiling. I tried several outfits, and celebrated my new boobs.
In the shower, I rubbed off the protective glue over the stitches in my left nipple. It was just?. Black, you know? Ugly.
But that was dumb. Now, two knots were exposed, and the fabric of every top, every bra would catch on those knots and pull on the stitches. So when your doctor tells you to leave that glue there and leave it alone, you should listen. 😉
Talking about celebration, the main reason why I wanted the glue off the nipples was the party. Day 18 was my Birthday. (Well, not exactly. Since 2018 I celebrate the date of my legal name change as my Birthday). I?d been organizing a party. An all-girl pajama party. The theme of the party was going to be boobs, of course. And, knowing my friends, I fully expected at some point of the night there would have to be a big reveal.
The next few days were full of party preparations. Tammy took over the ?cake? project ? which we had decided would be muffins ? muffins in the shape of boobs.
Leading up to the party, one of my friends had a candid conversation with me. She wanted to make sure I enjoy the party. We spoke about birthdays (I haven?t had that many good ones), we spoke of wants vs. expectations, about asking for what I want. As a result of that conversation, I sent out a message to all guests, listing my wishes. It was an exercise in vulnerability. It felt weird. But it was very well received.
I asked for flowers, perfume. I asked to be celebrated, and for a strong sense of belonging. And my friends delivered.
The highlight of the party was storytelling. We told boobies stories ? our earliest experiences being aware of boobs, and several of us shared the story of how her boobs came in, and what that meant to her.
One of the funniest stories was about a girl that had heard a lot about breast cancer, and then had found a lump under her nipple ? a lump that felt sore. Greatly alarmed, she went to her mom to express her concern about possibly having cancer. Her mom said, ?that?s not cancer, that?s a boob!? (Just one boob. The other one would bloom later.)
My boob story is about Sandra. My boob story is about me being nine years old, at summer camp. Sandra was one of the junior leaders. To my eyes, a full-grown adult. Sandra was the woman I aspired to be. Sandra had been doing a head-stand, and, sliding down on her descent, had pinched a breast against the ground.
?Ouch, my boob!? she yelled.
When you?re a girl who?s growing up forcefully separated from the girls, any little ?girl club? moment feels like a luxury ? like a glimpse of a secret world. Sandra?s mention of her boob, her acknowledgment of the existence of her breasts, made me feel so good. And it got me thinking, someday I?ll be doing a headstand, and my boob will catch and pinch, and I?ll say, ?ouch my boob.?
Well, I?m not about to start doing headstands.
I?m not even planning to catch my boob doing yoga.
But recently I was taking off my bra, and one of the little knots on the stitches of the left nipple caught on the bra fabric. And I thought, ?Ouch, my boob!?
And I thought of Sandra.
I?m inside, now. Inside of the girl club.
Left: me in 1984, in Argentina | Right: Me now, Portland 2020
- The boobs will look weird at first.
- You?ll experience weird emotions. You?ll hate them, you?ll love them. You?ll be dysphoric. You?ll be euphoric. Ride it out.
- Don?t pick at the stitches. Don?t peel off the glue.
- Don?t take too much THC thinking it was CBD 😉
- Don?t over-exert yourself. Don?t push yourself too hard, or you?ll crash and burn days later.
- DO make a list of friends and ask them all for help. Someone to take you to the hospital. Someone to be there when you wake up. Someone to bring you home. Someone to bring you food, for the first couple of days.
- DO stock up on groceries, with attention to your favorite items. (Chocolate!)
- Don?t lift boxes! And try not to raise your arms over shoulder level for a week.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: Be careful with Oxycodone. It?s insidiously addictive. It surprises you. I stopped taking it on day 12. On day 14, I found myself thinking, ?maybe I?ll take an Oxy.? And the following conversation happened in my head: Me: ?Maybe I?ll take an Oxy.? Also me: ?But? like, you?re not in any pain.? Me: ?Yeah, I know. But like, as a treat.? Also me: ??WHAT. THE. FUCK.?It?s insidious. Watch out. I was given 30 pills. I stopped at 12. I had wanted to stop at 10. Be careful.