I had no sooner gotten over the excitement of Dr. Slenkovich’s plan when I started thinking if I was spending thousands of dollars, perhaps I should shop around a little. It sometimes takes me a few days on Amazon to buy a Blu-ray, I owed my new chest at least that much.
Armed with the terms “chest masculinization” and “top surgery,” I Googled. And one name came up again and again: Paul Steinwald. He had been in Chicago and moved to Denver, and seemed to be the go-to guy for the trans community (back in Chicago, I guess his attitude of “you’re a grown-up and you don’t need a therapist to tell you what you want” was quite the novelty).
I liked him because he talked about the procedure right there on his site, not like a dirty little secret. And he had a large photo gallery of before and afters, which I browsed through so much I memorized it.
Through him I discovered a whole new gender classification, “neutrois” or “non-binary”; from what I gather, folks who don’t need to confine themselves to one set of gender characteristics. I suppose that’s me, though I’m not going to start peevishly correcting people. Hence now we have female-to-male, male-to-female, and female/male-to-neutral. (I’m guessing Ted Cruz hasn’t heard of this yet or his panties would be in even more of a twist (hopefully if we cut off enough circulation he won’t be able to breed any further).)
Whatever. All that mattered to me was this guy seemed to have a lot of experience with this procedure, and he was fifteen minutes away from me. How’s THAT for Fate?
I took the fact that the next free appointment was a month off as another good sign: He was busy, so must be sought after.
That month was torture, though. At the beginning of all this I planned to wait six months or so to plan properly and make sure everything was right. Now that I had this procedure in mind, I wanted it done the very next day.
A month gave me lots of time to Google in circles, visiting the same few websites again and again, despite the information remaining the same. I found Transbucket, where people posted about their surgeries complete with surgeons and cost (this was a big mistake as the costs were deceptively low, possibly not including the anesthesia and operating room fees. They raised my hopes falsely that Dr. Steinwald would be significantly more affordable than Slenkovich. Foreshadowing!)
Transbucket was also valuable in seeing some operative results gone horribly awry and the unfortunate patients unable to afford more revisions, left with a hot mess of a body. These made me realize that not just any surgeon would do, and more convinced than ever that I should seek out Dr. Steinwald’s expertise (there was a handful of his patients here too, looking just as impressive as his gallery).
I look at a lot of chests. I admire women who seem comfortable with their breasts, and envy men who seem to not pay theirs any mind at all. In fact, this is how I know I’m not actually a “man in a woman’s body”; I have reached critical mass in looking at naked boobs, and at this point don’t care if I never see another pair ever again.
Finally the big day arrived (well, not The Big Day). I had a 9 am, so hopefully wouldn’t fall victim to Appointments Before Me Running Long syndrome.
As it turned out, I don’t think that’s a problem ever with Dr. Steinwald. I had read that he was no-nonsense and didn’t waste time; but I think it literally took me longer to fill out my new patient paperwork than the entire meeting lasted. I barely had time to enjoy his waiting room, certainly less swanky than Slenkovich’s (which I appreciated, since I’m sure such details are paid for by patients ultimately). I didn’t even have time to smirk over the fact that the Entertainment Weekly issue that printed my letter to the editor was on the table in front of me.
We began in his office rather than an exam room, which was nice. He started out bemoaning the fact that people didn’t seem to be finding him as much in Denver as they had in Chicago. I wasn’t sure what to say to that. I couldn’t exactly reassure him with promises of referring all my friends to him.
Since I already knew what procedure to ask for, we got right down to brass tacks. He immediately launched into a rapidfire discussion of surgical details (he was a very fast talker, and was so impressed that I was keeping up I was afraid to interrupt), working his way through options quickly based on what he could tell about my body through my street clothes.
We proceeded to the exam room (devoid of the luxurious spa robes I had grown used to), where he pulled out a measuring tape and began giving dimensions to the assistant. I felt like he was in such a rush to get going he would have done the surgery that very afternoon if he could, which would have suited me perfectly fine.
I’m probably making him sound like a terrible doctor, but truthfully he was nice enough, just incredibly efficient. And I got the same impression that I had while stalking him online, that he’s done so many of these that he already knows exactly what will work for my anatomy and what the best plan will be. I felt nothing but confidence.
I was actually given two quotes, the higher of which I was disappointed to see was almost identical to Slenkovich. The other was $1200 less and was missing the “axillary fat pad removal,” an option that might be avoided if I can lose some weight under my arms–which I’m sure will be a piece of cake, right? (Only that fat pad is actually more breast tissue, and I’ve already discussed how that doesn’t come off as easily as fat.)
Weight loss. I want this operation more than I’ve wanted anything in my entire life (besides a girlfriend, but I’ve got one of those). This is a powerful motivator, so much that I don’t even crave sweets. I drink water almost exclusively (never much liked it before), eat salad every night and lift weights every day when I can’t bike (which is most afternoons still; Colorado is stuck in the bipolar phase between winter and spring. Sprinter?) The weight isn’t melting off, but siphoning pretty steadily (which would actually be kind of gross if I meant that literally).
So here’s my wisdom for anyone who wants to lose weight: you need to find something you want more than that tasty junk food. And not just a vague desire to be thin, but something that absolutely won’t happen without changing yourself. The stakes have to be BIG. REALLY big. I don’t even think about all the crap I’m missing because my head is full of this goal. Full to bursting.
Finally, the question of the nips (this part might not be for the squeamish): He is apparently planning for grafts, which means removing them and stitching them back on at the end. I’m told this is the only option for breasts as large and droopy as mine. I hinted that I’d be just as happy foregoing them completely and tattooing later, but his assistant insisted he had great success with this technique.
This hasn’t kept Tery from joking about them falling off and her having to pick them up, or them getting caught on cat claws as they walk across my chest (which they are very fond of doing).
Next, the hardest part of all: Financing this thing