So for those of you who may be unaware, I am back in the states -- moved back in with my parents for the stated purpose of staying there "until I found my feet" or "until I figured out what I wanted to do next."
Hahaha. Yeah, still working on that.
In any case, since neither one of those was forthcoming and indecision paralysis was looming its head, I decided, FUCK IT -- YOUR PRIORITY IS TOP SURGERY. Concentrate on saving up for that, I told myself. You don't have to worry about anything else until that's done.
I got a job. (At a used bookstore; initially I was trying to get a real job, translation work on the west coast, but after a while I took what I could get. For a retail job, it's aces.) I lived at home. I packed my lunches. (I went South Beach Diet! It's a little more expensive to eat all fresh food, but by god, I have bangin' body these days.) I ran a lot and read a lot, because those are the cheapest hobbies you can have. (And also because I seem to have the most proactive response to getting dumped: MUST GET HOTTER. MUST GET SMARTER. >:|
...Even though the reason I got dumped wasn't for lack of hots or smarts. That was a learning experience, oh yes it was. Educational, even. Most of 2011 was educational, in the "builds character" sense of the word.)
And I also picked a surgeon, which is harder than it sounds. I'm fortunate enough to be living in the age of the internet, and there are a handful of (nomadic, disappearing and reappearing) websites for trannies that archive the post-op photos of sex-change surgeries, so that you can compare the results for different procedures, and moreover, different doctors. Only, the first time you open an immediate post-op photo, and you see the the particolored bruising and the bleeding nipples and the frankenstein-stitching and tubes oozing pus you think
HOLY FUCK THAT LOOKS LIKE A HORROR MOVIE D: !!!
and hit the back button as fast as you can, going cannot-unsee-cannot-unsee-DO-NOT-WANT-ca
Only... you do want. Because you're a trannie. And that's the only way up.
So a few weeks later you're back, and this time you know what to expect. You find you can stomach a dozen or so pictures before giving up in despair. Despair, in part, because on one side you've got the roadkill photos, and on the other side you have the price -- getting your tits off starts at $6000 and only goes up.
I'm paying you HOW MUCH to do WHAT to me? Half a year's pay for the privilege of getting vivisected?
But after a while you get used to the gruesome pictures of the immediate post-op results, and start to focus on what it will look like once the bleeding stops and the scars start to heal. What you're going to be living with once it's all over. You look at the pictures that people have taken six months, a year, two years down the line -- and it's still depressing. Massive crescent-shaped scars under each former tit like a big fugly underwire. Chests that are flat, yes, but don't look natural, don't look male. Tags of excess skin under the armpits. Nipples that are too dark, too big, too close together, too far apart, that are crooked.
I'm paying you $6000 for crooked fucking nipples?
In the end, though, you begin to see that some results are ones you could live with. There are people who've healed up so well that the scars are all but invisible, sometimes within as short a span as one year. Some doctors are better at shaping chests so they look masculine, are better at placing nipples, seem to have better results with the scars healing. The two names that consistently appear in conjunction with good results are Dr. Brownstein in San Francisco and Dr. Garramone in Florida.
But whatever, you say. I don't have the money for it yet anyway. It's a moot point.
Eventually I sent an email overture to Dr. Brownstein, expressing my interest in top surgery and asking about the costs. He had me fill out a medical questionnaire and send frontal and lateral photos of my chest so he could gauge how much tissue he'd have to be removing. (In internet-speak: A/S/L, SHOW ME PICS OF UR TITS) He sent me back a breakdown of the expenses, which in total came out to... over nine-thousand.
Dude, what do you take me for? I have the internet. I know how much this is supposed to cost.
For the record, the going rate seems to be $5000-$7000. Some doctors charge more if you have more chest to get rid of (which I do not, so I don't know what Brownstein's deal was), but in general the pricing seems really arbitrary, because the other surgeon I'd been looking at, Dr. Garramone posts his price upfront on his website -- a flat $5900 for any chest size, which includes all medical, hospital, surgical, anesthesiological fees, you name it.
I called his office around January 6th, and was scheduled a day for a phone consult: stay by the phone on the 23rd, and he'll call you sometime. I wasn't much a fan of the delay or of being tethered to phone all day, but it worked out well enough in the end. Both Dr. Garramone and his assistant were very friendly. He asked me a few of the standard questions, how long I'd been living as man, whether my family was supportive of my transition, whether I had a partner and whether they were supportive. (I blanked on that question for a moment, because I couldn't think of an appropriate way to explain that the people I had sex with weren't so invested in me that my gender identity affected them. I think I went with something along the lines of "Uhm, not a regular partner, no...")
And then when I had no further questions he transferred me back to his secretary.
Brigitt: Okay, so I'm going to send you the package with the information about all of the things you'll need to do before surgery, what sort of medical release you need from your doctor and so on. When would you like to schedule the surgery for?
Me: ...As soon as possible? [Thinking: I had to wait three weeks just to get this guy on the phone for ten minutes, how many years before he's got enough time to do my surgery?]
Brigitt: How soon is soon? :) Because we can get you started right away.
Me: Within the next couple months... March or April?
Brigitt: Okay, he's free March 23rd and 30th, and then every Tuesday or Thursday in April.
And I honestly can't put words in my mouth, because I can't remember what I said. The essence of it was: I have spent years wanting this, but it was impossible, and seemed like it always would be impossible, that it would never actually happen, and now you're inviting to pick a date. Just like that.
And she laughed, kindly, and said that a lot of people had my reaction. She told me that if I needed time to decide I could get back to her, and I took her up on that.
The next day I spoke with my manager about it, to make sure that I would still have a job after taking three weeks off for a surgery that would likely leave me hobbled for another two months after that. (Two months of working nothing but the cash register, wheee.) He'd already known that I was, quote, "legally female" because I had to fill out health insurance paperwork when I was hired, but the man has a stone pokerface and when I'd told him that he only blinked and asked if my appearance was going to be changing while I was working for them...? and I said no, I would continue to look the way I did. (He is not the first, on finding out that I'm a trannie, to assume that I want to become a woman rather than the other way around. I think that means I'm winning.)
There was some stickiness at first because FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) protects employees from being sacked for taking medical leave, but it only applies if they've been working at the company for over a year. I told him that if he needed to hire someone else for my job, then I wouldn't be happy about it, but I would understand. Three weeks is a long time in retail-land, and we're already short-staffed. But he called around to HR, and it turned out I can have my surgery and my job, because my company goes above and beyond what the law requires, and won't sack anyone for taking medical leave, no matter how new they are.
The other hitch was that the assistant store manager is going on paternity leave, starting in March, and will be out until the middle of May -- in short, the least I could do was put off my surgery until he got back. Which, loath as I am to delay any further (I just know that every day from March 23rd onward I'm going to be thinking, YOU COULD HAVE BEEN DONE BY NOW, YOUR TITS COULD HAVE BEEN GONE BY NOW), will probably work out better in terms of money anyway. In being so excited about having finally saved up the money for surgery, I'd forgotten to take into account the other appurtenances of the trip, re: transportation and lodgings, and probably food as well.
Internet research indicates that it will cost --
Medical everything: $5900
Round-trip airfare: $400
A week of Holiday Inn: $1117
Minus my bank account, that comes out to $1755 -- roughly three and a half (bi-weekly) paychecks. Assuming I spend nothing.
So I'm not sure if/how I'm going to come out to my coworkers. Obviously they're going to notice when I'm MIA for three weeks, and then unable to lift my arms over my head for another month or two. By this point I wouldn't even mind if they knew, since their opinions of me are about as solid as they're going to get, and I doubt that finding out I used to be a chick is going to put much of a dent in that. I just don't know how to disseminate that information, since it's rare that we're all in the same place at the same time, and nowhere in the workplace lends itself to Serious Confidings, since we're usually on the sales floor. So how do I tell them? Write it in the employee memo book? Corner them individually on their lunch breaks? Drop it into smalltalk while I'm at the buy counter? Have my manager call everyone together for a Very Special Announcement?
Although as far as conversation goes, I rather like this approach:
Coworker: So what are you getting surgery for?
Me: I'm going to Thailand, for a sex change.
Me: LOL, just kidding.
Me: I'm going to Florida.
We shall see. Tomorrow I'm calling Dr. Garramone's office again and scheduling a date, and then THINGS WILL BE IN MOTION. Airline tickets will be bought. Hotel reservations will be booked. Non-refundable down payment on surgery will be made. Very exciting, and can't come soon enough.
Also I got my junk pierced and shagged a 22-year-old art student. Unrelated, but in that order.