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And So We Begin… | Rowan Conall

It is June 20th, and approximately 28ºC outside so you better believe I have cranked the AC up as I sit typing this in my attic. What ever happened to the days when June reminded us here in BC we are actually in a rainforest? It was looking good for a week or so and then the climate sabotaged the script with “ENTER: SUMMER” and here we are. If someone were to ask “what type of weather would be your last choice to wear a stupidly tight compression vest and have tubes hanging out of your body?”, it would be this weather. Then again I don’t know why anyone would ask that. Okay, I’ll stop complaining. My disdain for 28º weather this early in the not-yet summer season (did I mention it isn’t even supposed to be Summer yet?) is not the point of this story.

It was necessary.

Returning to the “stupidly tight compression vest” and “tubes hanging out of [my] body” remark, I just had top surgery! Ok now I am back on track, but knowing where to start this story has been a challenge. Do I go from the Jurassic period before Rowan was called Rowan and knew he needed top surgery but did not yet know why? Boy wouldn’t that be a snooze fest! Alright, so maybe I don’t back it up quite that far… I applied for top surgery around the time I met my partner in 2016, so we can start there. (I promise I won’t sit too long on 2016. Obviously meeting my partner made it an exciting year for me but I don’t expect anyone else to be enthralled with my budding romance story.)

I told D on our first date I expected top surgery that year (oh how naïve was baby Rowan!). This was purely out of my never-dying optimistic nature which begun to show its face around the time I came out. There were now three TransCare surgeons in BC who accepted MSP coverage as opposed to one—putting it into perspective we now have five, so they are moving fast!—and wait times were shorter. What spiked my excitement levels further was getting a call that August from TransCare BC asking me which surgeon I wanted. Here’s where it became tricky: I had no resources for finding any in-depth information about these people and their work. As someone who did not know how to reach out to the community, nor did I know how to properly use Google—two things I have since improved upon exponentially—there was no way to know which surgeon I might prefer.

Being told I needed to choose right then and there (thanks, TransCare BC), I picked a random name and hoped for the best. Thus began two years of sitting and waiting, something at which I far from excel. For me, top surgery was not just achieving my ideal self image. It was a necessity in physical and mental health. It is different for everyone as most things are, but I find this reason for surgery in most cases. Just like fixing a knee which you can walk on—albeit painfully—getting rid of the chest I had would greatly increase my quality of living. Every day I would put on my binder first thing in the morning and it would be the last thing to come off at night.

As a side note: binders may be the bane of almost every transman’s life. We’re pretty used to dysphoria kicking the shit out of us, but binders will literally break our ribs. If you are wondering why us trans guys have to bind most of the time, or you’re a trans person who wants quick tips on safety precautions, click here.

Interestingly, testosterone was a much bigger decision for me than surgery. I finally gave in to accepting the need for hormone replacement therapy around September/October of that year and was on testosterone by November 8, but that has been highly documented throughout my instagram page—welcome to the trans millennial world—and I do not feel the need to hash that story out even more. You’re welcome.

The magic of testosterone. I’ll admit this may not be the best comparison but I’ve recently purged photos from my collection and this is all I could muster. At least I have a beard here!

Anyhow, as you can imagine, waiting for that call had its ups and downs. Most of the time they were downs and my lack of patience was getting lackier. It does not help that feeling constricted triggers some anxiety (hello, claustrophobia!) and many a late night was spent grappling for air because I had worn my binder too long.

10PM and still binding… A photo of myself and Nefi.

Let’s fast forward here, because 2017 was much the same when it comes to this top surgery story: binders suck, waiting sucks, breathing is hard, you get the gist. However! Nearing the end of 2017 I received the call I was very much needing for sanity’s sake: a consultation date. I would go on to see Dr. Taylor in Victoria, BC in January 2018. Having something to look forward to completely changed my perspective! Suddenly I had more patience (though not too much, it’s still me we’re talking about) and the comfort of knowing I had not been overlooked and that we were moving forward.

As rigid and anti-arching as the preliminary portion of this story has been, I’m already a day late on posting (off to a good start) and I feel like ending on a high note is an adequate place to pause. Thanks for reading and, obviously, to be continued…