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Friday, December 9, 2022

I’m not trans, but gender-affirming care saved my life when I was 15

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The Arkansas ban on gender-affirming care for trans children has just begun. While vulnerable children wait to hear if their physical autonomy will be taken away, we must remember that cisgender children seek gender-affirming care with relatively little social stigma.

Twenty years ago, in rural Maine, I was one of them.

Like a teenage boy identifying as a boy – randomly sprouting breasts, really, really sucked. I hated my body, wore a shirt in the pool, feared the school locker room, layered and bent over to hide my form.

As I went through puberty, my body’s hormones shot up in all directions and I started developing breast tissue that resembles a girl’s. The technical term for this condition is: gynecomastia, but most of us know it as the dreaded “man’s breasts.” Up to 60% of teenage boys have asymptomatic gynecomastia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Adolescent symptomatic cases, like mine, are less common, but it affects about 65% of adult males.

Like a teenage boy identifying as a boy – randomly sprouting breasts, really, really sucked. I hated my body, wore a shirt in the pool, feared the school locker room, layered and bent over to hide my form. I lived in constant fear of nipple grabs at school (teen boys are weird) and of being called a “boob oats.” I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed 24/7 and had about zero percent confidence in myself, all because of the misalignment between how I felt I should look and what I really looked like.

When I confided in my conservative father about what was going on, I was about 15. He saw how much this was holding me back and we went straight to a plastic surgeon for a consultation. A quick procedure and a few weeks later I was wearing an ace bandage, I had a flat chest and finally had a body that looked like mine.

Trans children deserve the same attention.

The following year was the best year of my life so far. I felt great. I felt confident. I made a lot of new friends, decided to get in shape, played a sport, put gel in my hair, started dating, partied – all the good stuff. For the first time, I felt and behaved like an average teenager instead of barely participating out of aggressive discomfort and fear. I went from a man who hated being seen to be the most seen boy in school in no time.

Over the years I have undergone medical procedures that have saved my body, but my breast reduction has saved my mind. Receiving care that confirmed my perception of my gender drastically changed my life for the better. I can confirm that aligning the mind and body feels like a superpower.

The care I received is just a small example of the gender-affirming care that cisgender people regularly receive. We just call it ‘healthcare’. I have had surgery for breast tissue reduction, but breast augmentation for cisgender women to meet the perception of femininity is even more common. Cisgender people change their eyes, noses, lips, faces, hairlines, facial hair, body hair, height and even the lower regions to better align with our culture’s ideals of ‘the perfect man’ or ‘the perfect woman’.

We also often change or “improve” our body hormonally. Children are dosed with people growth hormone since the 60s to make them longer, and men who want to achieve a cartoonish level of “masculinity” have testosterone pumped into their veins. Hormone replacement therapy is common in cis-Ladies and Men who want to maintain or improve their vitality in a way that is in line with their gender identity and gender ideals.

The care I received is just a small example of the gender-affirming care that cisgender people regularly receive. We just call it ‘healthcare’.

But I don’t see that the care that affirms cisgender norms, expectations and functions, including for children, is not questioned to the same extent as transgender care. By contrast, even the most basic trans care – respecting gender identity and expression, puberty blockers and hormone therapy – is endlessly scrutinized and demonized to the point of being life-threatening to patients and doctors alike.

The double standard is striking. And a recent viral interview between Jon Stewart and Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge her state’s ban on gender-affirming care for trans youth points to much of the problem. Without being able to cite a credible source, Rutledge claimed that 98% of young people with gender dysphoria would outgrow it. To which Stewart replied, “Wow, that’s an incredibly made-up figure.”

This idea of ​​elected officials taking away the autonomy of parents and children to make the medical decisions that are best for them is appalling. As Stewart pointed out to Rutledge, the state doesn’t even allow parents to weigh their options based on the country’s guidelines. top medical organizations.

We should think more deeply and with more compassion for those seeking healthcare in the trans community as they deal with a mind-body misalignment that many of us can’t even imagine. Having a little empathy is a good thing, and for those of us who are allowed to bathe in the privilege of doing whatever we want with our bodies, it’s probably even our responsibility.

Some people may not agree that the care I received was gender affirming, and I admit I’m not an expert on health care – cis, trans or otherwise – but I’m an expert in myself, which I did and why i did it. For me it was clear: I’m a dude, I was born a dude, I want to be a dude, and having boobs just didn’t fit for me. They had to go for me to live a fuller life.

Some might also argue that societal pressures and expectations have influenced my choices, and I don’t necessarily agree. Who knows, if a man’s breasts were the pinnacle of masculinity in 2002, I might have done it, but surgery is a lot quicker than the Titanic to change culture, and I would have missed some of the best years of my life to wait.

Here’s what I know for sure, if I had been trans and requested the same surgery, chances are it wouldn’t have been as easy as it was for me – 20 years ago in rural Maine or today.

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