A reader writes: “I’m a 48-year-old transguy, and I will finally be able to have chest reconstruction surgery in May. This is a big deal for me for all the usual reasons. It also holds special meaning as a transition point as a parent. While I am a straight, somewhat stereotypical binary-type of guy in a lot of ways, I am also a mom.
“I didn’t come out until two years ago, so I will probably always be ‘mom’ to my two young adult daughters. They seem fairly comfortable in conversation with saying ‘My mom, he …’ and my oldest even explained once to her young goddaughter that ‘most people have girl moms but some people have boy moms.’
“For me, top surgery represents an honoring and a letting go of a part of my body that was very uncomfortable almost all of the time, and that does not fit me at all anymore, but also a part of my body that allowed me to nurse and nurture my daughters. I feel a need to both honor and let go of that part in a meaningful way.
“For me, having the parts that are removed incinerated as medical waste doesn’t seem right. I would like to have it cremated and be able to scatter the ashes. I have heard that people who have to have an amputation will do this, so it should be possible for a transperson to do so. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anyone who can help me with this. I have made several inquiries but have gotten no response or call back from most, and a nice but puzzled refusal from the one gay-friendly funeral home director I found listed in Arizona.
“Do you have any resources or ideas? I know that transmen as mothers can be an uncomfortable topic for some, and I have tried to be sensitive to that with my wording. I may always wish that I had been able to be a father, but I am very grateful I was able to be a mom. It was the only part of living as a female that ever felt right.”
This is an interesting question, because I have never heard this sentiment expressed before, but I have no doubt that you are not the only one who feels this way. I am not aware of any resources for this. However, I would suggest giving up on the funeral homes and asking your surgeon instead.
When my dad had his gall bladder out, the surgeon wanted to know if he wanted to take home the gallstones! He didn’t, but I am aware of people who have taken home their gallstones, their appendix, and other surgically removed body parts and associated paraphernalia.
I think most people do it as a “war trophy” – they made it through surgery – or as a conversation piece. But maybe some just feel as if they don’t want to give up something that belonged to them so intimately. And in your case, it’s obvious that there is an emotional attachment that you want to honor.
Since you’re having your surgery in May, my guess is that you’ve already chosen your surgeon and had this appointment for quite a while. If you had not already started the process, I would recommend that this be one of the deciding factors when choosing a surgeon. But since it sounds as if you are well on your way, I suggest talking to him or her about this and asking what, if anything, can be done.
With gallstones and other small “items” preserved in a jar, it’s probably a lot easier to offer them up to a patient. We’re talking about a large amount of tissue here, so turning it over to you might be difficult and a health hazard. There are probably laws regarding proper disposal of certain types of tissue. There also might be laws requiring the surgeon to send the tissue to a lab for examination.
But maybe the surgeon could somehow have the tissue, or some of it, cremated (it will probably cost you extra) and turned back over to you. I honestly don’t know, and I hope that we hear from some doctors or other health professionals who will know more about the details of this.
But if this is not possible, let’s look at some other options. What about having a professional photographer photograph your chest (either your chest alone or an upper torso and head shot), so that you have a lasting image of your chest prior to surgery? You could have several beautiful poses done that would always be a nice reminder.
Or what about having a clay or wax representation made of your chest as it is now? An artist could apply the material and mold it to your shape. Then when it is removed, you have a three-dimensional, life-sized representation of your chest. You could even display it in your home as an art piece.
Another thought is just having a ceremony, either alone or with your daughters. You could have a goodbye ceremony before the surgery that allowed you (and your daughters, if they chose) to honor and give thanks to your breasts for what they have done for you, and then prepare to send them on their journey. Find something meaningful to use in the ceremony that will symbolize your breasts so that you can save this item as a memento. If you have a limited budget, this could be a good option, because the ceremony and the memento don’t have to be expensive.
If none of this seems feasible or satisfactory, remember that your two daughters are the real lasting symbols of your accomplishments as a mother. And the fact that they accept you for who you are and support you on your path demonstrates that you did this job very well. Congratulations and good luck!
Readers, I open it up to you for thoughts, ideas, and information.