What does it feel like to have top surgery? Marval A. Rex had surgery – just last week! In this raw journal/log submitted to Featured Voices, Marval spiritually walks us through the first 7 days following the operation.
Top Surgery Log
Ludibrium pelagis i ludibrium ventis
POST OP DAY I: A Reflective Sleeping fish
Relaxing into it
The night before my double mastectomy (with so-called “chest masculinization”) was a night of broken sleep and future reflections. I lay in the bed of an AirBnb studio we found in a municipality of Denver, called Lakewood, Colorado. By “we” I refer to myself and the incredible feminine soul I call my friend, lover and, sometimes, “baby lady”. Her name is Megan Joy. She lays next to me, her body warm, heavy, and golden with attempted rest. I don’t sleep much, but feel at ease and in a surrendered state to the impending surgery. A mexican prayer candle of the Virgin d’Guadalupe blankets the room with her light and her strength. I watched the light dance on the cream walls around our cocoon and release myself of all my old ways, making room for the newness that whispers to me from a mere six hours away. I breathe into my chest, which still holds gently two docile mounds of mammary tissue and fat. I imagine what my life post-knife feels like. I calmly anticipate and accept the pain and constriction that only time (and a good surgeon) will afford this chest.
As I sit here now, post-surgery fatigue curling all around me, I can admit that my intimations of the future were pretty spot on. The pain is mostly dull and low, prickling here and there as skin tissues reach forward to reunite with their fellow kin. The constriction from the bandages is so similar to the chest binding I have implemented for over a year that the tightness feels reassuring and protective. I find myself now, a sleepy and well-wrapped Piscean blob, absorbed wholeheartedly into the couch and gingerly typing this here record. I feel, succinctly, reborn.
It all reminds me of this wonderful song by Antony and the Johnsons:
One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful woman.
One day I’ll grow up, I’ll be a beautiful girl.
But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
One day I’ll grow up, of this I’m sure.
One day I’ll grow up, I know whom within me.
One day I’ll grow up, feel it full and pure.
But for today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
For today I am a child, for today I am a boy.
POST OP DAY II: Water Purifies and Cleanses ▽
Family and All that it Evokes
My parents and brothers came in for the first two days to see me after surgery. I was both thankful for this gesture and overwhelmed at the idea of navigating their energy after such a tremendous opening. I felt sweet and soft and sugary after top surgery. I felt feminine in this bizarrely ironic way. I knew a Truth in a way of perfect clairvoyance… that this surgical intrusion, this incision and removal of the mounds that marked “Womanhood” for so many, had released pain for me of 10 long years. The irreversible visit into the dark tunnel of the OR had broken me into an unlikely wholeness. Now, it was strange and awkward to interact with my family. I felt starkly different, surrendered to my pain and the delicious release that that pain marked. My family was all very much themselves, loud and boisterous and masculine-minded like so much of society is taught to be.
And here I am, cut wide open to release so-called feminine body markers, and I feel the most tender and sweet and relaxed I’ve ever been. I feel feminine, and what’s even more profound: I feel the infinitely penetrable depths of feminine strength. Strength in pain, strength in vulnerability. Such strength in breathing, pulling inward and surrendering to the every moment. To respond instead of to react. And now my family comes for support, and they are all subtly dumbfounded by me. I know I feel different to them, they’ve smelled the tweak in my disposition. And it’s not because I’m a wounded animal. Its that I’m a wounded healer. I’m stepping into a mysterious sense of Grace; and surgery was a spiralling staircase I knew necessary for my ascension. I simultaneously ascend up into the higher parts of myself, the ones cleansed of fear, as well as ground down into my earth–my body, this vessel of mine that I know to be magic. I disdained this holiness for so long, and know I come to cherish it in this soft motherly way. I am quietly and wisely rejoicing this event. As much as I anticipated the actual physicality of surgery, I could not have previously comprehended this incredible sense of gentle freedom that pervades my being. I am so proud of who I am.Never before have I known this with such transparent honesty. And neither has my family.
As I change in ways that disrupt and even destroy my daily persona, as I travel into my subconscious and even poke around the edges of my unconscious, I affect those close to me. I reflect for them the places where they are afraid to go inside themselves. The fear of being one’s authentic self is perhaps the greatest fear we as humans grapple with. Top surgery was a physical manifestation of a larger hidden journey of my soul. Landing outside of the gender binary is a small but important part of my soul’s purpose. Teaching others by example that it is okay to be soft, vulnerable, and loving is my soul’s desire. Because of this, I do not fear the feminine, as many assume of those who seek top surgery. I have cleared the way for my feminine, taken great and sometimes calculated risks to reach her, and believe in her energy as she heals my broken-to-wholeness body. I do not fear her. I know, resolutely, that the feminine is the future.
That which is Feminine appears inside all bodies of all expressions, and does not demand any constricting labels to satisfy her. She is within all of us, regardless of our self-definitions and personal stories. Her gentle power sits inside all of us, often dormant but with patience unsurpassable. She can work through all of us; be gentle and kind and open us up to ourselves. This feminine nature will heal a sickly world of fear-based limitations, spawned from of a false sense of control. The collective schizophrenia brought about by a masculine imbalance of “do, do, do” “make, make, make” “conquer, conquer, conquer” will dissolve under the warmth of her embrace. I reclaim the feminine. I reclaim love over fear. I reclaim my body.
POST OP DAY 4: Easing into It
Ease in Being Injured
I’m easily tired as I recover. However, I feel more alert each passing day. I had my drains pulled on Monday which makes three solid days and nights with drains in. I feel (again!) absolutely reborn without the blood bags dingle-dangling off of me. My pain has decreased so much so that I’m off the percocet, I’ve experienced no nausea, no dysphoria, and no post-breastum depression. It has been an incredibly smooth and easy ride for this sleeping phoenix (as I often call myself). I feel humbled in this expansive and dearly grateful way. One of my greatest meditations the two weeks before top surgery was to surrender to the amount of help I would need at the most basic level. Eating food. Sitting up. Wiping my butt. Yes, Megan wipes my butt. And I am mostly graceful in my ability to accept her essential help. Thank you, Meg.
Allowing oneself to be helped by others can prove difficult, as I’ve discovered with myself. It is this inability to receive that points to an imbalance within our internal world. It is a fear of losing control. The whole paradoxical reality about transitioning is that you must give up all control, all you’ve ever known to be true, unleash all the pain you’ve kept inside–to bob up on the shore, reborn, more-whole and shining with evolving self-assurance. You can argue against it being a spiritual experience. I will kindly disagree. I believe everything drenched in raw urgency towards Self speaks to a spiritual something.
POST OP DAY 5
Today was simple and easy and my mood is bright like the plastic tunnels of LED lights that brand the street below the flat. I made love with Meg, which is interesting to navigate when one receives major surgery just four days prior. We did just fine and reveled in the sunshine-stained fabric of this strange winter.
In my soul it is spring. I am reveling in the novelty of this post-boob world. I am at once a very old man (I finished two ½ sudoku puzzles the eve before) and a bright young baby aeon, heralding the new race of genderless folks to come. I feel incredible. It can only be known by those who experience it: the reclamation. When a part of our queer body is reclaimed, made to match more with our internal chemistry, there is a profound and bittersweet relief. Mostly sweet, but I am an artist and I sure do like it bitter too. I find it sweet because it’s a monumental moment to rejoice! Rejoice! I rejoice, for living my life as an affront to a collective schizophrenia that demands brand-named normalcy. We are a species so essentially diverse! What is this “normal”? It, whatever it is, has wreaked havoc on our psyches. And it is through self-reclamation, individuation, and respect of others’ individuation that we may combat this troublesome trend of twos: Us vs Them, Male vs Female, White vs Brown, Rich vs Poor etc. etc. etc.
Top surgery has been an unquestionable (although I did question it) necessity for me on my journey to self-individuation. I can relax into the deeper work I must do with my psyche because this external reality I toy with has been, well, toyed with. Some people buy themselves cars, I bought myself no-boobs. The price is comparable.
Could I have individuated without top surgery? Well, I’m not sure I could have (and perhaps hypotheticals for alternative realities is not too useful). Here, let me try anyway:
My life would have been different. I would have navigated around my inner and outer worlds in a different manner. When I touch into my true voice about this, it tells me I’d live a life forever somewhat uncomfortable in my body. Because even now, in this reality, I spent a decade living with breasts (and a gender assignment) I tried to accept. I diluted my inner voice with all kinds of bullshit, be it church, state or MTV. I fumbled about, trying to accept my body and secure my “cis privilege”. Nope. Did not work. I even dived into some New Age hippie mentality (which can remain just as dangerous as orthodox religions if you don’t pay attention) that one’s body is a temple and thus one should not defame it. I clung to whatever information kept me from the soft parts of myself: the wounded animals that breathed heavy on the floor of my internal wilderness. I strained to live with syrup-sweet ignorance until I got a toothache that later pierced my brain with unsettling clarity. I was about to take action on a secret I had been uneasy with for a long time: I have all the makings of a leader, but I am not a leader like they’ve seen before. I am 3 parts angel 3 parts mutant and 3 parts archetypal human. I am here to lead with the heart. Revolution #9.
POST OPERATIVE DAY 8
It is beyond a week that I live without the prominence of two mounds of flesh for me to carry. I live with a renewed sense of weightlessness, one that well-cared-for children tend to exhibit daily. I am a well-cared-for child that I’ve had to raise myself, from one life to the next. This is my next life, both a deviation from and a continuation of what has passed. I revel in the brave innocence I’ve taken like a tonic, the liquid filling in the cracks of my opened wound. I understand and care for the prayer that has left its mark on my visage to the world, spoken in the shape of a broken smile. The scars that mark my journey enter me, with willingness or without, into the family of others who have taken this road of roads.
I see the genius in all of our unique gender adventures. How perfect and brilliant it is that we as gender fuckers exist with a ringing vivacity. That we demand to be recognized as all beings should. That we with our heart’s leadership create space for all others to live in their truth. This genius I celebrate with a fierceness birthed by the untenable immersion into the death of my old self. The sensations of death do not have to take the body with it, for the body is held together by invisible strands. Each day there is a weaving. As quiet as the small animal in the brush at dawn, the new self emerges and fastens the body anew.
(Photo Credits: My macbook’s photobooth and Megan Joy May; but mostly and firstly Megan Joy May.)
About Marval A Rex
Marval Angela Rechsteiner – known professionally as Marval A Rex – is a self-proclaimed mutant, artist and Jedi apprentice to the Master we call Life. Although he primarily identifies as a ceramicist, Marval is open to any and all mediums in expressing his indomitable spirit. His most recent artistic forays include video art and the photographic memoir of his gender adventure. For the sanctity of his mental and emotional health, Marval lives Life as Art, which means he believes that every moment is a moment full of intentional wonder and hidden masterpiece. Alongside his surrender to his inner muse (boy is she sassy), Marval holds a deep sense of spirituality, moving beyond any existential angst to find magic in all things. His daily meditative practice includes throwing a hexagram for the I Ching or Book of Changes, consulting astrological transits, and imbibing the wisdom of Gene Keys and Human Design. Marval’s artistic website can be found at kinglyvisions.jigsy.com, his artist facebook at facebook.com/marvelartking, and blog at kinglyvisions.blogspot.com.
Rainbows and Other Stuff
Insert small $ donation here patreon.com/neutrois to wind up the Micah-elves that tippity-type all the words for non-binary rainbow awesomeness.
5 thoughts on “Featured Voices: The First 7 Days”
I like the poetry, irony, and symbolism in this. Beautifully written.
Wow!!! Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.
Lovely. It’s a part of surgery and transition that is rarely shared. Thank you both for sharing this!
And yes, we are all phoenixes rising from our own ashes created by the flame we started ourselves. This song won the Eurovision Song Contest a few years back, I love it along with the gender bending singer Conchita and thought of it again aft reading this post. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ToqNa0rqUtY