I have, as of the date I am writing this piece, 30 days left of this year before summer break. If you ignore the two weeks in May that are reserved for state testing, there are four actual weeks left, and the last week where everyone does their best to not bolt for the doors as the minutes towards freedom creep by slower and slower. As I am not a contracted teacher, and instead work as a Title I liaison at my school, I don’t collect a paycheck over the summer. Usually, I work every bit of summer school I can sign up for, but this year I only signed up for four weeks, unsure of many of my summer plans.
Top surgery is on that list. Maybe. Honestly, I am not sure. Not because I am beyond ready to escape the dysphoric process of getting ready to leave my house today, but because I am not sure when I am going to pencil it in. August 21st is when I am due to report back for the year, and between my other summer plans, there is not a lot of time to be laid up for the better part of a month unable to do anything but heal. Six years ago, when I started testosterone injections, if you would have told me I would be legally finished with my transition before I medically was, I would have laughed in your face. And yet, here we are, approaching another summer and again, me wondering if it is going to happen this year or next.
Believe me, I want it over. I want to snap my fingers and look down and presto, flat chest, with or without nipples. I really have no strong feelings either way, although the horror stories of nipple grafts failing have me leaning towards no-nips. Money is no longer an issue, my wife and I are comfortable enough for us to float this summer while I heal on one income, because it is not like I am going to be doing many summer activities when I will be unable to bend over or wear anything other than a button down during the first chunk of my recovery. Nope, this quagmire I find myself in is one completely centered around the realities of not being able to pinpoint a perfect time to go under the knife.
I know that there is never going to be a perfect time, and that many people take short-term disability or flex time in order to facilitate their surgical recovery, and while I am capable of that exact thing, it is entirely an issue of comfortableness with why I would be away from work versus a political climate that is definitively anti-trans. A month ago, right after the shooting at Covenant School in Tennessee, I overheard a conversation taking place outside of my office that has left my comfort levels in public lower than they have been since I first became consistently passing. While most if not all of my colleagues are aware of my transness, or just, non-stereotypic brand of masculinity, it is still not something I advertise at work. This is deliberate and intentional. While I have an administrative staff that backs me entirely, I refuse to create a distraction with parents that is centered around what is or is not in my pants. This is the first job that began after I legally became Asher, and that ability to just stealthily exist in some sense is both comforting and daunting.
The rhetoric of the last few years that has only ramped up following the lack of a red wave in November weighs on all queer folks, especially those who do not emulate traditional gender roles and presentations. The safety of working in Maryland is moot when my home lies across the river in West Virginia. I would be lying if that reality has not contributed to my newfound friendship with Buspirone, or that the physiological effects of constantly feeling dread at what offensive and hate-filled thing is going to come out of the political land that logic has forgotten. This is only the second week in months where I can sleep through the night without waking in a sweaty panic. I want to stress about top surgery recovery and not have the next thought be the dread of someone using that fact against me. Instead, I float amongst the sea of American social unrest, hopeful my life preserver is as permanent as the uncertainty of what lies on the horizon.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. An alumnus of Shepherd University where honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current treasurer of Hagerstown Hopes, serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also the co-facilitator of both the Trans and Spouse groups. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap for medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He is on Twitter @ItsAsherK, and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of The Office in his spare time.