dream until the darkness disappears
the world lost my aunt jane to breast cancer on Sunday evening. She was a fighter, a do-er, an inspiration. Before #topsurgery, there weren’t many people I spoke to about my fears and questions. I could talk generally to friends, but none of them had ever been through anything like chest surgery before. After sharing my plans for top surgery with my entire extended family, my aunt jane reached out. She called to say how proud of me she was and how she wanted to learn everything she could about gender and the person I know myself to be. She then offered to share parts of her experience with the double mastectomy she had due to her breast cancer. Even though she was aware that my surgery would be less invasive and painful in many respects, she was committed to doing all she could to help me feel more informed going into the procedure. I was that day more confident and prepared because of her.
After surgery, our conversations shifted. We would joke about how weird it was to go over a bump in the car and not feel our chests bounce. We would share experiences about the body’s miraculous way of rebuilding nerve endings so one regains sensation. I talked to her about my phantom hard nipples, which don’t get hard anymore, but definitely still produce the sensation. We talked about how not having that heavily gendered body part impacted our understanding of ourselves. It didn’t matter that my aunt jane was a cis woman and I identify as #nonbinary. She taught me so much about what it means to find common ground upon which genuine connection can be built. We shared the experience of being in the world with breasts and then having them removed. I never got to explicitly thank her for everything she did for me, and even though she lived thousands of miles away, she was there for me every step of the way. Now I stand tall, see beyond the darkness, and find strength in knowing she is watching over me