How Getting a Breast Reduction Helped Me Unlearn Heterosexism
Getting a breast reduction was one of the most difficult, intimidating, exhilarating, and satisfying decisions of my life—in that order.
I had bad luck in the Russian roulette of genetics which granted me small measurements with a disproportionately large chest. Needless to say, my body strained to support what eventually became a chest in the size of 32G. Neck pain, back pain, deteriorating posture, and sexual harassment gradually became my normal.
I was no longer identified by childhood nicknames à la Lisa Simpson, but rather, I was the girl with the large chest, and nothing more. No amount of good grades or soul-searching led me to become more than that in the eyes of others (read: most men, some women).
When I wore high-neckline clothing to cover up, I was accused of enhancing the size of my chest. When I wore low-cut clothing, I was accused of showing it off. When I dressed to mimic other girls my age, I was accused of dressing inappropriately by sheer virtue of my figure. My ability to represent myself became trapped in a catch-22, and I was slut-shamed to no end.
What other people considered my defining characteristic, and some, equally derogatorily, my best trait, quickly became my biggest insecurity. Somehow it invited comments. Regardless of the people, the setting, or my efforts, it was always a topic of discussion.
For a few years, I tried to overcome this insecurity by embracing it. I would be the first to make statements about the size of my chest or crack a joke. I was always told to approach my insecurities with humour. But this didn’t work. I was still a slut, just a self-proclaimed one now.
Men in my family barely looked me in the eye when I spoke. Men on the streets, many of them decades older than me, invited themselves into my life to compliment me with cheaply disguised intentions. Men who knew me imposed personality traits upon me in hopeful misdemeanour. Male teachers commented as early as elementary school. I was one-third human, two-thirds sex symbol.
For four years I played with the idea of a reduction in the sterile environment of my doctor’s office. A push-and-pull of pros and cons stretched endlessly across my mind. I bit my tongue every time before requesting a referral, for fear of losing a part of myself and my value. More accurately, I might say, a part of myself that others had defined for me in terms I didn’t like and under circumstances I didn’t want to be associated with.
Once I reached the point of suggesting a surgeon by name, my doctor sent me the referral. She told me to schedule an appointment—it could be strictly informative; I could always say no. My doctor detected what I could only detect in retrospect: I was already too emotionally invested, whether I realized it or not.
Luckily, my surgeon detected the same thing, scheduling my surgery date during my first visit to her office. Later, I would remember this as one of the most fortunate events in my life. Thus, the slow process of undoing societal notions of female value began. In other words, healing began long before surgery.
Regardless of gender, people get breast reductions. But for a cisgender woman, getting a breast reduction forced me to face raw, vicious heterosexism head-on. So ladies, if you’re even considering a breast reduction, it’s probably a sign that you should get one. And if your experience will be anything like mine, keep a couple things in mind:
First: men in your life will try to steer you off course, pointing out harm that will befall you and conjuring up every reason why you shouldn’t. Whether they’re your friends, your partner, your colleagues, your coworkers, your family, or just strangers—don’t listen to them. They will treat it like the tragedy it never was and never will be. The only tragedy is continuing to live in pain and discontent to appease them.
Second: you are valuable in every sense. This is not negotiable. You are valuable naked and trembling of cold in front of the mirror after a shower. You are valuable baggy-eyed and slow in the mornings. You are valuable hairy and bare-faced. You are valuable regardless of the relative size of various body parts. You are valuable in pain and suffering, but also in your self-preserving demands. You are valuable in your rawest, purest form by simple virtue of your humanity.
Since my surgery, I have encouraged numerous women considering a breast reduction to go through with it. Like me, many of them considered backing out, and are now glad they didn’t. I repeat like a mantra: the only thing you will regret is not doing it sooner.
For the reasons I have mentioned above, the process is much more gruelling in the emotional sense than the physical sense. For many of us, a breast reduction can seem like we are removing something of value from our beings—this is simply not true, and anyone who claims that it is has deeply (and discriminatorily) misplaced their priorities in loving you.