10 Things That Surprised Me After Top Surgery

I’m six weeks post-op from Top Surgery, and I’m learning a ton. I’m learning more about my body and my dysphoria, my goals for transitioning, and most importantly, life without boobs. Something truly beautiful about the trans community is the innumerous number of Google Docs, websites, Instagram posts, Autostraddle pieces, Reddit threads, TikTok videos, Notes Apps, and other resources that are shared amongst friends and strangers. I wish we didn’t need to be our own cohort of make-shift medical professionals but until our country’s healthcare system gets its shit together, we have to look out for our own. And even with all of these different experiences pulled together for my comfort and convenience, there’s still some stuff that comes as a surprise. So, consider this but one small contribution to the network of What’s the Deal with Top Surgery? resources.


Phantom Boob

I find myself going to grab my own chest during sex or going to hold them when I break into a jog down the hall as if they’re still there. It’s not that I miss them — because I don’t — but I am, of course, so accustomed to them. Not only am I used to having them there, but I’m used to them being an issue for me (well, except for the sex part).

Nipple Sensation

My left nipple has, what appears to be, complete nerve sensation. I was told the nerve that connects the nipple to my pleasure center would be severed, and even if I get some sensation back in the nipple itself, it wouldn’t be the same as before. That seems to not be the case. On the other nipple, the right side didn’t get as lucky.

I Love My Scars

The author Motti shirtless in a mirror pic displaying their top surgery scars

Before surgery, one of the biggest deterrents for me was the scars, mostly because I tend to get keloids. I love the way scars look on other trans dudes. I think they’re sexy. But I was nervous for myself and for my vanity. Now, I almost never want them to go away. I love them; I love how they look; I love what they represent. I stare at myself in the mirror all the time, and I see a body that was meant to be, even with the scars. It just makes sense, you know?

It’s Kinda No Biggie

I thought that it would take me months to get used to seeing myself without breasts and that it would be a really weird adjustment. But truthfully, I’ve already gotten used to it! There was all of this anticipation just to be like “Okay, this is it now.” It’s also been affirming for my girlfriend to not be fazed by it. She thinks it’s how I’m meant to look, like it looks natural, which is sick!

I Feel Liquids Travel All the Way Down My Chest

I’ve spoken to a few other people who also experienced this, and we think it’s due to maybe not having the breast tissue to keep your chest warm? I kind of sound silly when I try to articulate this to other people who don’t immediately get what I’m saying, and I fear that’s the case as I’m typing this. But you know when you really have not had anything to eat in a while and you chug  a bunch of ice water, and you feel it travel all the way down your entire digestive system? That happens to me every time I drink something.

Similarly, My Chest Gets So Much Colder in Low Temps

I have been wearing a vest under my jackets to keep my chest nice and warm during New York winter. I feel like those high school athletes with torn ACLs who could predict when it was going to rain. I’ve actually connected with cis dudes about this, who feel seen by my need for an extra layer. I even got a guy off the hook with his girlfriend who teases him about his vests. Next step: boat shoes and an Apple Watch.

I’m Not Shirtless as Often as I Thought I’d Be

I thought I’d be walking around my neighborhood shirtless, getting kicked out of establishments for indecent exposure, breaking dress codes left and right, and hard posting to Instagram every time I passed a mirror. So far, I’ve restrained myself. Partly because it’s still pretty cold in New York and partly because I think I need to hit the gym a little bit before I feel comfortable being shirtless in public.

I Don’t Just Like My Surgeon, I Love Him!

a text from Dr. Alan Freedman that says Just perfect progress. Tahnk you for the update.

The process of finding a surgeon that was in-network with my insurance, taking new patients, booking within the year, had good vibes, and had a history of work performing top surgery was… almost bad enough to make me give up altogether. So, I told myself I would find a surgeon who checks the boxes and that will be that. I don’t have to love the guy, we’re not going to be besties, he’s there to do a job. But man, did I land on a surgeon I really love! He and my girlfriend text all of the time, he gets my name and pronouns right, he has long-lasting relationships with previous patients, and he loves that I write stuff like this list for other trans people to read. He’s a true ally, and let me tell you: I had low expectations for an old white dude who drives a Tesla on Long Island.

I Wasn’t in Any Pain

The author Motti with a sleeve of saltines and a neck pillow

I know there are people who have gotten top surgery who have experienced a great deal of pain due to existing conditions and/or surgery complications. I know I am extremely privileged to say this, but it was pretty much a breeze. I did, though, experience a fair amount of discomfort from the drains and from the pain meds that I ultimately stopped taking, but other than that, I cannot say that I had any pain. The constipation is real, though.

I Am Not as Motivated to Workout as I Thought I Would Be

The author Motti flexing in a black tank in a mirror selfie

I told myself (and many, many other people) that I was going to get jacked after top surgery. “I’ll have no problem running once my boobs are gone!” and “I’ll love my new body so much that I’ll just really get to work afterwards” are two examples of lies I told myself and loved ones. It’s not that I am going to have a problem running or that I don’t love my body, I’m just still the same person I was before surgery: lazy. I simply am not interested in exercising. Don’t worry, though, I have a pending testosterone prescription.

This, of course, is not a complete list of things that may come as a surprise to someone about Top Surgery. For instance, I shared to my Instagram story during recovery that I was pretty shocked that I walked myself into the operating room. You see, I watch too much Grey’s Anatomy, and I assumed I would be rolled in on a stretcher, already knocked out. If you think I missed anything here that others could learn from, drop a line in the comments! Let’s be another resource for our trans siblings.

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Motti

Motti (they/he) is a New York born and raised sorority girl turned writer, comedian, and content creator (whatever that means these days). Motti has been featured on We're Having Gay Sex Live, The Lesbian Agenda Show, Reductress Haha Wow! Live, the GayJoy Digest, and even played the role of "Real Life Lesbian" on Billy on the Street. In 2022, they wrote about how clit sucker toys are a scam, sweet gay revenge, chasing their dreams, and getting run over by a pick up truck in their now-abandoned newsletter Motti is An Attention Whore. Motti has a Masters in Public Administration and Local Government Management, you'd never know it from the shit they post online (see previous sentence), but occasionally he'll surprise you with his knowledge of civic engagement and electoral processes. They live in Brooklyn with their tuxedo cat, Bo, and their 20 houseplants.

Motti has written 20 articles for us.

8 Comments

  1. The liquids!!! The cold!!! First time I hear someone relate to the former, and was kinda hoping it might go away as the tissue keeps connecting and getting stronger.
    I didn’t have complications or other health conditions but still quite a bit of pain/aches during recovery. Every body’s different.

  2. Ahhh this was so helpful! I’m 2.5 months out from surgery and I CANNOT WAIT but the nerves are definitely starting to peak their heads up a lil as I get closer. The good news is my best friend got their surgery in Dec from the same surgeon and had a good experience so I have proof positive that it’s all going to be ok! Still, I devour content like this so thank you for sharing!

  3. So happy for you, Motti! I too am gloriously happy that I got top surgery and in the two years since, I have never once regretted it for a moment. I love never having to put a bra on. I love being able to stand up straight for the first time since puberty. I love flexing and seeing my lil pecs ❤️!

    I feel you on the liquids thing, that happened to me too.

    I didn’t really feel much pain, but it took much longer than I expected to get my full energy back. It was a few weeks before I could run errands in the morning and NOT take a four hour nap afterwards. Everybody has a bit different of a recovery timeline I think.

  4. Congratulations on your surgery! I also had top surgery with Dr. Alan Freedman and was quite surprised to see him mentioned here. Not trying to detract from anything you are saying, but there isn’t a ton of info about him online (at least when I had surgery a few years ago) and I want to share that I did not have such a positive experience in case anyone reading this is considering him as a surgeon.

    Dr. Freedman is kind and attentive, but technically speaking, he did not do a very good job on my chest. Two different surgeons I’ve consulted about revisions have noted that he removed too much tissue on one side of my chest, left behind a portion of each areola and made the incisions unevenly and too low down on my chest. I’m glad to hear this isn’t the case for all his patients, but I also doubt that I am his only patient with these sort of issues. Also most of the nursing staff at the hospital was clueless about basic trans stuff like asking for a chosen name. Again, it is great to hear that isn’t a universal experience, but if I knew then what I know now, I might have made a different choice of surgeon.

    • Hi!! Thank you so much for sharing this – I think sharing your experience is exactly what I’m referring to when I say we are our own network of medical professionals. I agree – Dr. Freedman’s internet presence does NOT provide a ton of confidence in him as I don’t think his site even mentions anything about gender affirming care. I had this concern as well until I got to his office for the consultation and he showed me over a decade of before/afters.

      I am so sorry to hear your experience was anything less than amazing and I definitely don’t mean my experience to be a glowing endorsement/last say on his practice! It’s so disappointing to hear that the staff was getting stuff wrong and it makes me wonder why one experience is as so different from another. He and his staff were so great with my pronouns and name and identity, I wonder if that’s a new initiative? I haven’t had a follow up consult with any other surgeons, so who knows if others might have critiques on the results for me, too.

      I’m so thankful that you read this and shared your experience so that folks can make informed decisions and also see that experiences vary! I’ve found that that’s the case for so many people and it’s good to see both sides.

      • The collective community wisdom really is invaluable.

        To be fair, the issue was with the staff at the hospital (LIJ), not his office staff, but I think if he is doing gender affirming surgery fairly regularly, they need to work together to make sure the pre-op staff on those cases are clued in. And maybe that has changed since I was there. But if Northwell is going to profit off those sweet, sweet low-risk elective surgery dollars, the least they can do is a lil diversity training.

        And at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is making the decision that is best for your own body and life, and as you said, that is going to look different for every person.

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