By: Sai Siddhaye
In December of 2020, I underwent breast reduction surgery. After years of loathing my body and desperately wishing to change it, the tipping point came at the beginning of quarantine, when having no distractions from my body became overwhelming. My bra size was a 32F, which–as those educated in bra sizes will know–is uncomfortably large. My intense back pain, abysmal posture, and painful marks in my skin left by bras, which were constants in my life for so long, became unbearable.
On top of all this, my already unhealthy body image was worsening in isolation. I had always resented my big chest, viewing it as something keeping me from achieving dainty femininity, but being quarantined and not having to perform gender made me realize how much I disliked having to cosplay femininity at all. It became clear to me that I was simply wearing inauthentic femininity as a façade to fulfill my expected social role, rather than acknowledging my inherent androgyny. Letting go of my gender performance revealed that the disconnect between my hyperfeminine curves and my authentic gender presentation was the source of many of my bodily insecurities. With even more discomfort and distress focused on my chest, I fantasized endlessly about getting breast reduction surgery, believing it was a faraway dream only accessible to celebrities and the like.
Remarkably, it was TikTok that came to my rescue. I happened upon a video of an ordinary woman describing her breast reduction and waxing poetic about all the good it did her, laying out the process and encouraging others to look into it. She spoke about her experience without the judgement that usually surrounds cosmetic surgery. What had seemed so out of my reach suddenly became much closer to me.
I am very privileged to have access to health insurance, which made my process much easier than it would have been otherwise. After consulting my doctor and discussing the pros and cons of reduction mammoplasty, I was sent to a surgeon to iron out the details. The process of getting an insurance claim for my surgery was, as expected, a series of rather expensive hoops to jump through. My surgeon was very helpful in helping me game the system, so to speak; she recommended that I appeal to my insurance company from the angle of alleviating physical pain rather than body dysmorphic disorder to get the best possible insurance claim, and made the process simple and stress-free. After getting referrals from specialists and attending physical therapy sessions to ensure that mammoplasty was the best course of action, I was ready for surgery.
My surgery took about 6 hours, and after an overnight stay at the hospital, I returned home sans-breasts. For the first few days, I did nothing but sleep and eat, sluggish as I was from the pain medication and residual anesthesia. This was probably for the best, as the swelling following the surgery was remedied by drains hung from my bandages like grotesque chains, which were just as distasteful as they were medically useful. This was probably the most unpleasant part of my recovery process. Though I began to heal surprisingly quickly, my incision scars were raw and painful for many weeks. In fact, the first time I was allowed to shower after the surgery, the sight of myself stitched up like Frankenstein’s monster–combined with my low blood pressure–was enough to make me faint right onto the bathroom floor.
I’m now approximately two months post-op, and since I hit the one-month mark it has been smooth sailing. My incisions are still sore, but I can move normally and don’t have to wear gauze anymore. It has also been a year since I took my first steps towards my breast reduction, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Taking control over my body has been an empowering experience that I strongly encourage everyone to experiment with.
My experience with cosmetic surgery has taught me two big lessons: repairing your body image requires more than changing your appearance, but making the choice to change your body should absolutely not be stigmatized. I am so much happier with the size of my chest now; I have far less back pain, moving around has become easier, and looking in the mirror is far less unpleasant. But changing my body has not fixed my issues with gender and body image. That is something I have to work on every day, and takes much more time and effort than surgery does. Regardless, if it weren’t for the stigma surrounding cosmetic surgery (especially mammoplasty), taking these steps to feel more comfortable in my body would have been so much easier. It is worth analyzing why our culture vilifies body modification, because unpacking it will give countless people the freedom to heal.
To anyone considering breast reduction surgery: my experience has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am immensely grateful that I was able to have this experience. I strongly encourage you to speak with a medical professional and see if it is the right step for you too.