When I was a pre-pubescent kid, I was obsessed with soap operas on television. I watched a string of them in a row from 1pm to 4pm on ABC: All My Children, One Life To Live, and General Hospital. Thinking back the best named one, of course, was One Life To Live, but my favorite was General Hospital. How come no one ever has publicly questioned the fucked up storyline of Luke and Laura on General Hospital? If I recall correctly, Luke rapes Laura, they fall in love and still together to this day? What the fuck? I didn’t dream that as a kid, right? Also thinking back, that was some real pro-rapey bullshit on that show. And sickly, I didn’t know to question it, I loved it, but not because of that.
There was always a scene every week that kept me especially hooked. One of the main male characters was always being injured it seemed; usually they would show the guy unconscious in his hospital bed and SHIRTLESS. Gawd, does anyone remember that publicity photo they released of Bret Michaels after his brain popped a blood vessel and they took a picture of him shirtless in his hospital bed with his bandanna-wig on? I loved the 80s vibe of his soap opera moment on digital film. But back in the 70s on General Hospital, apparently they didn’t have johnnies to cover the chests of their wounded studs. I remember it clearly, it was the first time that I saw a man’s chest and thought, that is what I want my body to look like when I grow up, sans the oxygen mask, little round patches and heart rate machine attached to it.
I would watch those every day after school and at night I would lay on my built-in bed and turn on my Jean-Nate lamp that my Dad brought home from a fragrance display at his pharmacy and was my primary light source in my bedroom for years, and would take my shirt off. I would neatly fold my Barbie and Ken sheets and blankets down to my waste-line, just like on General Hospital, lay there and pretend I was injured from a car crash. Sometimes there was that hot redhead nurse Bobby Spencer (the rapist’s sister) standing at my side, worried I wouldn’t make it. But I would always wake just for her, cracking one eye open, then the slowly the other and talking to her in my dried out, crackly voice to her ”where am I?” or “what happened?” Bobby would be grateful that I awoke and lay her head on my chest and tell me how scared she was that I was going to die.
I was always scared someone would walk in and see me there, just staring down at my chest, talking to Bobby Spencer. Bobby loved my chest and stroked it with such love and admiration. I remember that was what made me better. I always seemed to get better when she loved on my beautiful, flat, masculine chest, it was great medicine.
Ever since I can remember I always wanted a flat chest and when I grew up I grew into triple Ds. When I figured out as an adult that I was trans and also decided I needed chest surgery in order to feel better in my own skin, I had no idea how I was going to make it happen. I had researched lots of surgeons, but all of them came with a hefty price tag! And no, insurance doesn’t cover any of it. So if you need a surgery like this it can cost anywhere between $5000-15,000, not including travel expenses, aftercare, and downtime from work.
I’m not rich and I know many my fellow trans and butch brothers are not flush with cash either. I can’t tell you how many times I felt hopeless that I would never have the chest that I dreamed about as a kid. I’m a pretty positive person so it was rare for me to get real low about it, but there were a few times and it was one of the worst lingering feelings. I was barely making ends meet and couldn’t see how it was ever going to happen.
I held a comedy show fundraiser at one point that raised no money. The place I rented for the show cost $500 and that is how much money I made, so I just broke even. I once wrote to a rich lady that was written up in the local paper for having donated a lot of money to a health clinic. I knew in my heart it wasn’t really the right thing to do at the time, asking a complete stranger to help me, but sometimes you just feel so desperate inside that you do things that maybe the best version of yourself wouldn’t do.
There was a period where I just gave up and thought maybe this is it, this is how I have to live my life with this body, knowing who I am but financially I can’t make it happen on the outside. I think this is one of the things that drives trans people to taking their own lives. I didn’t think about doing that, but I knew how dark of a feeling it was to me and I could imagine others taking it to that place. So I tried really hard to find acceptance of myself and my body, even if it was temporary acceptance. I kind of hate to say it, but it worked, only temporarily. I think I just compartmentalized it and put it away for another time when I could actually DO something about it. Eventually did eat away at me and my happiness became darkness again and I couldn’t always shake it.
In 2006, I relocated to Los Angeles to follow my little heart deeper into my comedy career and moved in with an old friend who owns a house in the valley. She let me live with her for super cheap and really shortly after that I started working comedy shows around the country with another friend as her opening act. I am so grateful for both of these things that aligned in my life. I saved every dime I made, that didn’t go to my rent, for my chest surgery. Between the extremely low rent and the regular work performing, I managed to save enough to finally have my chest surgery. I’m terrible at saving money so I’m still shocked that I did it! It wasn’t easy by any means. Being a Comic is generally not steady work and being a small Comic, you’re always hustling hard for low paying gigs. Being a Comic is not a financially wealthy career choice or as glamorous as people think. My struggle to find money to have what I needed for surgery was like many other trans guys and butches out there, not everyone of course, but we do have a lot of shared experience.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a link on my facebook page about a guy who was trying to raise money for his chest surgery by creating a photo calendar of sexy trans men. My friend who posted it told me I should do it.. at first I laughed and thought I’m not sexy enough for a calendar. I remembered my flop of a fundraiser and asking that woman I didn’t know for money and I thought fuck, I should do this to try to help him. I may not be flush with cash to offer this guy but I can certainly snap a self portrait of myself and submit it and see if he’ll use it for his calendar. So I asked my girlfriend’s permission, because I knew I was going to do something on the risque side with some nudity and didn’t want her to be taken by surprise when she saw it. I also knew I was going to go all out for this, I actually wanted IN that calendar and I didn’t know my competition.
I created a little modest photo set in my bedroom and grabbed my little pom-chi pup Frank, he’s just the right size to cover my naughty bits and away I sent the image that did end up making the calendar. And for the record, if any Trans person FTM/MTF is struggling to find funds for their surgery and comes up with a fun creative way to raise money.. I may not have straight cash for you, BUT I will always try my best to lend my time or art to your campaign, just like Aaron’s “Sexy F2M Calendar 2013″ that is available and on sale now to 100% benefit his chest surgery!
Aaron, I hope you get what you need, I think what you did is really great! The calendar looks awesome! Congrats! People, now go buy it! Here is how you can get yours: Click here to purchase the calendar!