On Doubt

“Our doubts are traitors,
and make us lose the good we oft might win,
by fearing to attempt.”

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

Two days before my top surgery, I looked down at my chest and questioned–for the first time in a year–whether I should keep my body the way it was.  I felt my breasts, weighed them in my hands, coaxed myself to like them.  I couldn’t muster any emotion about my breasts, but still I found myself wondering if I would regret the surgery.

This wasn’t the first time on the transition path that I’d encountered doubt.  It cropped up every time I was on the cusp of a step in the transition that had a feeling of finality.  Starting testosterone, changing my name, coming out publicly, surgery–all of these steps made me start the process from the very beginning.

The thing about my doubt is that always takes the same evolutionary path.  At inception, I convince myself that being transgender isn’t itself real.  Soon I realize that is a ludicrous notion.  But I have to walk myself through it.

Doubt voice:  Being trans is so weird.  How can it be real?

Reassurance voice:  Trans people have existed throughout human history.  Being weird doesn’t make it not real.

Doubt voice:  But how can I know that I’m trans? Maybe I’m being influenced by pop culture.

Reassurance voice:  You have been through this.  Through therapy, through decision-making.  And every time you’ve made a step forward in your transition, you’ve been measurably happier.

Doubt voice:  But what if this is a step too far?

Reassurance voice: You can get a boob job.

Doubt voice: Eww, no! Wait, but what if the fact that I’m doubting this is proof that I’m not really trans.

Reassurance voice:  Cis people don’t go to consultations to have this kind of surgery; they don’t obsess over before-and-after pictures.  They don’t even spend this much time (probably none at all!) thinking about their gender identity.


The night before surgery, my mother asked me if I was really sure and if there was a chance I would regret it because I couldn’t go back.  This comment might have sent me into a tailspin if I hadn’t already talked myself through my own feelings of doubt.  I knew it was right, even if I couldn’t be certain.  And over three weeks past the surgery it turns out I was more right that I even guessed.

This weekend my mother asked if I was used to my new body yet.  I replied first that it wasn’t a new body, just my body.  And then I answered her as honestly as I could: that I was more used to my body in the last three weeks than I ever got to my body in the decades before the surgery.

I realized my doubt and fears had been standing between me and change ever since I was in college and I first heard about someone getting top surgery.  I had thought then that it would never be possible to have the level of certainty you would need to permanently alter your body.  It may have taken a long time, but I am glad that I learned not to listen to that voice.


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