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Transitioning is a Process

Top surgery is not the only thing Austin chooses in his journey to transition. He has used a binder around his chest since puberty and gets injections of testosterone every two weeks. He describes the “tingling” of the medication and the physical effects to his body and voice. He hopes one day to have phalloplasty but the cost for that seems out of reach. He should probably get a hysterectomy to address severe cramping he experiences.

Why would someone want Top Surgery?

Austin Unbound is a surgery film about a Deaf guy, but it is not about cochlear implants. CI surgery never appealed to Austin. Austin just wants to live his life as a regular Deaf guy – and top surgery will help him do that.

There are lots of reasons someone might choose to have a mastectomy. Austin identifies as a man, and never wanted breasts in the first place. After puberty, he started wearing a binder around his chest every day, as a way to better represent his identity. The binder gives him more peace with his outward appearance, but it is not good for his health. It is restrictive and makes it harder for him to breathe. Once he is free from his binder, he will be able to swim freely.

Necessary Expenses

After jumping through various hoops to legally change his name and gender, he and his community put on a gender-affirming fundraiser in the form of an ASL variety show. His mom agrees to lend him the balance, allowing him to finally access the surgery he has planned and saved for all these years

Top Surgery – Before & After

Austin meets his surgeon, Dr. Michael Brownstein, at his office, to meet and go over the procedure. His procedure will be outpatient, but he is given a prescription to manage the pain and instructions for how to deal with any drainage. The following morning, he checks in at the hospital and is ready for the operating room. The film captures the mastectomy and areolar reconstruction. The surgery goes well and Austin heads back to his hotel to recover for a few days.

Moderate Scarring

Austin and his girlfriend, Lola, have a date night at home, cooking dinner. They are relaxed and openly discuss sex and their relationship. Lola shares that since the surgery he seems more free and more comfortable than ever. Later, in the hot tub, we see Austin’s scars have healed quite well since the surgery.

An inspiring, happy-making thing to watch. Kelly Clark, Willamette Week

Intersectional Agenda

Austin took time for serious consideration before allowing filmmakers to document his journey for top-surgery. He wasn’t living in stealth among friends and relatives, but moving forward with the film meant he would be out to complete strangers. In the Deaf-world, this can have graver implications, since the community is small meaning privacy comes at a premium. Austin ended up deciding he was willing to share his story because none before his accomplished this through the Deaf perspective. He wanted to bestow his story to young Deaf people who were exploring gender identity, Deaf and hearing people who may not be aware of the gender spectrum, and to the rest of society who may not have had the privilege to experience Deaf culture firsthand.

Once he made the decision, Austin did not hold back. He takes us through a sex store, showing FTM packers and his preferred sex toy. He talks about testosterone affects on genitalia, discusses prosthetic penises and invites us into his doctor’s appointment and into the operating room.


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