A Beginner’s Guide to Corporeal Cartography


17th century anatomical illustration by Adriaan van de Spiegel and Giulio Casseri

“Want to hear something super weird?” I asked my husband, over the phone. “I have no idea where my nipples are.”

My chest is cocooned in bandages tight and thick enough to conceal topography even from touch. Drains snake out either side. Below, the surface is a mystery, an alien landscape unsurveyed.

I’m three thousand miles from home, sleeping in a recliner in my parents’ living room while I recover from what’s popularly known as top surgery–female-to-male chest reconstruction. That I’m staying at my parents’ house extends my¬†sense of limbo beyond the boundaries of my own body. Like me, the house has been cut and respliced from the shape I know best, my childhood bedroom long since lost to a cracked foundation.

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