This article approaches transgender surgery from the “side door” and explores the consequences of happenstance surgery for the gender-nonnormative subject. In this happenstance context, the trans chest as a concept is problematic on two counts—being popularly understood only in the cis-surgical context of cancer treatment (mastectomy) or the FTM transitional context (of top surgery). Neither of these contexts readily allows for a nonnormative trans chest. The author utilizes their own experiences of chest surgery to critique delegitimizing, prohibitive clinic practices that efface or misrecognize gender-diverse subjectivity. While this critique is straightforward in that it highlights the need for ongoing change in medical care practices, the author advances a philosophical analysis of genderqueer subjectivity that turns toward a poetics of selfhood. They suggest that understanding the poetics of genderqueerness displaces the “big P” politics of alterity that commonly marks queer activism. They argue that this displacement has epistemological value for what they call trans-peripheral surgical subjects. Building on notions of burdensome self-advocacy and the possibility of being, the article posits that the poetics of nonnormativity acts as a stabilizing or restorative feature of genderqueer and trans-peripheral life. This is especially linked to experiences of surgical transformation in hospitals and surgical clinics that contribute to and shape existential stress. Beginning with a contextualization of genderqueerness and an explanation of the terms trans-peripheral and queer, the article moves from a narrative account of surgical experience to a theory that grounds poetics as a complement to the politics of selfhood.

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