Jameson “Jay” Dunn was born in 1984 as Amanda Dunn.

He loves all things Legos, toys and video games.

And he also loves motorcycles.

He rides a shiny, black-and-white Yamaha Road Star 1700 that has massive handlebars. He wears a leather vest, and he has an impressive array of tattoos on his arms, chest and upper body, including one of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.   

And as soon as you meet him, he’s almost certain to greet you with a giant bear hug.

“I’m a hugger,” Jay said, climbing off his motorcycle after a recent sunny afternoon ride.

He and his wife, Jill, live in Kalamazoo, where Jay works in surgery reprocessing. He sterilizes and cleans tools for surgeries—surgeries like gender-affirming top surgery, which he knows a lot about.

Jay said he was one of three openly gay people in high school.

“Growing up gay was hard on me and my best friend,” he said. “A lot more of our people came out much later in life.”

Jay identified as a lesbian for many years prior to connecting with the transgender community and finally undergoing gender-affirming top surgery at Spectrum Health in 2020.

“Everyone’s story is different,” he said. “For me, it was an epiphany of what’s missing.”

His mother passed away about eight years ago, which led Jay to some soul-searching. It was hard for his mother to accept the fact he was gay, but she and his sister loved and accepted him when he came out.

“Mom always hated that I was a tomboy,” he said. “I was into boy things. I sat like a boy and walked like a boy. But I did receive tremendous love and support from my mother and sister along the way. My wife Jill is also my biggest strength and supporter—she’s my pillar of strength.”

But then one day, he said it just hit him.

“I’m trans,” he said.

‘The next step’

At age 35, Jay took the next step in his life toward becoming a transgender man. He connected with Amie Hop, MD, a surgeon at the Spectrum Health Comprehensive Breast Clinic.

Transgender top surgery was the first step that would become a life-changing procedure for Jay.

Dr. Hop said she remembers meeting Jay for the first time.

“He would always come into the clinic with such a big smile,” she said. “He’s a confident and strong person. And his positive attitude is contagious.”

Preparation for surgery included consultations with Dr. Hop, as well as meeting specific clinical requirements.

The surgery took just three hours. And recovery was relatively quick—one to two weeks for most patients.

“Most people can do their own care at home starting the day after surgery,” Dr. Hop said. “And at two weeks, many are back to normal activities with the exception of heavy lifting.”

Preparation for surgery comes with a lot of precautions: no smoking, for example, as nicotine hinders the healing process.

After surgery, Jay required drains on his incisions for over a month, along with wearing a binder—a tight-fitting top to compress the chest.

“I didn’t really get to see myself for two weeks due to bandages,” he said. “But when I finally got to see it, even though the scars and incisions were pretty gnarly, I was very happy. To see myself flat-chested was just amazing.”

‘Perfect example of confidence’

Dr. Hop said these procedures are important for many reasons.

“Jay is a perfect example of the confidence that people can gain when their body aligns with their identity,” she said. “Many times we see patients post-op who light up. Their energy is so positive.

“This can benefit so many elements of their life, including their mental outlook, self-confidence, relationships with their family and friends, and their approach to their goals and overall health.”

In continuing to better his life, Jay also had bariatric surgery a few months after transgender top surgery.

“I was over 300 pounds,” Jay said, looking back at old photos. “I suffered from overeating and drinking too much.”

He would lose more than 125 pounds on his long-term health journey, which included lifestyle changes along the way.

Jay said his outlook on life now is that bad things happen every day, but you just need to keep waking up every day and keep trying.

“Some days I’ll get so frustrated I’ll cry,” he said. “But you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

Simply life-changing

Jay recently enrolled in college and is considering starting a small business with his wife.

Double J’s Pallet Finds is the concept.

“We buy and sell pallets full of goods and sell them at flea markets,” he said. “My wife likes the pallets, and I’m into buying and selling Legos.”

He has a “bat cave,” packed full of parts and pieces. He plans to continue building and building, until they find a space to launch the business.

Comic books and motorcycles are his passion, and something he knows much about.

“I have been around bikes my whole life,” he said. “This one is nice and loud.”

His favorite comics are Batman and Deadpool.

“Darth is obviously one of my favorites, too,” he said. “I have a tattoo of him that I got on Star Wars Day.”

In respect to transgender top surgery, Jay describes the experience as simply life-changing.

“Dr. Hop and her team are the sweetest bunch of people I have had the ability to come in contact with,” he said. “My life didn’t begin until I met Dr. Hop. And now the rest of my life has begun at age 35.

“I can take on the world now,” he said. “The confidence I have is just amazing.”

Jay said he wishes he could have been in touch with his feelings earlier in life, but things then weren’t as progressive in the world as they are now.

“I couldn’t see my future because I couldn’t see myself in it,” he said. “And now I can.”