I had an entirely different post that I was intent on publishing this week, but I listen to the Universe when it nudges, so here we go.
Living with gender dysphoria is challenging and some days are definitely worse than others. Resultantly, I tend to have “seasons” during which my dysphoria is even more difficult to deal with than usual. It is during these times that I have to revisit my “Roadmap to Coping with Gender Dysphoria” and analyze what has, or has not been working for me in terms of maintaining good mental and emotional health and alleviating my discomfort.
I have always been self-conscious of my rather sizable chest. So much so that I deliberately used to wear large shirts in an attempt to mask their presence. When I realized that that was rather uncomely, I opted for the tightest sports bras I could wear without effectively suffocating.
Nowadays I have been going out in public more often and to more places than the usual home, office and gym. I suppose this is a contributing factor to my increased self-consciousness, as with every encounter with unfamiliar persons, I am invariably greeted with the confused stares and the hesitation to address me as “Sir” or “Miss” lest they offend my rather delicate sensibilities. Thus, my appearance and their perception of such tends to be at the forefront of my mind.
“Are my pants too tight?”
“Is my rather un-bearded face a giveaway that I’m not a biological male?”
“Is the pitch of my voice too high?”
“Did I just sound too enthusiastic?”
“Are the breasts very prominent? Can they see that I’ve got breasts instead of a typical male chest?”
A million questions and more race through my mind before, during and after face to face interactions, and my anxiety regarding social interactions soars. In an effort to conceal my pronounced bust, I have made a habit of folding my arms across my chest. I highly doubt that this is effective, but I feel better when I do it than when I don’t attempt to hide it at all.
As I am writing this, I am reminded of the time my mom confronted me about wearing tight sports bras. I cannot recall her exact statement, but it was along the lines of
“Mi notice yuh a ban’ dung yuh breast dem. Yuh a try look like man?”
This caught me off guard as my mother isn’t usually this…outspoken. So you can imagine my astonishment when she blurts out
“What next? Yuh a go chop off yuh breast dem?”
In my bewilderment I was incapable of furnishing her with a response. I wasn’t entirely sure how to say “yes” when I knew that the thought of me undergoing chest reconstruction would be a lot for her to handle at the time. In fact, at that time, I myself had rejected the thought of transitioning because it seemed like an impossible feat to perform while living in Jamaica; not to mention the psychological and emotional effects it would have on my mom.
I have always longed to see my wonderful pecs being reflected when I look in the mirror; to not have to put on a bra before putting on a shirt; to have my shirts lie flat on my pecs, as opposed to having these breasts protrude significantly from my torso, bouncing exasperatingly with every step I take; to be shirtless, without the additional fat being there, rendering my chest as unsightly. But without access to transition-related health care services, the most I can do is attempt to make them as inconspicuous as possible.
I had considered binding as a teenager, but after viewing the “how-to” videos, I decided that encasing my torso in ridiculously tight bandages would most likely harm more than help, so I forwent that option. As much as I wanted them to disappear so I would not have them to contend with, I was not keen on possibly jeopardizing my long-term physical health.
Heaven forbid that my chest reconstruction surgery (CRS) not produce the most optimal results, as in my haste to address my discomfort I made foolhardy (in retrospect) decisions. Hence I stuck to the ultra-snug sports bra option and I suppose it works, though not enough to my liking. However, I stuck with it anyway because it seemed like the safer route. Binding methods have evolved though, so now binders generally tend to look like undershirts. And while some risk might still be involved, I perceive it to be less than that of the “original” binding methods I came across a decade ago.
As I met and formed friendships with other trans men, quite a few of them suggested that I reconsider binding as an option to help manage my discomfort; advice that I eventually heeded. A while back, a close friend of mine – who also identifies as a trans man – informed me that he was going to purchase his first binder and wanted to know if I wished to purchase one as well. I said yes, and the rest is history.
For the past few days I have been wearing my binder and while it doesn’t eradicate the existence of my bust, it sure flattens it. It isn’t a perfect solution, but I sure feel a lot more comfortable now engaging with people; slightly comforted by the fact that my bust is not as notable as it once was. If this minor addition to my life has helped me so significantly in such a short period of time, I can only imagine how euphoric I will actually feel once I’ve completed CRS; and I can’t wait to see and show off my (future) perfect pecs.