From Dysphoria to Euphoria

I'll never wear a binder again.

I’ll never wear a binder again.

It’s been three weeks since I had top-surgery. I look so natural to myself in the mirror that it is impossible to believe that I used to be a 38C. I’m not exactly flat chested; my breast bone is prominent, and even as the bruising goes down, I look like I’ve got pecs. Euphoria.

I also have scars, scabs, stitches, and a little flaking and chafing. It isn’t pretty. I’ve got three more weeks to go before I can walk around without compression. I’m sleeping by myself (i.e. with Gracie) because I have to sleep on my back and I snore like Daffy Duck in this clip. Every morning I climb into the other bed, lie on my back, and cuddle with Donna.

Donna still hasn’t seen me shirtless, but she has seen me in shirts. She isn’t ready to look at my scars. I don’t blame her.

Two years ago, Donna was shocked and upset that I started binding. In retrospect, it was the only trans action I took without prepping her beforehand or waiting for her to get used to the idea. To keep the peace, I agreed not to spring anything else on her and to include her in my decision-making. A year ago, Donna was talking about top surgery as self-mutilation and a form of misogyny. Yesterday, while were on the bus, she said that I look like myself only more so. She said my chest fits me. I had to ask her to repeat it.

When we got home I took out some shirts I was ambivalent about. Shirts I would wear as an under layer, but not solo. Shirts that were close-fitting or thin enough that you could see the outline of my binder under the fabric. I tried them on. Imagine my surprise to see that they looked much, much, better on me post surgery. It wasn’t the shirt that was the problem (they don’t “look” like women’s shirts) it was my breasts. My silhouette. Even in a binder.

I also tried on my remaining women’s flannel and chamois shirts (no darts-no princess seams). They are a little baggy, but they lay flat and don’t “blouse out” –  I lost track of which ones buttoned right or left until I put them on. They’ve been defanged. They are suitably butch and transmasculine. My chest fits me.

After years of wearing loose shirts and layering to minimize my chest it is a relief to throw on a shirt and have it lay flat. Which brings me back to one of my original problems: I am 5’4″. American clothing manufacturers are convinced that I am a size 10 petite, and they do not make men’s or boy’s off-the-rack shirts that fit me properly, with breasts or with a chest.

I don’t mind splurging on custom shirts. However, every T-shirt I’ve tried on recently seems to be cut for a guy who is 6’2″. Consequently, I will start another cycle of researching which brands run short in T-shirts and  which brands run wide at the hips instead of tapered. My goal is to find one that looks right on me, and I don’t think I’ll find it in the women’s sportswear department.

Notes: While I was Googling “clothes for short guys” I found The Modest Man. The blog is run by a 5’6″ cis guy named Brock, and he has some interesting links and advice on dressing sharp while short.

The photograph is of Harry Houdini (5’6″), bound in chains, ready to make his escape. I know just how he feels.

 

34 thoughts on “From Dysphoria to Euphoria

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, but it is stlil a little like getting a beautifully wrapped package and not wanting to open it for fear of disappointment. Hope your 2015 brings you and Bob some company and happiness.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, I can’t imagine what I would do to “top” this. Goal for 2015 is to enjoy it and find something to wear to go swimming in (I promised Donna I would not go topless unless we were on a nude beach which would be a first for me).

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  1. Cai

    I’ve seen pics of cis women, trans men, and everyone else who goes through chest reduction surgery (from trans-related issues to because of breast cancer) get tattoos to cover their scars. Often something floral or symbolic

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I’m a chicken and tattoos scare me (needles). I’ve got a bunch of scars from other things (surgery, kitchen accidents, etc.) and I don’t worry about them. I’m going to wait and see how I feel about the scar and if it is something I’m comfortable with. As long as I’m not doing a binary transition, I don’t expect to be shirtless in public, so it is more for me. I also got some silicone scar tape (Mepitac Medical Tape) that I will try out to help the scars heal.
      However, if you are into tattoos, all the more power to you – Eli at My Life Without Tits got a huge beautiful one one his chest.

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      1. Cai

        I wont get them till after surgery, which could be minths, years from now. Would rather have the scars than the breasts. Need the money more for college, bills, and karaoke night. 🎤🍻🎓📚

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  2. Pixie

    I suspect at this point it will only get better for you. 🙂 Having a “chest that fits” is such an amazing feeling.

    For me it wasn’t that I looked different in the clothes, honestly I seriously doubt anyone around me noticed any visual difference between me-binding and me-post-op. The having a male chest but not wearing a binder, having MY chest, made all the difference. Well, except now I can wear my sleeveless tops and look awesome, no showing binder straps. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I have never worn sleeveless shirts, and I’m not sure how I would feel in them. I work out and have decent shoulders, but still have some middle aged flab in the upper arms. But, I might try it out at home and see how it feels. T-shirts, however, look great, at least to me and that is what counts. I’m also looking forward to working out at the gym without a sports bra on (couldn’t get a comfortable full range of motion with a binder on).

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It surprised me. We had gone to the Metropolitan Museum to look at a show on Cubism, and had one of those nice meandering days – and decided to take the bus back instead of the subway so we could look out the windows at the lights on 5th Avenue, and she turned to me and said it without any prompting or questioning. Blew me away.

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  3. genderneutral

    I am glad this is your experience post op. Enjoy the liberation. I hope you post if you find tshirts cut for us shorties. A while back I bought some Hanes t’s for men _ I got a couple different styles. The beefy T’s were mostly perfect – short and boxy. There were a couple random beefy t’s that had a different fit, longer, like they were mislabeled.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      So far the best ones I’ve found fit-wise are the Classic Fit smalls at Old Navy – wide at the bottom, and not too long, and in lots of colors should one want a choice other than Navy or Black. They are not the greatest cotton, and I’d like something “better” and I’m going to keep trying! I’m a little embarrassed to have this as my mission in life, but I’m an obsessive person and I don’t sew.

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      1. Pixie

        I’ve had good luck with http://www.cheapestees.com/ They are inexpensive enough to try many different brands and cuts, they have all the exact measurements needed to make the comparison to “that one precious shirt that fits”, they are good quality, and unlike stores there is no trouble getting the smallest sizes. Being 5ft 2in, I very much get the struggle to fit men’s shirt sizes. No stock in the company, just figured it might help others. I do like plain (but colorful) shirts. 🙂

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  4. Impysh

    I am so delighted to read this update from you. I’ve been reading your blog for the past year or so, and hoping that both you and Donna would be able to get to a comfortable place together. Congratulations on your surgery and better fitting chest 😀

    Happy new year indeed!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for coming out on the blog and commenting. I’m incredibly relieved, because a lot of partners cut and run when it comes to transition; and it has not been easy on either of us. I’m hoping that 2015 gives us an opportunity to repair the damage, and to enjoy each other without my feeling impatient or Donna feeling pressured.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes. It feels incredible to have it over and done with and to feel good about it. I wrote in another response that my goal now is to repair/heal some of the damage that we each did in getting to this point. Doing this was definitely a stress test on the relationship, but I think we can each forgive each other the lapses in behavior and try to relax and let go of it. Best wishes to you and Julie.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thank you. What is going to be interesting is to “compare and contrast” and see if this really does the dysphoria trick or if it creeps back in. I don’t think it is reasonable to expect the euphoria to last, but if it settles into contentment with my body that will still be amazing..

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  5. xfitinyogi

    I love the realness, the rawness! Thank you for continuing to share your journey.
    I too would love to hear what you find in the way of shirts, being *almost* 5’4 with a small ass neck I understand the challenge in finding off the rack clothes!
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks for your support! Surprisingly there is no equivalent to the petites department for men – so there is no way to get a medium short anything – and there is a limit to what a tailor can do or how much sense it makes to pay for a garment twice (once to buy it and once to alter it). Even when pants come in lengths (e.g. 32×30, the 30 inseam is too short and they have the same rise as the 32×36’s). Eventually I’ll post what I find – I’m also on the holy grail for a butch swim top.

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  6. Mxtrmeike13

    I’ve definitely encountered similar problems while trying to find clothes that fit me. I’ve found that stores (which I deem to have more “European” fashion senses) like Express, H&M, or similar stores have men’s shirts that are slim fit, or generally fitted better to regular body types.

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  7. perpetualtomboy

    I love Donna’s comment on the bus. I got two similar comments after my top surgery. My ex, on seeing a photo of my naked post-op chest, said I looked more like myself than I ever have before. And my mom, who had been very much confused by and against my getting surgery, told me my new chest suits me much better than my old one ever did. Feels so good when others finally realize that the new you is the one that was always meant to be, doesn’t it?

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Yes, after all the “this is such a huge and unusual thing to choose to do” it feels obvious that it was the right thing to do – a no brainer.

      I started taking the Lion’s Mane Host Defense supplements for my stitches and I see my doctor next week to see if I can stop compression and start working out again.

      I also bought some Mepitac tape (silicone) that I’m going to put on once my doctor says OK, But as I wrote, I feel great and no regrets.

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