Another visit to the gym and another epiphany. In my previous post I wrote that I feel physically safe in the women’s locker room, but not emotionally safe. I try to ignore my emotions. It is machismo.
I use the women’s locker room because I think I should be strong enough to handle it. I think I should have a thick skin and not be bothered by how out-of-place I feel. That changing at home is wimping out. Because I don’t want to let the girls with the pony tails chase me out of the playground again. It is grade school, redux.
I also realized that I want to change and towel off like a guy, not a gal. I want to wrap the towel around my waist, not around my chest like a strapless little white cocktail dress. I don’t want to look like a woman, even in the women’s locker room. Even though I’ve never used a men’s locker room, I know that guys don’t wrap like that.
If I brought a beach towel I could put it over my shoulders and cover everything in a more neutral way (thank you to Mary for sharing your coping mechanisms).
I’ve only seen a few women completely naked at the gym. It is a breach of etiquette to stroll around the locker room naked. It is a breach of etiquette to look at someone while they are changing, especially if you can see anything. Especially if you are a butch lesbian or a masculine genderqueer person with a vagina. Better to be stared at than to be caught staring.
I count on the gym to ring my male chimes, and the locker room gets in the way of that. I work out in a heather gray T-shirt and navy blue shorts. No spandex, no capris, no neon, no big logos. I like having muscles, and even though I am not on testosterone, I have pretty decent back and shoulder muscles (for a girl). I am solid for my size.
If it would do any good, I’d hang upside down from the gym bars to gain a couple of inches or a shoe size. I’m stuck at 5’4″ with a size 7 US men’s shoe. Unfortunately, neither the gym nor testosterone can help me there.
When I first started using free weights, the trainer told me “don’t round your back, straighten it out.” I was bent over at a 90° angle, and even though I was looking in the mirror, I could not figure out how to shift from a rounded back to a flat back. I could not isolate any of the muscles. I could not manipulate my body. Now I automatically check my alignment from my head to my toes. Everything feels connected.
My first time back in the gym after top surgery I took it really easy. I dropped the weight down and worked out with dumbbells and kettlebells for flexibility and form. My second time back I dropped the weight but did my regular work out. It felt right except for the bench press. I couldn’t “find” my chest muscles. I could move the bar up and down (20 lbs. less than usual), but I couldn’t feel my chest muscles contract. I was all arms and shoulders.
I didn’t have the guts to wriggle around and flex my pecs in the gym mirror. I waited until I got home. I took off my shirt and stood in front of the mirror and took some deep breaths. I tried to flex. Nothing moved except my shoulders. I clasped my hands in front of my chest, breathed in, tensed, and squeezed, and they moved.
My pectoral muscles look lopsided (from top surgery), but they are there. I flexed a dozen times and then it clicked. They contracted on demand. I’ll be able to build them back up in time for the summer, even if I’m swimming with the shirts instead of the skins.
Notes: Here is a good explanation of why testosterone doesn’t make you taller, from a FtM site in Australia, and here is a twenty-minute movie about a stealth trans man caught up in a shirts vs. skins basketball game.