I’m three months post top surgery and I’m happy to report that I’m as comfortable in my body as I can ever remember myself being.
This morning I did push ups in the privacy of my living room; I was only wearing boxer briefs. The push ups were hard, but it felt great to have nothing bound, bra’d, or flapping around. I will do them at the gym when I can crank them out faster and in better form. Vanity.
I’m writing this post because I don’t know if the feeling is permanent, or fleeting. I’m writing this post to remind myself that right now I feel good; if I slip back into dysphoria I will still have proof that this happened.
Ten years ago I was on an escalator in Macy’s Herald Square. I was wearing work drag – olive-green wool pants and a black turtleneck (both women’s but adequately man tailored). The escalator was lined with mirrors and I could not avoid looking at myself in the reflections. I saw a chopped up flabby drab butch with breasts, rolls at the waist, and bulges at the hips. I panicked, ran home, and changed into jeans and a flannel shirt. As transforming as Clark Kent turning into Superman (or in my world view, Superboy).
It was at a point in my life when I thought I should make peace with being butch and female, accept my body, and stomach wearing women’s clothing for work and dress-up occasions. I told myself there was plenty of time left in the week to wear jeans and T-shirts. I shouldn’t have to do it 24/7. I needed to dress and act more like an adult. I needed to push through my anxiety. I failed.
Of all the ways I’ve tried to manage my dysphoria, top surgery seems to be the best. I’ve pried my body back from the zombie puberty body snatchers. I tried therapy (still trying). I tried only wearing men’s or man-tailored clothing. I tried binding. I tried losing weight. I tried going to the gym. And although I felt a little better every time I did something to alleviate the dysphoria, I didn’t feel right until I got my chest back.
The $64,000 question is why.
I now accept that this is the way I am. I am somewhere out there on the butch, genderqueer, non-binary, trans masculine, transgender spectrum. I may never find the one or two word label that works; I may never fit neatly into a medical or psychological diagnosis. I’m not going to force myself into someone else’s limited definition of butch or transgender.
I used to think that I had to either make my peace with being butch or transition. Be female, or be male. Repress the boy within or become a man. Do nothing or do everything.
I was afraid to change my name, play with my pronouns or honorifics, take any form of testosterone, or get top surgery. I thought transition had to be binary, a package deal. I thought I needed to take testosterone to have top surgery. It was a false dilemma. If I had not untangled myself from this thought process, I would have transitioned to male, for better or worse.
I didn’t start from a binary place and I’m probably not going to end up in a binary place. I’m transitioning; but not from female to male. I’m transitioning while butch. And while it is difficult to categorize a transition that is less tangible than FtM or MtF, it is just as real, even if I can’t tell you what I’m transitioning to.
Notes: An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments describes many of the common logic mistakes in public and political discussions. The whole (short) book can be found here, False Dilemmas are on page 18. Male or Female is a legitimate choice for many; but for those caught in the transgender high-beam headlights it can be a false dilemma. Instead of either/or it can be neither, both, a mix, or not applicable.