This month, I celebrated my two-year anniversary of top surgery, and my one year anniversary of my nipple revision. My chest is not perfect, but it is perfect enough for me. It is a little uneven. I have a small dog ear under my armpit on the left side (that I somehow didn’t notice because I was worrying about the size and height of my nipples). The scars are visible across my chest. I look like I had surgery.
If I took testosterone it might not look as wonky when I’m shirtless. I’d have more muscles, a little less curvature, and maybe some chest hair to normalize it. Since I’m not planning on sunbathing or going topless in public, it will do. It looks great (I look great) with a T-shirt on. Even a thin light-colored T-shirt. I’m happy with it. Every day. It is a miracle.
I’m relaxed about my chest, except when I’m in a locker room, or when I’m getting an EKG from someone who doesn’t know my medical history. When I’m dressed, I completely forget about it until I find someone staring at me trying to figure it out. Face, chest, face, chest, face, question mark. It feels natural to me. It doesn’t always look natural to them.
Donna was concerned that my post top surgery euphoria would be short-lived. That my dysphoria would resurface and I’d focus on my face or on my bottom, that I would be restless and dissatisfied until I completed a binary transition. Even though I did not experience bottom dysphoria, and I never considered phalloplasty, I shared her fear. Continue reading →
I went back to the gym after taking two months off. As soon as I entered the New York Sports Club, I remembered why I hadn’t been back. I didn’t want to use the women’s locker room. There have been several critical moments in my transition where parts of my routine that I could previously tolerate suddenly became unthinkable. Where my ability to dissociate snapped. Where the cognitive dissonance broke the sound barrier.
Every time I entered the women’s locker room I steeled myself for a question, a comment, or a dirty look. Unpleasant incidents are not unusual when you are butch, gender non-conforming, queer, or transgender. I thought I should be strong enough to handle the occasional negative reaction. That it was their problem, not mine.
I expected that as my dysphoria decreased, as I became more comfortable in my body, I would feel more entitled to use the locker room. Instead, the opposite happened. I felt increasingly out-of-place there. I was forcing myself to do something that felt wrong. To me. I was actively misgendering myself. Continue reading →
When I’m in a gym frame of mind, I pencil in my workout time and I don’t let anything else get in my way. I pre-pack my gym bag with shorts, socks, a T-shirt, sneakers, and a charged iPod. When I’m in a gym frame of mind I feel strong and solid. I don’t hesitate or find excuses to avoid going.
I didn’t go back to the gym after I came back from New Mexico. It took me six weeks to get around to it, and when I went back, it didn’t feel right. Not the first time, not the second time. The third time I realized that I didn’t want to go into the locker room to change or shower. I forced myself to do it. I wasn’t avoiding working out, I was avoiding changing in public. I was avoiding being naked in a women’s space.
For 15 years I have steeled myself to walk in and out of the women’s locker room. I tried to convince myself that not only do I have a right to be there, but that I should keep going until it stops bothering me. That I should exercise my right to use it. Continue reading →
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.
Not me. Not Gracie. But I’d wear the green towel that way. Getty Images.
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. Continue reading →
I went back to the gym for the first time in three months. My surgeon cleared me on January 15, but then Donna went into the hospital. I’m just starting to feel comfortable leaving her alone for a few hours at a time.
The truth is, I was avoiding the women’s locker room. All of my adult life I’ve steeled myself going in and out of bathrooms, dressing rooms, and locker rooms. I brace myself for the challenge. If you see something say something. I don’t apologize. I have the right to be there, but I don’t fully believe I belong there. I feel like an interloper.
It was my luck that the first day back, and as I was entering the locker room after my work out, I ran into a work friend of Donna’s. Carol was dressed in her street clothes and packing up. I was in shorts and a sweat soaked T-shirt. We chatted in front of my locker and then I sat down and fiddled with my lock and waited for her to put on her coat and leave. It was awkward. If I hadn’t just had top surgery, I might have stripped down. I waited. I was anxious.
Lots of women have locker room anxiety. They are shy about being naked in front of other women. They deal with it by arriving in their gym clothes and then going home and showering. Others opt for the modest multi-towel changing technique. They never show anything between their shoulders and their thighs. They shimmy into their bra and panties while remaining covered by towels. Other women change in the bathroom stall or shower stall, behind closed doors. Continue reading →
Before I retired, I put up three goals on the white board in my cubicle; to get my 401K/457 accounts maxed out, to get my weight down to 140 lb., and to reliably bench press 75 lb. I hit the first two goals, but I got stuck at bench pressing more than 65 lb. I considered hiring a personal trainer to see if I could do it, but it seemed like cheating. As I tried to get past 65 lb., I realized that not all goals make sense.
I also made a list of things I wanted to do with my free time. So far, I’ve only learned how to work out with kettlebells. I haven’t started the second blog I want to write, I haven’t attended introductory yoga, and I haven’t cleaned up my room (I straightened out and rearranged the piles).
I’m an obsessive person. I try to divert myself from binge overeating and compulsive shopping by taking on new projects (paradoxically every project requires purchasing some books or equipment). If you looked at the stack of books by the couch, you could figure out my current project is revamping my gym workout. There is also a book on hoarding, and another on Afghanistan.
It took me ten years to get bored with free weights. I like how butch it feels to use dumbbells and barbells. It separates me from the women at the gym; they mostly use the circuit machines and rarely use the benches. They go to yoga and dance classes; the studio is always full of pencil thin women in their thirties.
Working out helps me manage my gender dysphoria and feel strong in my body. I don’t compare my muscles, or how much weight I’m lifting, to anyone else. Some women are scared to work out because they don’t want to look muscle-bound; I wish it was that easy. I accept that if I don’t use testosterone my body will never look ripped. I will never be able to lift significantly more than I do now. I can master the form. I can get compact and sturdier. I can feel more powerful. Continue reading →
After a brief break due to Hurricane Sandy, Thanksgiving, Donna’s birthday, Hanukkah, my birthday, Christmas, and New Years, I waddled back to the gym. This is the obligatory January gym post.
The very first time I went to the gym I felt like Moby Dick. I was one big whale of a butch flailing around. Donna had basically told me to get my middle-aged gut to a gym and get in shape. She was worried about me because my Dad died young (43), and I take after my Dad (homely looking). Donna doesn’t often ask me to do things that will make me appear more butch so I didn’t want to refuse her. I hoped that going to the gym would help me close the schism between my head and my body. That working out would make my body feel less alien. That it would cast out the demon of dysphoria.
My Dad didn’t play sports, didn’t use power tools, didn’t own a car. I am not a macho butch or a manly butch or even a gentleman butch. I am a nerdy Jewish boy butch. I am a pudgy wuss. I am just like my Dad. Continue reading →