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 →
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 →