Tag Archives: top surgery

Dysphoria, Body Image, and Self-Consciousness at the Beach

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

It has been almost two years since I went swimming. It is a shame. I love the beach and I love swimming in the ocean.

I stopped going to the beach because wearing a women’s swimsuit hit the perfect trifecta of dysphoria, negative body image, and self-consciousness. My Speedo made me look like I had breasts (or more accurately, I could not ignore my breasts when I wore it). My Speedo displayed my hairy armpits and a tract of dark hair running from my crotch to my big toe. I wore a T-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit except when I was in the water.

I was envious of the guys. Gangly teenagers in baggy knee-length board shorts. Collegiate life guards with ripped abs and a full body tan. Pale dads with beer bellies rolling over the edge of their trunks. There was not a woman on the beach whom I wanted to look like. Not even the other butch lesbians.

I don’t want to look like a woman. I look a little less like one now than I did three years ago, but I’m not sure what I actually look like. I’m not sure what I want to look like; how much further I want to go, what I’m willing to do to get there. Continue reading

The Perpetual Search for the Perfect Shirt

Bodhi, the Shiba Inu model from Mensweardog.

Bodhi, the Shiba Inu model from Menswear Dog.

Winter is over. I went through the winter wearing the same baggy button down shirts that I wore last year. I wanted to wait until after I had top surgery to shop for new ones. I’ve always worn loose shirts to hide my chest. I don’t have to do that anymore. I need a new magic shirt. A shirt that can transform a bad gender day into a rainbow unicorn.

I’m still an odd size. I went to Macy’s and tried on men’s and boy’s off the rack shirts. Some were too big, some were too small, and none were just right. And it looks like I’m going to have to get used to my nipples showing when I wear a T-shirt.

I used to try to shop in the women’s department. This was self-defeating because it is nearly impossible to find men’s clothing there. I had a lot of rules. No darts, no princess seams, no little breast pockets, no frills, no ruching, no loud colors, no 3/4 length sleeves, no decorative buttons, nothing cut on the bias, and no polyester. In other words, I wanted a man’s cotton shirt. Sometimes I’d luck out and find something from Ralph Lauren, or I’d order from LL Bean or Lands’ End. I rarely found what I wanted. The lack of choices pissed me off.

There were thousands of shirts, exactly what I wanted, in the men’s department. Just out of reach. I tried to talk myself out of them. They never fit. If I got the chest right, the shirt was too big around the neck, too tight around the hips, and too long in the sleeves and torso. Tucking it in and rolling up the sleeves helped, but no amount of tailoring was going to transform it into a magic shirt. Continue reading

Transitioning While Butch

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.

If I could do 100 of these I'd be buff.

If I could do 100 of these I’d be buff.

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. Continue reading

Shirts vs. Skins

My kind of locker room.

My kind of locker room. Getty Images.

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.

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

Topless in the Locker Room

femmes-with-towelsI 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

Why I Like Happy Endings

I'm not a goody two shoes. Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a goody two shoes.
Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a Pollyanna or a Little Lord Fauntleroy. I don’t expect the best from everyone, but I do like happy endings. Not happy as in a boy falls in love with and gets the girl, but happy as in the cop gets indicted by a Grand Jury after shooting an unarmed black man kind of way. Happy when justice prevails. The story doesn’t always go my way, but I am optimistic that things will change. Not on their own. Nothing changes without action.

For the first eight weeks after my top surgery, Donna refused to look at my naked chest. She was queasy about my surgery, and was afraid she would react negatively to the scars and the contours. The first four weeks were not a problem. I slept in the other bedroom because I snore like a rusty chainsaw when I sleep on my back. I wore a T-shirt and boxers around the house. I asked her if she wanted to look. I asked her what she was waiting for.

While Donna was in the hospital, and unable to get out of bed without assistance, I teased her by starting to lift my shirt. At one point she dared me to do it, but there were two nurses in the room and I didn’t think I could flash her without them noticing. Continue reading

Have You Always Had That Mustache?

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Now that I’ve had top surgery, I’d like to stop thinking about what to do next and settle back into my butch/transgender self. Without feeling pressured to be on some trajectory with an endpoint. WIthout being swept away by someone else’s idea of the transgender narrative.

The pressure to keep going is subtle. The unspoken assumption is that next year I’ll be taking T and using the men’s room. That transition has a starting line and a finish line and once the starting gun goes off all the participants are full speed ahead on the shortest path. There is no place in that race for a meandering half-baked genderqueer person.

An acquaintance ran into me on the street and we chatted. Later, she asked Donna how long I’ve taken testosterone for (I don’t) and if I’ve always had a mustache. Yes. I’ve always had what I refer to as my “Fu” but no one said anything about it until I changed my name. My Fu is most prominent on my upper right lip. I neither want my Fu to spread and grow nor do I want it to disappear. I’m fond of it. I never shaved, plucked, or bleached it (chin hairs are another story).  Continue reading