I don’t like being naked anymore. I can’t be naked anymore. Every time I look at my body, notice my body, I feel betrayed by it. Everything related to my body being female makes me feel sick. And I don’t know how to deal with it.
I feel like I’ve spent a long, long time getting to this point. I remember when I was about 10 years old, and I had to wear a red-checked pinafore dress for school, and I hated it. Not because I hated the dress, but because I had breast buds, and I was so ashamed of them. I used to slouch over, to hide them. My dad would pull my shoulders back and tell me to stand up and each time he did that, I felt worse. If course, he didn’t know why I was slouching, or perhaps he wouldn’t have done that. I don’t blame my dad for this.
A few years later, my mum wanted me to get a training bra. I refused for a long time. In the end, she told me that my sister really needed a training bra and she wouldn’t get one unless I also got one, so could I please come with her & my sister to the shop to get a training bra? I agreed. I suppose it’s possible that my mum said the same thing to my sister. But that’s neither here nor there now. I don’t blame my mum for this either. I was a pubescent teenage girl who refused to accept the changes that were happening in my body.
I remember the first time I got my period. I was 11, in my last year of primary school, and we were going on a school trip to Kilmainham Jail in Dublin. I was so ashamed that I had my period that I was too scared to change my sanitary pad for the whole day. When I got home, my mum gave out to me, as any mother would, because I had been walking around with a heavy, dirty pad all day long. It was unhygienic. Again, I don’t blame my mum for this.
I suppose one of the hard things about being trans is that there’s no-one to blame for feeling dysphoric. I believed that how I felt was just a part of growing up, and I learned to manage the discomfort I felt with my body by ignoring it. The harder I tried to ignored it, the harder it was to ignore.
As I got older, I tried to fit in with the other girls around me. They were all into make up and clothes and high heels. So I forced myself (admittedly, not until I was 16) to find an interest in make up and clothes and high-heels. Each time I tried, I failed. The first time, I managed to keep up the facade for nearly a year, before I broke down and cried. Each time I broke down, my mum was there for me. I would sob inconsolably into her shoulder, and she would tell me that it was ok not to like all the same things as other people. She was always really supportive of me. The next time I tried to fit in again, it lasted nine months before the break-down. Then six months, then three. In the end, I was so utterly miserable, not only with the inability to fit in, but with my desire to do so also.
By the time I was 22, I was wearing sports bras to flatten my chest. I had always been into sports, and my obsession with exercise had always had an ulterior motive – to make my chest smaller. I was obsessed with staying skinny and having a pre-pubescent body. I thought that I was just struggling with getting used to going through puberty and the changes that came with it. I used to buy shirts from the women’s department that looked as “manly” as possible. When I put them on, I would often end up crying when I looked in the mirror. I would take clothes off and put them on over and over again. Nothing that I put on made me look how I wanted to look. My breasts were still visible, no matter what I did.
I remember looking into binding. I watched Boys Don’t Cry and that’s when I realised that binding was possible. I can’t remember exactly when this was, but it was definitely before I was 23. Perhaps it was around the same time that I started wearing sports bras. I was always terrified of what people would think if they saw me wearing a sports bra. I was so scared of others reactions. I’m still not sure why that was.
By the time I was 25 I had cut off all my hair, thrown away all my “women’s” underwear, got rid of most of my bras and had purchased several sports bras that I would try to wear doubled up under my clothes. It didn’t really work. In fact, I think doubling up sometimes made my chest more prominent, not less, and these forays into binding always ended up in tears.
I would always cry in private. I didn’t want other people to know that I was in pain. It felt too raw to share with other people. Eventually, at 27, I started to wear a fit-for-purpose binder (Underworks). I actually felt ashamed of binding at first. It took me well over a year to get used to it. I would try to wear sports bras on some days, just to give my body a rest from binding, and on those days I would resort to my old tactics of trying to ignore my own body while failing miserably. During that year, last year, I spent nearly 9 months of the 12 months in the year off sick from work. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house most of the time. And I loathed being inside my own body so much that even staying at home wasn’t much comfort. The only time I felt good was when I had my binder on. And even that had to come off sometimes – more than I’d have liked really, as my back was getting really sore from wearing the binder all the time. My bottom ribs hurt where the binder stopped, my shoulder hurt where I had pulled it when trying to get my binder on or off, I can’t remember now, and my breathing became shallower and more laboured with the binder on.
Which brings us up to now. I’m sitting at home, typing this with my binder on, and I’m dreading the time when I have to take it off and get into bed. My discomfort is beyond what I can cope with properly. It’s getting to me, disrupting my life, overtaking every thought that I have. It’s affecting my relationship. It’s hard to be with someone who doesn’t want to be touched. I understand that. And I don’t know how to make it easier.
It feels like the wait for top surgery is eternal. And even if I get top surgery, will I still hate my body? What if it’s not enough? It used to be the name thing that upset me the most. Now I don’t even care, I just want the changes to my body to happen now.
I usually try to veer away from pessimistic posts such as this, but my mind is consumed by this and I need to let it out somehow. I just don’t know where to turn.