Oh my goodness, it’s been a minute and a half since I’ve last updated. I just checked the calendar the other day and realized it had been 2 months since surgery!
So, I’ve been trying to think of any updates. Honestly, my healing feels like it’s evened out a bit. I have very little, if any, soreness left. I started riding my bike this week, which seems really soon, but it feels great. I don’t believe I have any physical restraints. I feel awesome!
Going Shirtless – This has been something I’ve been thinking about a lot, especially with it being so warm/nice out lately. When I first got back to Boston, I went shirtless as a way to let my chest get some fresh air outside of the binder or gauze pads taped over my grafts. It was easy to choose to go shirtless at home to feel more comfortable. But once I got rid of the binder/gauze, I felt weird going shirtless in the house when others (even my roommates) are around.
After thinking about it a bit, I remembered back to times when cisgender guys would walk around our college dorm with their shirts off, just lounging around. Or when roommates would have their boyfriends sleep over, the next morning, they would hang out in their boxers with no shirts. It always made me angry, but I never thought long enough about it to say anything. But now, I think I know where the anger may have started.
Before I had surgery, shirtless cisgender guys were a reminder of how my chest had felt wrong since adolescence. It’s true that seeing them made me angry about my own body, but it was also something more. Shirtless cis-guys were not only able to go shirtless, but they were able to do so without being sexualized or objectified by all those around them. Their naked chests didn’t yield cat-calls from strangers, or self-induced humility about the amount of skin they were showing.
So I started thinking about this – why is it so easy for cisgender men to go shirtless without even thinking about why it is okay for them to do so? In a discussion with someone, the idea was brought up that it would be so great if all people with different bodies felt similarly comfortable with going topless in public. But then, I thought about the layers of issues at stake here.
First off, there’s the layer of modesty; but then, why would this only apply to women and feminine bodies? Feminine bodies/body parts are restricted to modesty because they are deemed sexual objects by society and our cultural norms, while men’s chests are simply part of their bodies. Basically, it feels really weird to me that by changing one part of my body, I can now theoretically escape this gross-feeling social scrutiny that I’ve felt all my life. I can go shirtless, but do I really want to?
In addition to all this, there’s the issue of safety. I talked to a friend today about the idea of potentially feeling targeted with our shirts off, having visible scarring on our chests. Even when I’ve been wearing a tight shirt, there are still times when I’ve gotten addressed as, “lady.” It makes me wonder if it would be any different if I did go shirtless. What if someone heard my voice and read me as female…and then saw my chest with fresh scars? Would I be targeted as a gender rebel, someone who didn’t play by “the rules?” Would I be scrutinized and told I needed to cover myself, that my faux-masculine chest was still a sexual object? Or would I be victimized and stared at as people went through all the sceneries of how I could have been scarred so heavily across my chest? Whether or not other people pay attention, these thoughts will continue to be present.
Getting top surgery will never keep me from experiencing or being a part of a misogynist society. Even with the privilege I get every time I pass, every time I’m read as being appropriately masculine – I’ll still always fear the effects of being targeted as someone who is not male enough to have full agency over my body.
So with all this in mind, I’m really loving my physical chest. It feels right, and I’ve never felt so comfortable in my clothing. But at least for me, it’s also important to name that this physical/emotional process of connecting to my self will never be about “becoming a man.” Instead, I understand top surgery and other forms of masculinity that I embody as tools to connect more with myself and all the ways that I interact with my friends/surroundings.
Next Up: Thoughts on testosterone and the Philly Trans Health Conference, 2011!