Is This Still the Middle?

Wow, I just realized I was afraid to write this post. That’s pretty telling. What is the subject I’m about to broach that sets my heart racing and my neck tense?

Breasts.

And by extension, naming my issues with gender as a problem that might have a solution.

So. Breasts. I have them. I wish I didn’t.

When I was going through puberty they were a source of constant anxiety. I vividly remember one day in the fifth or sixth grade, sitting in the back of one of those giant Seventies station wagons with the faux-wood paneling, surrounded by fellow Girl Scouts and camping equipment on our way to a weekend in the country. I was wearing my usual jeans and a navy blue turtleneck. As the car pulled out, my best friend (who would later be my first girlfriend) Liza leaned close and in a stage whisper said, “Wow, Nezu, you’re developing!”

All the nearby girls turned to look at my suspiciously bumpy chest.

I was mortified.

I switched to baggier shirts from then on.

I also remember from about that same time catching sight of myself in the mirror at ballet class, and being shocked and dismayed by budding breasts protruding above my already round belly. I quit ballet soon thereafter, I think in part because seeing myself reflected in a wall of mirrors in a pink leotard was not doing good things for my psyche.

Of course there were good things about breasts. I liked the way they affected the boys and girls I dated, and I liked the way they felt. I also liked lingerie, and for a little while I had breasts of a size to wear pretty art nouveau confections in sky blue satin with ecru lace that appealed to my aesthetic.

Throughout high school I tried hard to be the woman my growing breasts seemed to say I was turning into, wearing lacy bras and the like, although evidently with little success, as I also recall being told by a therapist that I should wear a dress and makeup to school at least once a week, to be more feminine.

Mostly, though, especially when my breasts became large, I had a lot of conversations with my smaller-breasted friends that ran along the lines of:

Her: Oooh, my tits are so small. I wish I had big ones like you.

Me: You can have them. Seriously. I’d trade in a heartbeat.

The whole time I was married to a man, I had an uneasy relationship with my breasts. I didn’t like them, and they always sort of startled me. He sexualized them and found them very attractive, so they were important to us. Sometimes, I think looking back, it’s like the breasts were a third party in the relationship.

Once he left, though, I was right back to realizing I wished I didn’t have them. Long before I was willing to use the word butch or transgendered for myself, I would stand in the bathroom looking at my naked breasts and fantasize having them gone. I dreamed of surgery to reduce them, at first, and when I grew more comfortable with the idea, to remove them altogether. I longed to have a flat, breast-free chest. (I also, from an insanely young age, like four or five, had a sort of phantom penis, but that’s another post altogether.)

It was just a fantasy.

My binders were, maybe, the first hint that there could be a reality.

Recently, I’ve been looking at websites of plastic surgeons who perform FTM chest surgery, and thinking, you know, maybe I could…

No. Let’s be honest. This isn’t really that new. When I was twelve or thirteen I remember reading about Christine Jorgensen and being completely fascinated. A whole new world opened up for me. And one of my most treasured childhood books was The Incredible Deborah, a biography of Deborah Sampson, who dressed as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army to fight in the American Revolutionary War.

From a very early age, I knew I wasn’t really a girl. And I was fascinated by the idea that maybe I didn’t have to be. But I never let myself really consider the possibility of a change. In fact I think I hung on to the outer trappings of femininity — long hair, skirts, jewelry — as long as I did because I knew the only way to make myself appear to be female was to put on the drag.

I’ve been reading articles and blogs and websites and medical journals about sex-change for years.

So the thing is, would I actually change if I could? If it were easy, if there was a magic wand, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I’d have a male body and be happy about it. But I don’t want to be a stereotypical American male any more than I want to be female. I want to keep my aesthetic sense, my facility with feelings and emotions and language, my softheartedness when it comes to kids and animals, my right to speak with authority on interpersonal and emotional dynamics, my right to be seen as safe and non-threatening by women.

And of course I’d still be as queer as a three-eyed cat. Bisexual is bisexual is bisexual no matter what equipment I might be packing.

But look, it’s not easy. Some of the hard steps, though, I’m feeling more and more willing to take. Steps like saving money and undergoing surgery to remove my breasts and reshape my chest.

I’ve already had the hysterectomy and oophrectomy for medical reasons, and I’m not on any female hormones. It would be a pretty small step to start taking testosterone, and maybe it would even be good for my bones. I’m actually, carefully, working up the courage to ask my endocrinologist about it when I see her next week. Actually, I’ve already confessed to her I was on the trans side. Back when I was on hormones, right after my surgery, she went through her big book of pills to find me a hormone replacement that had the most masculinizing potential — usually an undesirable side effect.

So, okay, where does that leave me? Am I still in the middle if I’m trying to shift towards the male? But I’m fighting the tide of a relentlessly female body, so maybe I am. When your car pulls to the left, you have to oversteer to the right to stay centered, after all.

I do know this: when I imagine myself without breasts, I feel happier. I am as sure as it is possible to be about a hypothetical that I would not regret it if I had surgery to remove them. I guess in some ways, that kind of answers my own question right there.

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~ by Nezu on 17 February 2011.

11 Responses to “Is This Still the Middle?”

  1. I love that you speak your truth, so few do – know you are held in love as you contemplate all these things. Lets talk a moment on Sunday about some suggestions I have for your ongoing exploration.

  2. Whatever you decide, I support you, and to me and those who care about you, you are *you,* not a ticky-box marked M or F.

  3. I love my breasts. Love the way they look and feel; the curve and heft of them, the line of cleavage I get with a good push up bra.

    But that’s me. And my gender identity is really, really different from yours, I’ve known that for years.

    I hear you describing not just a longing for change, but a deep undercurrent of finally, honestly de/scribing your own self. A self-identity that you’ve kept under the surface for a long time for very good reasons. I think you’re going to be in the middle unless you decide you’re not. And breasts/surgery aren’t going to be a deciding factor either way.

    • I love your breasts, too… *ahem*

      Actually I love you, Thank you for being there wit me on this journey, and for all the ways you’ve helped me become free to be my true self. I am proud to call you friend.

  4. My relationship with my breasts has changed dramatically since I stopped wearing bras. My back doesn’t hurt anymore from the straps pinching the muscles which is pure heaven.

    However, it took me a long time to feel confident about my choice because of the sexualization of our breasts. I still have this niggling worry that other women and men look at me disapprovingly or in absolute horror. And I still do not like having my nipples show through my shirt. I want my breasts to be my breasts and not an object of sexual attraction.

    I feel much less femme in a traditional sense and certainly do not dress like I used to. On the other hand, I am much more ME now. And that is what tells me I made the best choice for me.

    Live from your heart and if your heart says remove the breasts, then go for it. You will still be you.

    • Wow, I find that really surprising that you fear what others think. You have such a slender build that I think you look fantastic braless. Actually you might like a Japanese product made for women who prefer to go braless but without obvious nipples, called Nipless.

      I still find you have a fairly femme feeling to me, but that may be because I”m accustomed to the old you. Are you drifting to a more androgynous place, oh Lady of the Pink Beaded Curtain? I look forward to many long and fascinating conversations as we both take our journeys.

  5. Live from your heart and if your heart says remove the breasts, then go for it. You will still be you.

    This.

    • You’re an awesome friend. I am so blessed to have you in my life. We need to get together soon, as soon as you and I can manage to not have a cold at the same time.

  6. […] all that aside, there’s also this. On February 17, 2011, I wrote about my chest, “Long before I was willing to use the word butch or transgendered […]

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