Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Step Forward on the Transgender Journey...

Its that time of year again. The one I have grown to hate and dread. As a FtM Trans man, I have grown to loathe summer. I live in the south. Summers here are hot, and humid. And since I have not taken any steps - yet - towards physically transitioning, this means that clothing in the summer becomes a huge issue. I am fortunate as a FtM that my body shape and genetics did give me a fairly masculine shape; in the winter time when the weather is cold, warm concealing layers and coats pretty much shift me to easily "passing" as male. I spend winters, largely and comfortably addressed as "sir", which is very affirming and comforting.

Spring is here.

Its still cool enough, this year at least, to keep a few layers on, but the ratio of "ma'am" to "sir" is already on the rise as the layers of clothing thin down and the days warm up. By high summer, I become miserable, twitchy, furious, hating my body and desperate for cooler temperatures to come back so I can conceal the visual cues that mark me as "female"

Lets be honest here. I wear my hair cut in a man's style. I dress completely in men's clothing - with one deeply painful exception - and my basic shape, voice and so forth are just ambiguous enough that it does not take much to be the gender I am, irregardless of the "sex" I was assigned at birth. So...whats the tip off? What is the give away, when all it takes is cold weather and heavy clothing to pass and be a man. What are people looking at that blows everything else I do out of the water?
You got it. 
The breasts. 

Which means that's the visual cue that completely rules how people speak to me, behave towards me, the pronouns and forms of address they use to me and about me - it all hinges on the breasts. It is unbelievably infuriating. And people don't even know they are doing it. Really. Its wired into the culture, its part of the gender construction - flat chest, or breasts - the fastest visual cue out there to divide every person they meet into one or the other of the "boxes" marked "male" or "female" - from there, our carefully socially constructed  concepts of "gender" kick in like brainwashed programming. Doesn't matter what I wear, what I say, how I behave, how masculine the rest of me looks, if people can see the shape or outline of my breasts (and that's even hard to type here) everything else, every other visual cue is ignored or even becomes a point to hassle me on, because in no other way do I conform to the "gender box".

I cannot begin to describe how much I hate this. How much it makes me hate my own body. How much I dread the hint of warming weather, even when I do enjoy the beauty of spring and the returning vibrancy of life to the slumbering world. Because I know whats coming. I know that who and what I am will suddenly become non-existent, ignored, perhaps even harassed  because of these two visual cues I'm stuck with at this point in my life.

This year...I could not take it any more. That noise you heard a month or so ago, was the soft subtle sound of me going snap. I can't do this anymore. Can't face it anymore. So I looked at my beloved Dreamweaver and said, "I have to do it this time."

"It" being - since I am a long, long way from affording any type of physical transitioning - acquiring a binder. Or a compression shirt. Or something. Anything. Duct tape. Something! But I could not go on any further without taking steps to deal with this as best I could. So, after some research exploring companies out there that actually make products that address this issue (who knew!?) I went to Underworks, a company that makes a number of products for shaping and dealing with bodily appearance for men and women for a variety of needs. The have products specifically for FtM guys that bind and flatten breasts to conceal them. So I ordered three  of "The Concealer FTM Chest Binder Disguised Inner Panels for Extreme Compression" black.

Pictured in white,
available in black, which I got. 
Having done "drag" before, I was looking forward to how this was going to work, since passing in drag years ago required the cobbling together and then total destruction of a sports bra, duct tape (I wasn't kidding.) and a roll of ace bandage. It also required abandoning breathing. You kinda sorta had to Zen-breathe, and hope oxygen was being acquired by  osmosis. Or something. Despite being excited about finally taking the plunge and doing something about the situation this time as summer weather bore down on me, I was a little concerned about that whole "breathing" thing, y'know...because its kind of important!

I need not have worried. At all. When  the shirts arrived, I of course immediately tried one on...and was happily, enthusiastically thrilled with the comfort and effect. Comfortable fit. Totally able to breath. And most important, the shirt completely concealed and flattened the betraying curves. The difference was immediate in so many ways. I felt good about myself. I felt comfortable.  I felt like I was on the outside what I am on the inside - I was congruent. Everything matched! I could put on a simple t-shirt over this (it could be worn as is, but its a bit shiny in terms of fabric, and out of place in this area in terms of what people wear. The idea is to NOT draw attention!) and the difference was immediate and total - a flat masculine chest. And when I wore it out to run errands the next day, the feminine form of address, "ma'am" had completely disappeared from people's vocabulary. I was either addressed as "sir" or  with no gender related address or pronoun used at all The relief was enough to make me almost cry. The entire way I carried myself changed.

And I suddenly don't dread summer. (its probably still going to be a bit warm in the under shirt, but not anything like multi-layering in August would have been!) I'm free of that sinking feeling, and free to move and be who and what I am. I cannot begin to express how wonderful this is - or how grateful that I am that I finally got off the fence and did this...and that my beloved Dreamweaver was loving and supportive and seems to think I look good in it!

I'm one of those people who is NOT going to be chronicling every single step or change of the process in transitioning on a blog, or social media for all the world to see, because, for me, some things are deeply personal. But I felt that this was important enough to share here, as a mile marker, to show the possible. An out of town friend who heard I had taken this step wanted to see pictures, so I took some quick shots with my cell phone camera the full length mirror here. They're not the greatest shots in the world, but they'll do for now. I will at some point get Dreamweaver involved in taking some better ones, but I am going to share a few here.

And here I am!

Mostly I wrote this post and shared this struggle and the pictures to communicate that you should care for yourself and honor yourself. And if you feel you need to do something -anything! - outside the box to make that happen, then DO it, for yourself, whatever the situation or issue you might be wrestling with! 

Doing healthy things that support your sense of self and identity can change the world. 


  1. Looks great! Glad that breathing is not a problem. I bet spandex and lycra have made that possible in binders.

    1. You nailed it! Spandex and Lycra both. Its actually so very comfortable! Thanks - it has so bolstered my confidence and I don't feel miserable any more!

  2. I think when I saw you put down in your name tag at church this morning because it had your first name, your feminine name, on it, it became really real for me how far you have come on this journey. You were right to put down the name tag. It's not you. You are Cameron. Male. My partner. My love....and that's just how it is.

    1. I just couldn't put it on this morning - I thank you for walking with me on this journey and being my heart and my help and support and love. I sometimes don't realize how little things hit you on the outside watching me bumble through this; this hasn't been easy for you, and I think you've had an even further journey to come with me. I couldn't do it without you! I love you and I am forever grateful you are in my life.

  3. I'm happy for you, my brother. You look wonderful and I'm glad to see you taking this step in your life. As a warning, those things do get monstrously hot in the summer and don't breath all that well when you're sweating, but so long as you don't sleep in it, you should be fine.

    I'm so proud of you.

  4. I am aware that heat and summer temperatures can be an issue in these shirts - and no, I'm not sleeping in it! However, I do tolerate heat and high temperatures fairly well, so its OK, I should be fine. I will take care of myself, I promise! So glad to hear from you, brother! *hugs*