Raye wrote a really great piece about binders on January 4 in which they explored their feelings on binding. Lesboi and Janitorqueer both replied with some wonderful comments that made me think further about my own trans body and why I’ve never felt seriously compelled to bind my own chest. After reading the post and getting off the bus on January 6, my brain kept churning. During free minutes at work, I scribbled thoughts on a Sticky note—a note I later thought I may have lost and laughed about to a couple of male coworkers. Who knew how whoever found it would react when they read the word nipples! After lunch, however, I ended up finding it stuck to the back of my binder like a good sticky.
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I’ve really only ever had a binder because my best buddy sent me their old one in the mail a couple years ago. It was white and looked like an Under Armour tank top with a tiny pink stain. A stain, unless I’m just remembering my smashed nipples.
About those nipples.
While staring at my slightly compressed self in the mirror that afternoon after unwrapping the package and squeezing myself into the tank, I made a startling discovery:
I was uneven. Asymmetrical. I hear this is standard but I’d had this chest for 21.5 years and had never realized that one areola was a smidge wider than the other and one boob was a bit larger and higher than the other. Under the sheer layer, this became clear. I stared.
I had already known I preferred the left side of my face (nothing against the right, I swear), but this was new. How could I not know this about the chest I at least glanced at every day? Also, why was I trying on this binder? What did it mean to me?
The binder was too loose to do any significant binding but I wasn’t actually disappointed. I ended up tucking it away to donate and never wearing it again—except to doublecheck the feel and make faces at my asymmetry in the mirror.*
Unlike my buddy with large breasts and significant dysphoria, I’m a slender human with small breasts and fairly narrow hips and I’m quite content with my body. It offers me some grief, sure, but I regularly give thanks for how small my boobs are—they travel easy. I’m a fast walker, athletic, and carry enough tension in my neck, shoulders, and back without boobs weighing me down. I also don’t connect with popular images of breasts—the sexiness, or the utility; I generally don’t want to play up my sexuality with my breasts nor do I see myself ever breastfeeding babies. I can feel sexy in a tight sports bra or lace bra, but generally disregard my chest. Still, I like having that softness.
When I think about having a completely flat chest, I’m unsettled. I like what I’ve got and don’t think a flat chest should signify androgyny. Why is it that no boobs is gender neutral? This measure of androgyny is male-normative and less inclusive of communities with curvier/larger bodies. Also, WHAT. My whimsical, sassy nature and pixie build already make folks view me as more feminine (fine, but why gender pixies?), but if my genderqueerness is viewed as less valid because I don’t bind then that’s silly. I’m not cisgender and I should not have to do anything to my chest for that to be more evident.
There are countless transgender experiences and it should be noted that a person doesn’t have to experience discomfort with the parts they were born with to be transgender. Regardless of whether they are a trans man, trans woman, nonbinary, etc, they do not need to change their body or feel compelled to do so if they don’t want to. A man deserves to feel happy with his breasts and vulva if he wants to; he’s no less a man. Neither is a woman any less a woman if she has a penis. Similarly, genderqueer, genderfluid, and agender individuals deserve to have their identities honored regardless of the genders they were assigned at birth and the ways they prefer to present themselves.
There are so many reasons why a person may or may not choose to bind or pad their chest or undergo top surgery. Emotional and physical health reasons, as well as financial.
My contentment with my boobs has many reasons. For one, I’m self conscious of my slenderness insofar as it affects my ability to give good hugs; I worry about causing others discomfort with my boniness. I’ve been told this is a ridiculous concern. Yet because tight hugs with flatter-chested folks can kinda hurt me (hold on, nips!), I’m thankful I bring a little softness to my hugs.
Another reason I’m pleased with my chest: I got my nipples pierced last May and feel like a champion with my barbells. It was a rather spontaneous decision during my busiest week of undergrad. The piercings make me want to go topless more often, but alas, it’s cold and location doesn’t always invite that. I kinda wish I had already been pierced when I sat topless in front of my university’s library last March—it was for a photography project and invigorating. At some point, I’ll have to do a piercing update in a non-university setting. Still a fan of posing with a topless magazine in a grocery store. Shock and awe, Les.
I may choose to bind occasionally in the future, particularly if I want to wear a collared shirt and tie, but no matter what, I’ll be myself. Genderqueer, queer, and nippy.
*For the record, I scrutinized my boobs for months afterward and eventually ceased noticing any unevenness. Maybe the binder just brought it out of me. Either way, what’s it matter?
An updated version of this (with a photo!) appeared on Neutrois Nonsense on February 9, 2016.