A few years ago, I answered a call out for submissions for a new zine about about the trans/gender variant community and our relationships to our chests. I wrote a piece and never heard back about the project. I bugged them 2 or 3 times about it and still got no reply. At the time, this was really difficult for me because the piece was coming from such a vulnerable place. It’s just been sitting as a computer file since then, but I’m pretty sure it belongs here:
Slowly dissociating from my breasts. I used to have a love/hate relationship with them, but now I feel deeply disconnected and don’t think about them much. Unless I think they’re visible under my clothing, in which case I feel really uncomfortable and fixate on hoping no one notices. I’m lucky they’re so small. I can get away without binding if I wear the right layers. So I do that – limit my clothing options to save myself from tense back pain. I don’t take that for granted, the fact that I do not have to bind.
I used to cope with stress and frustration, fear and anger by cutting my skin. I often ended up focusing on my chest. A lot of times when I was alone, I’d be topless and fizzing with frantic energy. I’d envision their gory, bloody removal and bask in that thought. But I also loved them. It felt good when they were touched; they fit perfectly and comfortably in the palm of each hand. They seemed like they were a part of me / not a part of me … a part of me … not a part of me.
FROM 5/15/04: I was just wanting something intense to happen. Just by myself, here at the apartment. In addition, I have been obsessing about the removal of my breasts again. There was quite a while when I was ok with them, but I’m not anymore. So I had to pretend like I was going to cut them off. I used that knife and dragged it in sections to form a circle around both. Not deep. It hurt. No blood, but it’ll leave red marks. Like 2 bull’s-eyes. I kind of liked it, but now I look at them and what I did is fucking scary. No emotions to match these actions.
Now though, I don’t act out toward my breasts or dwell on the fact that they’re there. It’s sort of like I don’t really know them. Although sometimes I squeeze my nipples because it feels good, no one else can touch me anywhere near there, or oftentimes, anywhere on my skin at all. That chest is not a part of me.
I got my first tattoo this past fall. The image is a scratchy line drawing, a symbol I came up with to express my connection to a deconstructed gender identity. It’s on my chest, below my right clavicle – to the right of my sternum. I thought a lot beforehand, while thinking about placement, about whether to incorporate some pretty prominent scars… whether to see if the tattoo could hide them… whether to accentuate the scar lines with the tattoo… In the end, I wore a tank top that would hide the scars from the tattoo artist, and had the tattoo placed near them but not with them. Too much shame still surrounds them; they are too personal. The experience itself was exhilarating and euphoric; I was zoning, reaching a blissed-out state. And also pushing thoughts of self-mutilation from my mind with every pulse of the tattoo machine. Hours later, I was out to dinner with my person (who had also gotten a tattoo that afternoon), and emotions unexpectedly flooded in. Tearing up and unable to dissociate from the parallels between cutting my chest myself and someone else inflicting pain there. I talked about self-injury and she looked worried. She knows that was in my past, but I had never really talked about it with her. I wasn’t regretting the tattoo; I was realizing that the experience had been triggering, no matter how tough I seemed and how good it felt.
I’d like to get more tattoos on my chest. I fantasize about swimming, being shirt-less, with a sweet chest piece on display. I am pre-testosterone and pre-surgery (or am I no-hormone and non operative? I have yet to know). For now I continue this non-relating to my breasts/chest. Maybe someday that could change. Maybe someday I will have the chest I envision (flat and muscular, a male chest). Although I don’t feel completely male, I don’t feel completely here, in this body, either…
I wrote this in 2010. I’ve been feeling differently about my chest within the past few months, which is exciting. I had been increasingly wanting to get top surgery, for sure, at some point. But since being on this low-dose of testosterone, I’m not so concerned about it! It feels good to be touched there. Also, my pecs have gotten a little more prominent / maybe my chest is even smaller than before. For now, I can live with it! (We’ll see what the future holds.)
Also a quick rant: If you are collecting submissions for a project, a rejection letter / email is 100X better than no email at all. Or, if you end up just dropping the ball on your project, please let people who submitted know the status. I was wondering for a long time what happened after submitting my piece.