Nine years ago I got a breast reduction and when people hear that now, they ask me “Did you know you wanted to get rid of your chest when you had that surgery? Why didn’t you just do it then?” Here’s my answer: I didn’t know! Doy!
The brain has a great way of hiding the things you’re not ready or willing to deal with.
Okay so, “How did you know you wanted to get Top Surgery?” Well, it’s complicated. This post will be more about the a-ha moment and dealing with it and less about my gender identity though of course it’s a huge part of it. More about my gender identity will come in a future post. Anyways, as some of you may have learned from my standup ‘Death By Semen’, I always knew I was gay. I didn’t know that there could be anything ELSE going on inside me.
I didn’t know I was allowed to feel like I didn’t want to be a girl. I didn’t know I was allowed to feel like I didn’t want to be a boy either. I didn’t know there was any other option. I didn’t have the language to even begin to try explore this. I didn’t have anyone to look up to about this. I just didn’t. These were pre-internet times, y’all!
Even after the internet was around for a while, it never occurred to me to research anything because I just didn’t want to deal with anything more than me being gay – that was hard enough.
I thought something was wrong with me.
I buried all my feelings.
I was alone.
Fast forward to about 10 years after I came out as gay (well, bi…but that’s another story for another day).
I stood there and all of a sudden it was as if the glass box I was standing in that held up all my beliefs about gender and identity just shattered. A lightbulb went off.
It all began at a Pride event a few years ago. My BFF and I went to see a singer from my high school perform at a Lipstick Lesbian Awareness Party on the Lower East Side (yes, it was as awesome as it sounds). It was a room full of lesbians and yet I still felt really uncomfortable. “Hey! I’m gay, too! I’m Out and I’m Proud!” Why do I feel so WEIRD? Then I started feeling confused. Why am I so uncomfortable? I’m a lesbian! Why don’t I feel like I fit in? I looked around and realized I was the only ‘butch’ looking lesbian in the room. Even so, butch lesbians still identify as lesbians and lipstick lesbians & butch lesbians have that in common.
So then, where did I belong?
I stood there and all of a sudden it was as if the glass box I was standing in that held up all my beliefs about gender and identity just shattered. A lightbulb went off. I immediately realized I wasn’t a lesbian because I didn’t identify as female!!! I didn’t identify with my name, Laura (cue Dubbs becoming more of a permanent fixture in my life). I realized I flinched when people called me Laura or used she/her pronouns. I never actually knew I flinched at those things until I paid attention. I thought about my messenger bag that has a strap that goes across my chest and HOW MUCH I hate that. I thought about HOW MUCH I HATED GOING BRA SHOPPING. OMG.
Until the age of 31 (that’s now btw), my mom still picked out and bought my bras for me because I refused to do it myself. I had a visceral reaction to the very idea of having to do this. It was the most torturous, horrible, terrible, awful thing I could think of so my mom went with me – every time. We usually went shopping when I’d come home for Thanksgiving so I could count on a phone call from my mom preparing me for what was about to come.
“Honey, you’re coming home in two weeks and we’re going to go bra shopping whether you like it or not.”
“NOOOOOO we are not. We bought bras last year. These are fine.”
“Yep. You need new ones. I bet yours are totally stretched out. I’m letting you know now so you so you can calm down a bit about it, but it’s happening.”
“I gotta go. I’m not going shopping. Bye.” Then I’d hang up.
I had literally zero interest in hearing any of this. She picked out every bra I ever wore. I felt weird being in the bra section – I felt like I didn’t belong there. I stomped my feet. I pouted. I cried. I got angry. I know it seems like I’m making this up for the story – I’m NOT. This really happened Every Single Time it was time for me to get a bra. It was literally the worst thing in the world. To bribe me to get me to go to the store, my mom would buy me a pair of gym shorts. God I wish I was making this up. I’m not. My mom is an angel. But damn. Hello!? Maybe there’s something deeper going on here?!
It wasn’t until this past November did I let myself wear only sports bras 100% of the time. I didn’t know I was allowed! I saw a scene with Big Boo (Lea Delaria) on Orange is the New Black and she took her shirt off and was wearing a sports bra! What? If SHE could do that, so could I! This just reaffirms to me how important it is to have someone to look up to and to know you’re not alone. And a media presence/role model doesn’t hurt either!
So, what did this all mean? I started talking about it with anyone who would listen. What did I want? What were my options?
I did a TON of research on what it means to be Transgender and everything about Queerness and anything else I could get my hands on. When I read the term genderqueer though, I knew it was me (again, more on this in another post)! People more often than not assume I’m transitioning because I’m having this surgery and as of right now, I’m not. I’m very open to the idea that once I start living my life without my bloobs (yes, I meant to write bloobs), it could open more doors I didn’t even know where shut. But in the meantime, there were other people out there who had this surgery and didn’t transition…
I’M NOT ALONE! HUZZAH!
As part of my gender exploration, my friends and I started filming a documentary. I wanted to be as open and honest about this process as possible. They interviewed me. We explored whether or not I’d be transitioning. We explored why I was feeling what I was feeling. There were tears. There was laughter. But it was hard.
They were with me when I went to the store to buy my first and only chest binder. I ended up only wearing it once, though, because it didn’t make me look or feel the way I wanted and it was hella uncomfortable and hot.
They were with me when I finally cleaned my closet out of any of my ‘crutch’ outfits. I had been keeping skirts/dresses ‘just in case’ I needed to dress up for something. I finally allowed myself to know that it was okay to NOT wear those things and wear a tie and pants – the outfits I was comfortable in. Fuck what other people thought I had to wear to be dressy. I’m proud to say it’s been a long-ass time since I’ve had a dress or a skirt on my body or in my closet as a “just in case.”
They were with me and filmed me in an improv show because of the huge significance improv has played in my self-exploration and discovery (more on improv in another post!).
After a while, we took a break from filming because it started to become overwhelming for me. I had done enough exploring for a while. I kind of tucked the whole notion away, stopped thinking about my gender identity and continued on with life – but not without its problems.
Because I was hiding from the one thing I needed to confront, my issues manifested in headaches and stress eating and bouts of depression. I gained significant weight during the time I realized I wanted Top Surgery and actually dealing with it. It wasn’t until I had a constant, horrible headache and a nudge I received from a friend (who’s also a psychiatrist) telling me to DEAL with the things I needed to DEAL WITH did I really start to come at this exploration with full force. I was already in therapy but sought out a specialist in everything LGBTQ. It seemed like the second I decided to confront this head on, my headaches went away and I was literally propelled into figuring out what I needed to do for me. And it all came back to Top Surgery.
Here’s what I found out when I let myself really think about what I needed to think about: My breasts were causing me intimacy and self esteem issues. My breasts were causing me physical and emotional pain. There really is just no other option – I need to have this procedure done.
Since actually setting the date for my surgery, my whole being is different. I drink less (whole separate post on this). I’m happier. And I feel empowered to keep working towards living the life I deserve to live – and it’s been quite a fucking journey so far!
I look in the mirror and I like everything that I see except my chest. I know I’ve said this before but it’s literally the one barrier standing in the way of me feeling comfortable about expressing who I truly am. It’s an interesting and liberating thought thinking about this and imagining myself and what it’ll be like with The Twins gone.
All my love,