This question was submitted about two weeks ago. Immediately I knew how to answer it, yet it forced me to dig deep to come up with a coherent reason WHY. This revelation clears up not only a lot of what the asker has been grappling with, but it’s also exactly what has lately been troubling me.
(PS: Thank you dear reader for letting me post this, I do hope other people will find it useful.)
i just wanted to tell you that i’ve been reading a lot of your posts and that they have helped me immeasurably. there is very little online about non-binary trans people and their body/social dysphoria; that makes me feel a little lonely, sometimes. so your blog is awesome!
i’m having trouble with my chest, i guess. not when i’m naked, not when i’m alone (or alone with my partner). i only have trouble with my chest when i’m in public. i consider top-surgery now and then, but i know i’d miss my breasts when naked and alone. when i’m naked and alone, i feel whole.
i think you’ve been in a place similar to this place. i guess this message is asking for reassurance that this place is real, that real people have gone before me.
The Two Needs
I relate to what you say in some ways, but not in others. Let me explain.
People often say gender is entirely a social construct. They posit: “if you were on a deserted island, would you feel the need to transition?” My answer: yes. I never wanted breasts, never liked having them. When I was clothed, I bound my breasts as flat as possible. Alone and naked, I felt constant unease, uncomfortable in my own skin. I saw myself in a way that was deeply incongruous with my current body. This was all before I had even heard the term transgender, let alone let in sink in.
So you see, I never had a “complicated relationship” with my breasts. The decision to get top surgery was very straightforward. And now I feel a great relief that my biological unit is in line with myself.
On the other hand, I am grappling with the idea of hormones. This is because people currently perceive me as a certain gender, and I would very much like to influence that perception in a different direction. There is a solution to this problem: Testosterone. More and more I feel the need to take it, because of this need I have for other people to perceive my gender a little “more correctly.” However, if I were on a deserted island, would I consider taking T? Probably not. It’s not so much a biological need as it is a social need, but for me, it is more and more becoming a need. And let’s face it – we are social beings, and social perception matters to everyone, a lot.
Moreover, I can point you to other people who struggle with the exact same dilemma you have. Among them are other transmen, non-binary trans* and genderqueer people of different flavors, and lastly, Butches. I’ve read a lot of blogs, stories, articles, and books, on the complicated relationship a butch has to hir/her chest. They love ‘em but they hate ‘em. Some end up binding, some get top surgery, some still struggle, and some come to acceptance. This is a running theme in S. Bear Bergman’s books, both Butch is a Noun and The Next Exit May Be Behind You (*). You can also try reading blogs by butches, non-op transmen, etc. A few that I recommend are Butches A-Go-Go, Just Another White Woman, and any blog mentioned in her Liebster post here or her blogroll (she’s nice too, so maybe we can ask her for more).
Lastly, I’ll say surgery is a process. Part of the process is all that stuff that happens inside your head before you do it. In the end we might end up in the same place, but how we all get there varies vastly. There are as many paths as there are people, and only you can set your own path.
The Moral of the Story
i guess what i can really take away from this is that body dysphoria and social dysphoria are different things, but they both need to be taken seriously.
(*) Little Footnote: As for those books, I’ve made a genuine attempt to read both of them, and haven’t been able to finish either. I found them quite tedious, and maybe they’re just not my thing, but they didn’t really speak to me. I can’t recommend them other than for the reasons above.