I Love My Body, But…
Age: 36 years old
Identifies as: Pre-everything FTM
I love my body.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my body, every cell. It’s lovely, it’s beautiful, and I have a lot of compassion for every part of me. We work together, live together, all the time, and I don’t wish any part of it ill.
Living in it makes me want to die.
When I look in the mirror, I see me. Mostly. Sort of. When I open my mouth, a voice comes out- beautiful. Sweet. Gentle. It isn’t mine, so I don’t sing in spite of years of classical training with that voice.
I can’t, because it isn’t mine. It’s… other. It’s beautiful, but it’s not right. It doesn’t feel like me. When I write music, it’s for lower voices. I can’t help it.
I thought I was a freak for feeling this way for most of my life, until I lost some weight due to an illness. My curves vanished a bit, and my face lost the feminine plumpness of cheek that it used to have. I looked in the mirror, and a flash went off in my brain.
THAT WAS ME. For the first time ever, I looked in the mirror, and felt actually connected to what I saw. It registered as more than just the face I wore; it was MY face. It was ME.
My first thought was, “Oh, wow. That’s really me. I’m a guy.”
My second thought was, “Oh, crap. This is going to destroy my life.”
I bought a binder and tried it out. Yes. The recognition is instant: this is what my body registers as me. That’s never happened before; it’s unnerving and exciting. It’s wonderful. It’s real. I bought male clothes, and suddenly feel normal. The terrible buzzing in my brain that happens when I wear dresses and look female calms down. It vanishes and I’m me, really me, in a body that I relate to. I stop thinking about gender entirely. When I wear a binder, it’s not because I hate what’s under it. It’s to feel that sense of recognition and self when I look down, or when I look in the mirror.
How do you explain dysphoria to others? Imagine waking up in a mask that you can’t take off, no matter what you do. It stays with you, stays on you. It’s what other people see and affects how they treat you, and it’s what YOU see, too, and there’s nothing to be done. You live in it for years, knowing it isn’t right, wondering what it would take to get out of it.
All my life, it’s been like this – curves I didn’t want, a voice I can’t disguise. People who know (I’m not out to everyone, because I’m not transitioning yet) don’t understand. Why would I give up being a tolerably pretty girl to be a short little guy? They ask this sadly- they say, “But you were so lovely, you carried yourself so well.”
Of course I did. It was an act. I had years to try to practice it, get it right, this phony perfect girlhood. To wear makeup, trying to get it perfect, because maybe if I got it right, it would feel right. Maybe if I bought the right jewelry, maybe if I wore the right clothes… I tried look after look, reinventing myself with the seasons, trying to get it “right.”
All it took was that one half second in the mirror, looking masculine, to feel right.
In the meantime, not transitioning, I feel terrible. My sweetheart and I were sitting around playing video games on a Sunday morning–that’s our morning for that kind of thing–and I had to put a shirt on over my tank top. Two guys, lounging around together in our pajamas, and I have to cover up. Not because of what he thinks, but because I can’t handle the terrible error messages that get generated when I look down and there’s D cups instead of the flatness my brain still thinks should be there. That mask is something I was born with. I’ve tried everything I could to get rid of the feeling, to accept my body as it is. Therapy, medications. I even tried female hormones in the hope that I could bring my brain in line with my body, instead of the other way round. That almost ended in suicide; we won’t be trying that again.
I don’t hate my body, but I can’t live like this, in this awkward combination of man and woman. The greatest relief I’ve ever felt came when I gave myself permission to stop trying to get it right- and to stop being a woman. I threw out all my makeup, I am trading out all my dresses. Giving myself some compassion for being misgendered, for not matching up brain and body, I am more at ease. It’s still terrible, but at least now I understand. It’s not my body’s fault, but it’s not my brain’s, either. This is just how it is. I have to go with what feels right, with the lower voice that my brain insists is how I should sound. With the flat chest that lets me stop feeling trapped,l ets me recognize myself in the mirror, no matter how it pinches and hurts.
I love my body. My body is doing the best it can. I think we’ll both be better off when the pain is gone, though, when I can look in a mirror and feel like that body is mine, that I live in it rather than am trapped in it.
I don’t know when that will be. It frightens me to think of having to get cut up to be a man. But seeing as how I’d give a limb in a heartbeat to make that change, I think it’s an easy decision. It frightens me. I wonder whether maybe if I just gave it one more try, I could find some kind of woman I wouldn’t mind being. In my heart,though, I know that the feeling that wins is the one that keeps me putting on the binders. One more chance won’t do it. I know what works already. I know what feels like, looks like, me.
When I dream, I often have a beard. It’s always been like that. The mask is thick and tough to live with, but the brain has its own built in idea of what rightness is, and that makes itself known whether you want it or not. Just imagine the mask, the one that never comes off.
And this is how it is.
I mean to be free of it, someday. I owe myself that. I owe this body that, to shape it in a way that connects us better, that lets me see it as home. I want to be at home in this body. I hope I have the courage for it, because I don’t know how much longer I can stand to pretend to be a woman.