During a hangout session with acquaintances, I was asked if I was binding. Since I was in a safe space, I felt comfortable disclosing my methods of binding. I informed them I had on a sports bra and layered my clothing so my chest wasn’t as visible. After my short response, the conversation shifted to whether or not I needed to have top surgery. I wasn’t completely comfortable with the unsolicited opinions that my chest isn’t “big enough” and I should "save myself the trouble." I don't fault them for comparing themselves to me and assuming my journey is easier with smaller breast. This made me think about why I make the decision most days to wear a sports bra rather than other binding methods. Which is solely my experience and does not have anything to do with the size of my breast.
I purchased my first binder online. There was a sense of security with purchasing an item so personal to me within the comfort of my own home. It took the traditional week to arrive which felt like an eternity but when it did, I was honestly nervous. I waited a few days after it arrived before trying it on. There was this built up anticipation of how I expected to look and how I was going to feel. When I was emotionally ready, I opened the box and tried on my binder. Well guess what folks?! It was too small. There I stood in front of the mirror disappointed. I was sad. My feelings were hurt. My breasts are small in society’s eyes and my binder didn’t close. Here was the answer to what I thought was my only body dysmorphia. In my mind, the only issue I had was with my breast in clothes. I enjoyed my body naked and to myself. When I was alone there was no one to tell me who I am and how I should present. It was how others saw me that made me self-conscious. This was supposed to be my solution. I took it off and that was it. I didn’t even send it back. I was trapped in slightly too big clothes to compensate for my breasts.
It took years to get rid of a binder that wasn’t ever going to fit. Probably a year or so later I gained the courage to attempt this process again with hope for a different outcome. This time I gave myself options; I bought a tank top and a crop. This time it fit. Except it wasn’t the experience I was hoping for in the least. It was uncomfortable and painful. My breast didn’t lay the way I wanted. They don’t warn you about how you breathe a little differently when your chest is bound. This was just a painful temporary fix with no measurable outcome. My breast weren’t going to get smaller.
"I thought a binder would make me feel more masculine."
The first place I wore my binder was to a photo shoot. As I was getting ready, I stood in the mirror and this time my chest was flat. I rubbed my hand down my body and as I buttoned up my shirt I began to smile. It fit and a wave of relief swept over me. After that day, I thought I would wear my binder everyday. I thought it would make me feel more like myself. To be honest, it doesn’t do that for me. Some days I trade breathing for discomfort and wear a binder rather than a sports bra but there goes my peace of mind. Wearing a binder reminds me that I’m wearing a binder. It’s a thought I have when I’m on a date that’s going well and I wonder how to go about taking it off. I hear the voice of my breasts after a few hours of wear longing to be released from their cage, but home is nowhere in sight. The day will leave me wondering if a slightly flatter chest is worth the trouble it brings me.
Along this journey of finding my version of expression, I choose everyday to defy the binary standards of gender expression. Disregarding the thoughts of how a particular piece of clothing should fit based on the gender intended.
I thought a binder would make me feel more masculine. I go months without wearing my binder and stints of time without wearing a bra. When the topic of top surgery enters my space, I question if that’s a desire of mine. My answer varies with the day but at the end of the day the decision will be mine and for my happiness. For now, my breasts are a part of who I am. Some days I like them and other days I don’t, but I shouldn’t choose based on how I’m perceived or viewed by the world. I choose to be confident in how I present, everyday. That’s what I put on. I wear my confidence. We all experience insecurities but I choose to accept them and to be proud of them. I use my insecurities as a tool to better love myself and others. There’s no one way to present. Having breasts or not doesn’t determine nor validate your gender identity.