An essay which considers the binary pressures on genderqueer trans people and the healing power of trans love. One that explores how transition uncertainty is weaponized and how trans relationships can provide a safe space to feel and reckon with the negative…
by: Leesh Menard
I’m scared. I’ve been scared to be scared, and to admit the fear to myself or to another person. In my mind, it’s as if a declaration of fear will be followed by a swarm of professionals, positioned to strip me of my trans-ness. The trans monarch, aware of my proclamation, moving in to rescind my invitation to trans spaces, an official pronoun obliterator wiping “they/them” from my signatures and bios, followed by a clothing cop to snatch my generqueer crop top and pronoun pins, and confiscating my collection of button-ups, khakis and cords. This will of course be accompanied by my therapist revoking my “fit-for-surgery” letter and the person who would have been my surgeon canceling my operation date and blacklisting me among others in the specialty, maybe even somehow super-reinforcing my breast onto my body. When I finally told my partner I was scared about my top surgery, none of what I imagined happened. He didn’t ask if I wanted to postpone or if I was sure. Instead, he took my hand into his, kissed my forehead, and gently reminded me that when it was him, he was scared too, and at least temporarily, I was soothed.
Being trans, as well as genderqueer, confuses people. Individuals who see transness as a way to slink from one binary gender to the other, rather than a reconceptualization and deconstruction of gender itself, are unable to fit this new creature into one neat, man or woman box. Their trans-transition-menu is served as a package deal, rather than the “a-la-cart” selection I’m looking to adopt. There is a belief that every trans man will start testosterone, remove their breasts, and have bottom surgery, in that order. For that reason, my in-between-ness, my decision to only seek one form of medical transitioning and my rejection of both a narrow womanhood or strict manhood, is misconstrued as uncertainty. Many act as if I’m just in the “transitioning” phase to a “bigger,” “more complete” transition, a pre-transition, a gate-way transition. My automatic reaction is to try to appear more sure, to never show that I’m questioning my decision, even though this is counter to my understanding of the fluidity in my identity and expression. Admitting to doubts I’m having about a permanent procedure wasn’t an option, because it seemed like it would be used as ammunition in people’s fight against my top surgery, an operation I’m sure is right for me.
I’ve never wanted to have breasts, they’ve also been a source of pain and anxiety to me. They have always been a foreign object, attaching to my body but distinctly not mine, or if mine, merely a producer of shame and disgust. In fourth grade, when my breasts were first beginning to come in, I prayed every night that they would go away. I tried to visualize them being sucked back into my body so I could stay flat chested forever. At ten, when my prayers went unanswered, I began to wish for breast cancer after hearing about a woman in my community who had to have a double mastectomy to prevent the tumors from spreading. At twelve I tried to steal a pack of cigarettes from my mom, hearing that smoking increased the likelihood of cancer. I wished for a life threatening illness for almost a decade, thinking it was my only solution to my intense dysphoria.
I used to feel ashamed of these memories, feeling pathetic and cruel for hoping for something that’s hurt so many people. When I told my boyfriend, though, he was a source of comfort. He shared his own stores from when he was a desperate child seeking a solution to the unnamed but suffocating sensation of gender dysphoria. As I’ve shared my fears and insecurities about surgery — What if i regret it? What if i can’t afford it? What if I don’t like my surgeon? How will this impact my sex life? What if the results aren’t perfect? — I’ve been able to find the answers from what I witnessed with his gender affirming procedures years ago, by remembering what I said when he asked me these questions, and to hear it from his perspective now. As a trans person loving another trans person, it can feel like we’ve unlocked a secret level in this game of love and life. Our relationship and shared experiences have empowered me to radically embrace myself and my transness; to silence my inner critic who says I’m not the right kind of trans or I don’t have the right kind of dysphoria, to quell my unsettling doubt that what I’m doing will mess it all up.
Through my partner, I’ve been able to see myself more clearly. I can witness how I’d advocate or support him and in turn do it for myself. I can imagine a future for him, and thus for me. I can see that I will someday feel at home in my body. I will mutter new names to myself and I will repeat them in the mirror until one feels like shelter. That name will no longer just exist in my mind. I will recognize it when my loved ones call for me. My ears will no longer redden when I hear it. It will be printed on my drivers license, my library card, my electric bill. I will look down and my chest will be flat. My shirts will catch on my stomach, not my breasts. I will be gentle with myself and patient, and kind. I will explore my body. I imagine it will feel good when it’s something I’ve chosen. I will love myself. I will be happy. I will be okay. Sometimes, it isn’t the mirror, the glass that can stretch and warp an image, that shows us our reflection, but the windows we peer through to see others, and how we catch a glimpse of ourselves, where we see our truest image, of who we are and who we can be.
I’ve always known that I’ve wanted my breasts removed, and when asked if I think I’ll ever want them in the future, I can give a pretty resounding no. So then why am I so scared? There will always be uncertainty, and the pressure yet inability to always be in control of the process and outcome is at the forefront of my fear. Even with the knowledge that I’m walking towards a more accurate version of myself, I’ll probably continue to be scared until the surgery happens, and maybe even for a while after. But at least I’ll be able to say it to someone who’s been there.