Against the binary: imagining a future of holding my chest high
Our columnist Yas Necati explores their feelings, fears and hopes about potential top surgery.
27 Mar 2023
Welcome back to gal-dem’s monthly gender column ‘Against the binary’, bringing you Yas Necati’s latest reflections on finding gentleness, home and joy as a trans person.
I’m scared of losing sensation in my nipples. I’m scared there might be complications with the surgery. I’m scared of how much it costs; of asking people for money. I’m scared of what bathroom will be safe for me.
But my back hurts. I keep buying clothes with money I don’t have in the hopes that maybe this cute new baggy top will magic away the swell of my chest and my hips. So I called my GP last week and I explained what the “transmasc slouch” is. “You see…it’s this thing where you roll your shoulders forward and arch your back so that your tits are less noticeable”. I probably didn’t use the word tits. My GP had of course never heard of this before, but I’m lucky that she was caring and kind. This isn’t usually the case for trans folks accessing healthcare. It felt vulnerable and intimate sharing this part of myself with a cis person. I’m slouching right now as I write this, despite being in the empty basement of a coffee shop – it’s a performance for myself as much as anyone else. It’s how I feel comfortable.
I’m worried about what I’m doing to my back; between binders, undersized sports bras and the transmasc slouch, it doesn’t stand much of a chance. I know you’re not supposed to wear binders for more than eight hours, or fall asleep in them, but sometimes I do. I’ve been out as non-binary since I was 17; almost 10 years. That’s been 10 years of slouching; 10 years of pride and shame; 10 years of joy and fear; 10 years of shining and hiding. I want to hold my chest high.
“I know you’re not supposed to wear binders for more than eight hours, or fall asleep in them, but sometimes I do”
I imagine what it would feel like to hold my chest high. It would reduce the pain for starters, not just the physical pain. I could go swimming in just my swim shorts, without being stressed about the men around me. Clothes would fit me better, how I imagine them fitting me. I could be more of an in-between; more genderless. I have two beautiful partners who see my transness and touch my chest with all the tenderness and love and care I could possibly hope for. But recently, I’ve still been dissociating when I see myself. It doesn’t matter how I’m touched; my chest is sometimes a site of pleasure and sometimes a void that sends me into spirals of dysphoria and dissociation. I don’t recognise myself when I look down at my body.
I’m still not sure about top surgery and there are some things I’m scared about. But seeing as I won’t hear back from the gender service for at least two years, I’ve got lots of time to contemplate. As a teen, I used to watch videos of trans boys on YouTube talking through all the stages of their surgeries; the joy and the potential complications. I’ve been considering this for so many years, but I’ve been held back by worrying about what others might think. I’m trying to let that go and figure out what I want and need for myself. It’s a journey, but I’m getting there.
“As a teen, I used to watch videos of trans boys on YouTube talking through all the stages of their surgeries; the joy and the potential complications”
I’m scared of losing sensation in my nipples. But I’m not feeling much anymore anyway because of the dysphoria. I’m scared there might be complications with the surgery. But I know so many people who’ve had surgery and been well. I’m scared of how much it costs; of asking people for money. But I deserve to live in a body that reflects who I am. I’m scared of what bathroom will be safe for me. But I’ve been scared about that my whole life anyway.
I’m scared about returning to family. But I’m scared of that already. I’m scared people will read me as a man. But they do that anyway. I’m scared of going back to my village in Cyprus. But the land is cut and scarred like me and we are both working towards being more beautiful and liberated versions of ourselves.
“Seeing other trans people being themselves without apology has made me who I am”
Seeing other trans people being themselves without apology has made me who I am. I’ve spent hours watching YouTube videos about how this might go. When I see trans boys dancing at parties I want to dance beside them with the same confidence. I’m celebrating that I can do what I choose with my own body. This is the first time I’ve really accepted that I can do what I want with my own body. I feel different, I feel like the whole world has shifted. I feel power over myself and my future; something I’ve rarely felt.
A friend of mine has suggested a top surgeon who did their surgery. I have this fantasy where I wake up post-op on the sofa in their home with them and both of my partners surrounding me, holding my hands and my shoulders. It could be real.
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