I identify as a queer, transgender man, but my journey getting here wasn’t easy. It took a lot of introspection and experimentation to finally settle on this identity, and honestly, it’s still subject to change.
It took me a while to initially identify my struggles with my gender identity (I didn’t start to question until like… 23) because even though I had issues with my body, but so do a lot of women, and I am still attracted to men. So, logically I should be a woman. Starting to acknowledge my queerness is what eventually led me to explore gender.
When I first came out as trans, I came out as nonbinary because fuck gender, right? I didn’t seem to have the same experience of dysphoria that other trans guys seemed to have, and there were some feminine things I was still attached to.
My Personal Experience with Transitioning
Existing as a nonbinary person in the world wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I realized that I preferred to be seen as a ‘young man’ more than anything else. However, the idea of starting testosterone was terrifying. I wanted my voice to drop because it was often the thing I felt gave me away on my most masculine-presenting days. But I wasn’t sure how I felt about things like bottom growth (it sounded scary), and I really didn’t like the idea of shaving.
Starting testosterone ended up being the best thing for me. My voice dropped, my jaw got a little more square, and my body a bit stronger.
I haven’t had top surgery, and while I wish I was born with less tissue on my chest, I don’t plan to have top surgery. At least not in the near future.
Some may be wondering why I’d make that decision, especially considering upper surgeries are covered by the public health system in Canada. There are a few factors that have led to this decision;
- I like the way my nipples are now. I like the size and shape and how sensitive they are. I don’t want to lose the sensitivity or have scars.
- Naturally, I have a small chest, so I can mostly wear what I like without worrying too much about my chest. And in the cases where I want to wear something tighter or dress up fancier, I bind.
- Surgery is a big deal and a big thing to undertake for what I would consider being a relatively small change.
So, rather than undergoing surgery, I have found ways to love the body I am in.
I understand that I have a lot of privilege; I am a thin white boy with a small chest. For many trans guys, their chest dysphoria is debilitating, or their chest is large enough that surgery feels necessary. There is nothing wrong with that, and every trans person should be able to make their own decisions about their body and how they want to transition. I am by no means telling these folks they should simply learn to love their bodies; for many, that’s just not possible, and that’s very real.
How I learned to love my body
I’ve been on testosterone for just over four years now, and it has taken me a long time to love my body, and, of course, I still have good days and bad days. Here are a few things that helped me to learn to love my body, particularly my chest. Maybe you can use some of these strategies to start feeling better about your body.
I am a man, so my chest is a man’s chest.
Reminding myself that because I am a man, my chest is a man’s chest regardless of whether or not it looks like a cis man’s chest, and I refer to it as such. Turn this into a mantra if you have to. Get your friends to repeat it to you when you’re having doubts.
Also, use language that feels affirming to you when describing your body. I typically say ‘my chest’ or ‘my nipples’ rather than usually more traditionally feminine works for that part of my body.
Perspective makes a difference
Knowing that my perspective looking down at my chest is different from how other people see my chest looking at me straight on.
I remember one particular day where I was out with my partner, and I kept doing that thing where I pull my shirt away from my chest because it felt like it was too tight, and everyone could clearly see my chest. You know what I mean. Eventually, my partner noticed and asked me about it. I told him what I was doing, and he assured me that my chest didn’t look the way I believed it did in my head. When I didn’t believe him, he took a picture. He was right; despite how I felt looking down at my chest, the picture looked great.
Stand up straight
I mean…nothing about me is straight. Stand-up gay? It’s natural to think that curving your shoulders in will hide your chest, but it doesn’t; in my opinion, it brings more attention. Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
Look in the mirror
When you don’t feel good in your body, it’s easy to avoid looking in mirrors, I get it. But taking the time to look at yourself, particularly in your natural state, can help you to appreciate your body. Don’t think about judging yourself on what you have or don’t have or your view on attractiveness (which is arbitrary); instead, focus on the amazing things your body does. While you’re at it, try picking one thing you like about your body. Only one thing, and it doesn’t have to be big or feel significant, but it can make all the difference in building your confidence.
My body allows me to ride my bike to work in the morning. I am thankful for my strength. By spending time looking in the mirror, I have also found ways of holding my body that make me feel good. Like standing in certain positions that make my chest look a little more like I wish it did. I also notice things that I like and make me feel masculine, like the definition in my arms, the hair on my legs, and my tiny little treasure trail.
Fake it till you make it
I know this is a bit cliche, but it works, at least it has for me. If I fake confidence in my body, people around me question me less. Eventually, the confidence actually starts to rub off. Go to the beach with your shirt off, change in front of your friends, act like your chest is a man’s chest, and eventually, you will believe it.
Wear clothes that feel good
Find clothes that make you feel good in your body. That could be a particular style or cut or even specific colours. I find I like men’s shirts that are small enough to fit across the shoulders but not too tight around my chest and in bright or dark colours, never white or grey.
As I have started to love my feminine self more and acknowledge myself as a femme gay boy, I’ve started to experiment with how I dress as well. I’ve found crop tops that are T-shirts or long sleeves (no tank tops), and a bit looser around the chest are fantastic!
This can also apply to loving other parts of your body. Find pants that make you feel good about your hips. Hem your pants if you’re worried about them being too short and don’t want to cuff them. Wearing a packer if that makes you feel good.
Having supportive people in my life has made all the difference. I have friends who I will text selfies to on dysphoric days who will describe me in ways that feel gender-affirming to make me feel better about my body.
I also appreciate having friends who will correct other people on my pronouns, especially feminine days.
I got a chest tattoo, and it actually made a significant difference in my confidence. I feel like it visually takes away from the extra tissue I have on my chest. And in situations where I feel like someone is staring at me when I’m topless, I remind myself that they’re probably just looking at my tattoo.
While these are primarily geared toward my experience learning to be more confident with my chest, most of these could help our overall confidence in our bodies. We deserve to exist in the world exactly as we are at this moment.
No matter who you are or how you exist in the world, it’s challenging to be confident about your body. Even the people out there who you think don’t have issues with their bodies, I assure you, they do. But building confidence and starting to feel that love takes time. Consider just making a commitment to yourself to take one step forward, no matter how small.
You are beautiful and loved and deserve to feel good.
Complement your dive into self-love with a deeper understanding of how the desire to pass can change the way you feel about yourself.