Featured Voices: We Are More Than Our Chests

Jamie Ray offers a critical take on the glamorization of top surgery: “my chest is not what defines me as trans.” Originally published on A Boy and Her Dog.

We Are More Than Our Chests

I love my chest, but I don’t want to be defined by it or judged for it. For years, in-between puberty and top surgery, I hated my breasts (and my hips).  I didn’t know the word for dysphoria but I experienced it. I had a lot of body shame. Now, when I take my morning shower and get dressed, I give thanks for my top surgery. But my chest is not what defines me as trans.

Lifeguards, Australia, 1971

I am tired of seeing articles (popping up in my Facebook feed) that feature some variation of hot young trans guys without their shirts on. I’m put off by the media obsession with trans men who have chests as sexy as sexy cisgender men’s chests. I’m put off by the search for the perfect trans chest. For trans torsos with a narrow V shape. For trans chests with no visible surgical scars or dog ears. For trans models with small nipples and chiseled abs. For guys who are young, ripped, and (usually) white.

Articles about trans men that show them going shirtless (or in boxer shorts injecting testosterone) are as obnoxious as articles about trans women that show them putting on their make-up. We are more than our surgeries. We are more than our make up. We need to see the widest range of trans possibilities, not just the ones that reinforce the stereotypes.

I’m not going to exchange my dysphoria for the muscled hypermasculinity that dominates the media (or the svelte androgyny that is used to represent genderqueer). I want to look like myself, but comfortable, and with a nice, flat, masculinized chest.

I haven’t posted pictures of my chest on my blog. I don’t want them up there for everyone to see. My chest is fine, but not fabulous. My revision scars are still healing and my pecs aren’t exactly even (they are even enough). I have emailed pictures of my chest, and taken my shirt off, to show my results to a couple of people who were thinking about going to Dr. Weiss.

I saw a lot of trans chests at the “show and tell” workshops at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Many of them are a little funky looking. There are a wide range of idiosyncratic trans chests (and cis chests) out there, including mine. I have no shame about my chest (particularly after getting my nipples reduced/resized) but I still compare it to other people’s chests. I caught myself judging an actor’s chest at the movies this weekend (Elmer Bäck in Eisenstein in Guanajuato), and asking myself if I’d be content if I had his nipples (I like mine better).

In real life, the only time my shirt comes off in public is when I’m changing in the locker room at the gym. In another life, my shirt would also come off at the beach or by a pool. I can’t think of any other situations when I’d want to go shirtless. I understand why some trans guys post shirtless selfies, but no matter how cool my chest looks, I spend almost all my waking time wearing a shirt. So does everyone else I know. I’d rather look at guys with their clothes on. And the truth is, I haven’t met anyone whose top surgery doesn’t look great when they are wearing a nice shirt.

Notes: This article “16 Trans Men Who Don’t Own A Shirt” kept showing up in my Facebook feed last week, as did this article “Meet the First Trans Man on the Cover of Men’s Health in Europe“. Both offer a hypermasculine approach to chests. A more realistic peek at what three different trans chests look like is in Davey Wavey’s video “Transgender Men Get Shirtless” which also has a link to this video on nipples by Ryan Cassata with Davey Wavey.

About Jamie Ray

Jamie lives on the border of trans and butch, with Gracie the dog and Donna the partner. Follow Jamie’s blog at aboyandherdog.com.

all raindrops have a little bit of rainbow
all raindrops have a little bit of rainbow

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