Ever since I went through puberty at nine years old, I’ve been embarrassed by my breasts.
Nearly everyone at school commented on them. Boys would just grab them, while girls would tease me about needing to wear a bra – it felt relentless.
Then as I got older, my discomfort with my breasts worsened. I always felt there was something wrong with them and that they didn’t look how they should.
They were too big, too saggy, had too many stretch marks – the list became longer the more I scrutinised. All these issues niggled at me, finally coming to a head when I came out as genderfluid last year, all because I felt they restricted my ability to be non-binary.
When I came out, I believe my initial anxiety of discovering something new about myself made me feel like I needed to create an enemy of my breasts.
For a non-binary person like me, learning to feel content in my body – and embracing my breasts – was revelatory in accepting my gender identity.
But for weeks after I came out, the dislike of my breasts intensified – weighing on me both physically and mentally. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should want to get rid of them, and that I was somehow betraying my identity by accepting them.
This is because the narrative around trans and non-binary bodies focuses on dysphoria. Time and time again, we see headlines that are either negative or focus on a singular issue, like trans or non-binary folks having surgery or de-transitioning.
The constant link to looks impacting identity and vice versa is a difficult narrative to engage with. It places a lot of emphasis on our bodies defining us.
Although the way we look can impact our feelings about ourselves, it isn’t all that defines our identity. We’re more than our scars and struggles.
Upon reading this kind of content, it’s all too easy to turn the negativity inward. When I see these ideas about non-binary bodies, I start to question my validity.
Am I really non-binary if I don’t feel the same way as other gender non-conforming people? The answer is yes, I am.
Still, the mental back and forth can be a minefield. Even more so when you’re already critical of your body.
However, as I started to embrace my identity and immerse myself in parts of the queer community I’d previously denied myself, I found my opinion of my breasts slowly began to change.
By being unafraid to join in with conversations about gender, I allowed myself to explore what my breasts meant to me.
Within these spaces, I wasn’t met with judgment or immovable ideas, I was met with openness. There was a willingness to explore the individuality of our experiences, and to cast off this idea that we collectively all go on the same journey.
I no longer stood in front of the mirror trying to shrink them down or wish them smaller. I just really looked at them and removed them from preconceived notions of how they should make me feel.
At first I felt uncomfortable, which is arguably a natural reaction. Then I started to discover I liked my breasts – the way they sat, their softness, how they moved.
Elements I’d once hated now seemed less distressing, less difficult to accept. That ritual of looking at my body is one I repeat often.
There were still aspects of them I didn’t like, such as their size, but the idea that they were inherently female had started to be deconstructed.
I stopped viewing them as women’s breasts because they’re not attached to a woman. I may still feel aligned with womanhood in some ways, but my body isn’t a woman’s.
We’re taught from a young age that certain body parts make us male or female, and in doing so our gender is determined. Before we even understand the world, concepts we don’t understand are placed on us.
However, my breasts don’t make me a woman any more than a penis automatically makes someone a man, it’s about how you see yourself that matters.
The whole point of being non-binary is to be removed from the notion of either/or. If we still confine ourselves to the binary after coming out, we’ll only ever struggle to remove the shackles of gender.
If your breasts, or any other parts of your body, are holding you back from realising your identity, you’re not alone in this experience. Equally however, if you find you love these parts of yourself and want to embrace them, you’re not alone in that either.
Terminology isn’t rigid, meaning when we attempt to create static labels we often do more harm than good. Embracing my breasts doesn’t mean I’m cisgendered, it simply means I’m learning to love my body.
I appreciate not everyone can learn to do this, no matter how much they try. My story isn’t an attempt to dismiss other experiences, but rather to emphasise the variety of them.
As with many aspects of personal growth, my journey is still a work in progress; change is rarely linear.
I’m not going to pretend I wake up everyday and love my breasts. I still sometimes wish they were smaller, less noticeable, perkier, or even non-existent, but those days are decreasing.
I don’t feel as confined by my breasts anymore because I no longer regard them as an obstacle to being my true self.
Loving yourself and the way you look doesn’t diminish your identity, nor is it wrong for your journey to contrast with someone else’s. When we acknowledge the fluidity of gender expression and our experiences, we leave behind the binary.
Although it tries to persist, we need to remind ourselves that it’s a social construct rather than an absolute truth.
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