I bought a binder recently. I’d been wanting one for almost a year but just hadn’t done it, for reasons I can’t really explain. I had a wedding to attend, and I wanted to wear a dress shirt and a tie. In my mind, I’d look so much better with a flat chest. I’d pissed around for so long that if I purchased the one I really wanted online (gc2b), it wouldn’t arrive on time.
I did some research and learned that a local sex positive toy shop (early2bed) happened to carry Underworks binders. So when my wife and I went thrift store shopping, I asked if we could stop by the shop since it was nearby. I hadn’t measured myself, so I figured I’d just see what they had in stock. We walked in, and after a few minutes of dawdling I finally asked one of the employees if they had binders in stock. She smiled and assured me that they definitely did, then led me to the right shelf. They also happened to have a tape measure, so my wife measured me right then and there. I was right between a medium and a large, so I wasn’t quite sure what to get. Luckily, the store lets you try them on, as long as you’re careful and don’t damage them in any way.
My wife helped me try on the large. Once I got it on, we both agreed it was too big. She helped me squeeze into the medium. I couldn’t believe how supportive my wife was during that moment. I know she loves me and wants me to be happy, but I also know how hard this is for her. While I’m discovering myself, she’s grieving the woman she fell in love with, the woman she married. And no matter how much I protest that I’m the same, that I’ll always be me, I’m starting to wonder if she’s right, and I will become a totally different person. Either way, I love my wife…I really hope she sticks with me on this journey.
I put on my shirt over the binder and looked in the mirror. I felt the most profound sense of recognition I’ve maybe ever felt in my life. I was finally seeing the chest that I saw in my mind, the chest I always expected to see and had never seen before. It felt right. I almost burst into tears but managed to keep my shit together (though I did cry when explaining how I felt to my therapist a few days later). I kept the binder on and felt amazing on the walk home. I kept checking out my reflection in store windows, marveling that for once I actually liked what I saw. I wore the binder as much as I could for a few days after that. I wore it at home, wore it to work, etc. I wore it to the wedding and actually felt confident.
But then shark week came, and with that came a sensitive, sore chest. Binding right now is incredibly uncomfortable. I did it anyway today, because I just needed to feel that connection with my body. I put on my binder and a short sleeve button down shirt and walked my dog. I felt pretty good. Then I realized something – even with a flat chest, people still immediately perceive me as female. All they have to do is see my hips, hear my voice and boom, it’s game over. I felt a deep frustration and sadness, an all encompassing feeling of defeat. I had my wife help me take off my binder when I got home and I changed into a sports bra and a loose t-shirt. She asked me what was wrong and all I could say was, “It doesn’t matter, who do I think I’m fooling anyway?”
Most of all I felt like I was fooling myself. I’m not a man. I’m not a woman either. I’m something in between, something else, and I’m not sure what that is yet.