I identify as a non-binary woman, and, until recently, I never felt uncomfortable with my body — just with the gender roles assigned to it. But these past few months, I’ve found myself struggling with new and increasing chest dysphoria that I never asked for. And it terrifies me! I bought my first binder a while ago, and while I love the way it makes me look, it’s so difficult to get on and off that I don’t wear it nearly as often as I’d like.
Yesterday I started researching top surgery, just as a first step. But rather than making me feel better about the whole thing, it just demoralized me even more. I wasn’t happy with the way things were, but I was also surprisingly, deeply upset at the thought of going through with the procedure. My gender crisis spiraled even further. What if I was just as unhappy with a flat chest? What if queer women weren’t attracted to me anymore or wouldn’t recognize me as one of them? How would my identity change, or be forced to change, in ways I didn’t want it to? And how many of my feelings were even my own, and how many were just social conditioning? My other trans/nonbinary friends always seemed so impatient to get gender confirmation surgery, but I can’t confirm my gender when I don’t even know what it is.
So, my question isn’t so much about the surgery – I’m obviously not in that headspace yet – so much as all the Emotions I stirred up in thinking about it. I just feel like I’m in this weird limbo in between male/female where I’ll never be comfortable with any version of my body. How do you find peace when you live in that space?
Sometimes, when we allow ourselves to open a door, to open a possibility, the weight of that possibility and that choice is damn heavy – and overwhelming. This is where you’re at: You took a peek into something that wasn’t previously a route you imagined in your life but now that you peeled that curtain back, it is wide open. And with it all the doubts, fears, and uncertainty come swirling out.
You’re in the thick of a gender crisis. Change is tough, knowing what we really desire is tough, too. We see so many narratives of non-binary and trans folks being SURE – 100% certain! – of what they need and what they want, but at times that means the blurred space between sure and questioning gets lost.
The first time that questions similar to yours popped into my brain, I laid down on the ground and stared at the ceiling. The next day, I did the same thing. I did it for a week. I made a lot of emotional art about it. I wrote a lot about it. I looked for others experiencing similar things online. I eventually talked to my friends about it. I talked to other non-binary individuals about it.
I don’t think “peace” is what you should be seeking right now. I think you need to take some grounding breaths and reassure yourself you’ll get there, no matter where ‘there’ is. Lean hard into these questions and these feelings. Be at peace that you’re just going to be unsure for awhile. Write about your doubts and fears. Write about why it excites you too. Think about why this might feel good or awesome. Draw your body, draw it now and draw it in the future. Read lots of things. Buy this zine and this zine. Talk to your non-binary and trans friends who’ve had surgery about your doubts and questions.
Will you be just as unhappy with a flat chest? Maybe. There are folks who feel amazing after surgery and there are folks who at times questioned their decision. They are both valid ways of being and I don’t understand why top surgery can’t be both – a little bit of happiness and a little bit of sadness. Women will still see you, they will recognize you, crush on you, date up on you. Those that don’t aren’t ones you want in your beautiful complex non-binary life anyway. Will you identity change? Yeah maybe, but whose identities aren’t always in a little bit of flux? We’re not stagnant, just because we don’t want to change doesn’t mean we shouldn’t accept change when it’s happening.
To paraphrase a note I wrote to myself once: You don’t have to love your body or your gender. You do need to compromise with your body. You need to stare it down and be all, “I don’t like you and you don’t like me but here we are – partners.” You each have what the other is lacking; you possess the ability to get up in the morning, to move and act and think, and your body literally has a body for you to do those things in. Maybe with time y’all will be on the same page.
And maybe, like all good buddy comedies, you’ll learn to laugh at each other’s stupidity and mistakes, and maybe, like all good buddy comedies, the two of you will eventually learn something from each other. Maybe, like all good buddy comedies, you’ll save each other’s life someday.
You two might not ever say the word love but there could be this fondness, this feeling of going through the war together.