Fear and Self-loathing in the Lingerie Store
Just when I think I am finally growing confident in my womanhood, I go shopping at an lingerie store with a cis girlfriend and remember just what gender dysphoria feels like.
We went to a little boutique on a bright Saturday morning and I was excited by the prospect of getting my measurements and selecting some lingerie. Since I transitioned, I have bought bras and panties as needed but always at large chain stores where I have the benefit of a certain anonymity. At this point, I had already been living as a woman for a couple of years and was finally starting to feel comfortable with my womanhood in my daily life so I wanted to reward myself by getting something that made me feel beautiful in a way that my t-shirt bras and sports bras simply couldn’t.
The moment the clerk wrapped the measuring tape around my breasts, I started feeling panicky and flustered. Since transitioning, I have had this irrational fear that my boobs “grew wrong” and were not female enough looking and I feared that the store clerk would notice. So, after the measuring, I fled immediately to the safety of the changing room with a couple of bras, mentally going over the entire interaction to see if she “clocked” me. While trying them on, I noticed some side fat rolling out over the sides of the cups. I almost had a panic attack on the spot and had to suddenly fight back tears. My confidence in my body shattered like brittle glass and all I could think was that my boobs must be oddly shaped because of my male physical past and that I was doomed to a half-female state for life. What started out as excitement had become a total dysphoria meltdown simply due to being in a new all-female context like lingerie shopping where my physical insecurities were on high alert.
I eventually managed to calm down and found a bra that fit well, bought it and escaped as quickly as I could. On the street outside the shop, I asked my cis friend if it was normal that my breasts didn’t seem to fit the bras well. I feared that she would be shocked and declare that this was unprecedented in the entire history of womanhood but she instead informed me that this was common for women that are a little overweight. That actually calmed me a little because I realized that I didn’t have mutant boobies after all since cis girls had this problem too.
That was really the essence of my panic attack—feeling different from other girls. I am fine in situations I know but when I am in a new situation in girl world, I get hyper-vigilant and insecure about how womanly my body is. I compare it to the women around me and find myself lacking.
After relating this story on Facebook Kelli Busey, editor at Planet Trans commented “I thought I was the only one to freak out over trying on a bra. I either do it nearly anonymously at a local Walmart or in the fitting room of Victoria’s secret that way I only have to deal with one person. Dysphoria’s such a biatch. I can walk around this world these days without anyone so much as blinking an eye…”
That is my story in a nutshell. I live as a woman every day, almost never get “clocked” as trans or deal with prejudice for it, use women’s restrooms and changing rooms all the time without incidence and am relatively secure in my womanhood but like many trans women, my body is the source of my dysphoria and identity issues.
It was my body that I spent a life hating before HRT and my body that visibly identifies me as a woman or strips me of my gender to the world, depending on how others see it.
Thus, it is my body where all of my battles of self-acceptance must be fought because growing up a woman with a male body, any indication that my body is different shatters my self-esteem.
Someday, I hope to be able to love this hybrid body that I have for its uniqueness and beauty and never doubt that it is a woman’s body but for now, it will just take a little courage to keep facing the potential invalidation of the cisgender gaze.