“You can take your binder off. It’s not fooling us.”
It wasn’t meant to be.
It was said with kindness by people who accept me for who I am and wanted me to be comfortable. I’d been wearing my binder for 40 hours straight and you’re really not supposed to wear a binder longer than 8 hours at a stretch. (You’re not supposed to sleep in a binder, but I hadn’t slept during those 40 hours, either. )
I’m learning that the people who hurt me the most, as a trans person, are the people who love me the most and are trying the hardest to be good to me. There’s an obvious reason for this: if I don’t care about someone, they can say whatever they want and it doesn’t sink in. If I love and trust someone, I let my guard down and their words and actions seep in and can hurt. A lot.
What my friends said to me hurt because I don’t wear my binder to “fool” anyone. It’s not a disguise. I’m not trying to trick people into anything. I wear my binder because I have so much dysphoria about my chest. size and shape.
A few days earlier, I had been walking around a private beach without my binder because I felt safe and comfortable with my friends, but I was still very self-conscious. I took off my binder to give my bones and muscles a break but it stirred up a lot of dysphoria to walk around like that. It was a trade-off: sacrificing some mental and emotional well-being for the sake of my physical health.
But being told I’m “not fooling anyone” made me keep my binder on, even though I’d had it on for 40 hours already. It really hurt — the binder and those words both hurt. I did not feel understood or accepted. I felt freakish and too self-conscious to remove my binder.
It’s hard for people to support me. It’s harder to *be* me, but I acknowledge that it’s hard to support me. People think they understand transgender but most of the time, unless they are trans themselves, they don’t understand anywhere near as much as they think they do.
People accidentally treat me both like a woman and like a man. The ones who are getting things right, treat me like a little brother, being gentle where I need it. The ones who really don’t get it end up treating me to the worst that women get and the worst that men get. The worst was a guy who was being somewhat predatory, getting sex from me and forcing me to keep it a secret from everyone and then turning around and making really painful jokes about my body and voice — the very things he gets upset when people say to his son who has a woman-pitched voice.
I could go on and on, but I’ve made my core point: my binder is not a disguise. I’m not trying to fool or cheat or trick anyone. I *know* I don’t look or sound “masculine enough” yet. I don’t need to have my face rubbed in that fact and my ambiguous gender expression does not mean it’s okay to treat me poorly.