On Monday, April 30th, I walked to my apartment's mail center with shaky hands and a racing heart. I had gotten the email that my package had finally arrived. I had ordered my first binder, and it was waiting in that tiny mailroom for me.
My mind was racing. After today, everything would be different. I'd be one step closer to passing as a male to the typical American citizen. Everything would start to feel real now.
I showed the lady in the mailroom my ID and she handed me the large, white envelope. There was no evidence of the contents inside; the company's name was nowhere to be found. Inconspicuous packaging for the safety of those who bought it.
I practically ran back to my apartment to try it on. I prayed it fit. I ripped open the package and a black tank top fell out. I smiled so wide my cheeks began to hurt.
Body dysphoria is a condition transgender people have in which parts of your body make you feel extremely uncomfortable to the point where you cannot look at your reflection without feeling some sort of disgust. I had always had issues with my body in the past, but I had just assumed it was because I am overweight and society's fatphobia was taking a toll on me. Not exactly the case.
Yes, society is extremely fatphobic, but in my case, the problem was that I am not a girl.
This realization changed my life.
I held the binder in my hands and read the instructions that came with it. "Place it over your head like a tank top." Sounded easy enough. I slipped off my top, shimmied my hands and forearms into the binder, and attempted to stretch it over my head.
Here are massive realizations I had.
1. Binders are extremely, extremely tight.
The material would not budge. This was going to take a while. Alright. I bunched the binder and placed it around my neck like a scarf. I tried to pull the bottom of the binder down, but it was going to take some force. I pulled harder. This was not something one can simply slip into. It didn't move.
2. I was having extreme difficulty putting this on.
I panicked a bit. Would I have to exchange it? My heart sank as I thought about waiting another two weeks for processing and shipping. I had been dealing with dysphoria for such a long time now. I wanted to ease it now.
Could I even put binders on? They were so, so tight. Was this even worth it? Was I even a man in the first place or had I tricked myself into thinking that and I have been faking this whole time!?
3. I needed to chill out.
I didn't give up hope. Every trans guy who has used a binder said it would take a bit to put on. I didn't give up. I grabbed the bottom mesh and pulled. Bit by bit, I tugged and yanked and twisted until finally, the material shifted.
The binder was on.
For the first time in a decade, my chest was flat.
And I was elated.
I was flat. I threw on a t-shirt and looked in the mirror. My chest looked like a man's chest. I was grinning like a kid on Christmas.
I did some tests to make sure it fits properly (ill-fitting binders can do serious damage to your ribs, so making sure it fit properly was imperative. I'd deal with waiting two weeks over fractured ribs any day). I stretched my arms over my head, twisted my core, jumped up and down, and took deep breaths. There was no pain, except for a feeling of tightness in my chest, which is perfectly normal.
The binder fits like a glove. As long as I wear it for less than eight hours, I am completely safe.
My mind was racing of the newfound possibilities. I could wear button ups. I could wear t-shirts. I could wear tank tops. I could wear whatever top I wanted without chest dysphoria.
If I played my cards right, I might even have a stranger call me sir.
The thought of being validated like that made me giddy. I Snapchatted picture after picture to my friends and received nothing but love and support in return. I was beaming. I never wanted to take the binder off.
Dysphoria can be crippling for a trans person. In my case, being called "she" and "her" in public hurts. I give my name, Milo, but it doesn't click for most people.
Of course, I don't blame strangers for misgendering me. Being pre-testosterone makes passing very, very difficult. Unless I wear a flashing button with my pronouns on it, there really isn't any way for strangers to know I'm actually a dude. Which is completely fair.
It just sucks.
But, I take this feeling and channel it towards hope. When I am on hormones, and when I do start passing, it's going to feel unbelievably good. I just have to be patient.
This past Monday marked an important milestone in my journey to becoming my true self. I am so happy with the progress I have made so far, and I am so excited about the future progress I will make.