You heard me right. I’m not talking about other folk’s breasts. I’m talking about yours and mine.
I want to open a conversation about what we are thinking, feeling and doing about our breasts because it’s this body which you and I are dressing. Because while there are myriad mainstream conversations taking place about breasts, many dapperQ’s are ambivalent about our breasts. When we gather, it is not something we want to talk about. I know I don’t. So I will.
For larger-breasted dapperQ’s, our breasts are generally in direct conflict with the cut of clothes we want to wear. I’ve gotten plenty of e-mails from readers to prove it. You want answers about how to tailor men’s shirts to accommodate your breasts, or you admit that you wear your clothing baggy to obscure your curves. Or that it’s hard to survive summer options when you bind.
My breasts are size 38D. They are fine breasts, as breasts go. (This is a photo of how I wore them at 21.) But I have no erotic attachment to them. Even on a good day they are not particularly butch. I wish they were much smaller than they are. I work out and eat well so that my stomach and hips and thighs stay thin, but my breasts keep being huge. Over the past couple of years–after giving up meat–I lost about 10 pounds. So now maybe they may be closer to 38C. When I wear a Frog Bra from Title Nine (unfortunately even the XL is tight on me) they look more like a B, which expands my fashion options to include tight t-shirts, ties that aren’t lifted off my chest, and (yay!) suspenders.
My flatter chest makes me feel more attractive. Or maybe it makes me more confident which makes me feel attractive. Unfortunately, after several months of wearing the Frog Bra every day, my breasts ache on and off. My OB-GYN says she knows of no research that suggests this sort of constriction leads to breast cancer. But it hurts, and even worse before my period. So I am forced to switch back and forth between a regular bra and sports bra, but am left more self-conscious than I was before I had any experience with my breasts being smaller.
I wish my body was much more muscular, but I’ve done as much as a 47-year old who lifts weights and eats well can do. Although I haven’t yet experienced muscle loss, all the texts say I can expect it as I move in to my 50’s. I’m jealous of those who take T and sprout muscles I will never have. If I were 20, I believe these exact feelings would lead me to want to transition. Top surgery would be part of that equation.
At the same time, I don’t want to be a man. I don’t want male genitalia. I want the word “woman” to be more inclusive, or for folks to be more comfortable with those of us who exist on the edges. Everyone’s experience is unique and that’s mine, as it exists today.
This morning I conducted a video interview with Clarity Haynes, a fellow Texan who has painted more than 500 female torsos through her Breast Portrait Project. The project began more than 10 years ago when she painted a portrait of her own breasts in order to deal with her own feelings of ambivalence about her body. I wanted to talk to Clarity about what she has learned about breasts throughout this project. For my purposes, her credibility derives not only from the fact that she is a lesbian with a butch partner, but that her “…explores the fluidity of gender identity. By portraying the female face with facial hair – real or imagined – I invite the viewer to question ideas of masculinity and femininity, and to imagine what it would mean to inhabit another body or social identity.”
I’ve agreed to sit for a portrait next week. Like, I don’t want to do it. I’m not sure if I’ll share the portrait with you but I will share what I learn.
I also know this conversation is potentially a political minefield both within and beyond our community. But I am launching it in good faith.
I welcome your perspectives on the topic or ideas for what questions we might want to collectively explore. I’m going to forward this to several of friends with whom I have had related conversations to ask them to chime in and invite you to do the same. ‘Til soon…