My recent foray into the bra market has left me with jewel-toned, lacy nightmares. For years I have dreaded the moments when I realize I need new bras, not only due to the cost, but also because as a busty person my choices are limited from the get-go. In addition to the usual challenges, this shopping episode was the first time I really wanted to find gender-neutral bras.
Neutrality, I discovered, is an endangered species. The few bras in my size that aren’t lacy or otherwise bedecked in femininity are too high-cut, utterly boring, or both. Unless I’m wearing a button-down, high-cut bras are going to show, which is not usually the look I aim for. I am also of the apparently radical opinion that gender-neutral should not equate to snore-fest. Basic black and nude are all well and good within reason, but it’s going to be a problem if I start nodding off with disinterest every time I put a bra on. My chest and I deserve better than the next to nothing the stores I went to had available.
Buying online seemed like the obvious solution at first. Yet as I searched, I realized I wasn’t willing to buy anything if I couldn’t try it on and had no option to return it to a physical store. I am notorious for not returning unwanted items I’ve bought online. I never get around to it, lose the receipt, or otherwise pout over the whole situation too long for the return to go through.
The culture embodied in the bra market itself tells me—with a chest this size—I should want or even need lace, bows, and other feminine accoutrements. Lace is scratchy, I’d rather not appear to have had a crazy moment with a bedazzler, and bows belong on shoelaces and the tops of presents. To my knowledge, my boobs don’t have any tea party invitations. These adornments are all well and good on others if they so choose, but those sorts of bras make me feel like the only one wearing a costume at the party. Alternately, the masculine narrative of minimizing breasts is so common that it is difficult to feel validated in not binding.
I’ve been left with the impression that my chest and I exist in a symbiosis alien to the way culture constructs the feminine narrative of fancily adorning breasts and, in turn, the prevalent masculine narrative of minimizing them. While the shape of my chest signals to most people an inherent femininity, that same shape is not excluded from my sense of masculinity. Taking up space, both in terms of how I hold myself and in terms of my physical body, is essential to how I construct my gender presentation.