The Hawaiian Shirt Effect
To Live Bravely and Authentically
Getting Top Surgery has been something that I’ve been talking about for years. Common questions people ask me are “How did you know you wanted top surgery?” “Are you transitioning?” “What pronouns do you use?” “What other surgeries are you getting?” “How will this change your life?” “Do you want to be a man?” “What’s the post-op recovery time?” “Does your family know?” The list goes on and on and in my experience, all seem like pretty standard questions – people are curious and interested, sometimes too nosy, but seem genuinely interested in my story. (I will try and answer all of these throughout this blog)
Every time I’m faced with these questions, I try to answer intelligently, succinctly, patiently, with dignity and poise and above all, honestly. There have been times where I’ve felt like I’ve needed to defend myself, people challenging what I’m saying and I need to remind myself over and over that I don’t need to defend myself. This is me. But, honestly, sometimes it’s hard to put into words what I’m feeling or why I’m feeling it. Because it’s just how I am. It’s ME. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I don’t need to define anything to anyone. I just need to keep living my life as authentically as possible.
I know I’m making the right decision for multiple reasons. I don’t need to prove anything to myself but things keep coming up, showing me over and over again that this is the right move for me.
I don’t need to define anything to anyone. I just need to keep living my life as authentically as possible.
A few weeks ago, a new friend came over to offer business advice and to just hang. We got to talking and eventually the subject moved to my surgery. She asked me about post-op recovery and I talked about that. I talked about how long I’d be out of commission (about two weeks), I talked about my family coming in to take care of me, and the shirts I had to buy since I won’t be able to lift my arms for a while. I started describing each button down shirt: the bright Hawaiian shirt along with two super bright, plaid shirts. I guess the way I responded intrigued her. I was really excited while describing them. She then asked me an insightful follow up question that no one asked me before, “How does this compare to what you wear now?” I looked down and saw I was wearing camouflage shorts, a dull maroon shirt under a plain gray sweatshirt. I looked back up at her and had an epiphany. I was literally hiding myself behind camo shorts and muted colors because I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I’m not really me yet. “Hey world, don’t look at me – I’m not ME.”
Without any awareness of these thoughts or why I was doing what I was doing (I think smart people call these subconscious thoughts), when I was planning the first items of clothing I got to wear post surgery, I picked the brightest, loudest shirts I could find. My brain was saying to my future self “Hey world! Look at ME! I’m ME!”
I’ve never really had a “style” before other than t-shirts and hoodies but I know in the back of my mind I’ve always wanted to dress differently. I know you may be thinking, just dress however you want to and ignore your body for now. I wish it was that easy. But it’s not. I’m not comfortable in my body so there’s a part of me that thinks I don’t deserve to dress the way I want to until I can feeeeel it. Until I can be it. I had a friend who did my hair during that blizzard we had a few months ago and I told her how much I liked it. She said, you can do it! And my reply back was that I didn’t want take any time in the morning to ‘do it up’ hair-wise, style-wise because to me, it felt wasted and like a sham until I’m finally in the body that fits me. In Fun Home, there’s a line in ‘Party Dress’ where Small Alison says “This dress makes me feel like a clown” and I relate to that so much. I feel like I’m pretending in everything and anything I’m wearing even if it’s the most ‘masculine’ outfit I own. I took a stand years ago to never wear a dress or a skirt but even so, my body is like a built in dress. My chest is a perpetual dress I can’t take off and it makes me feel like a clown, like I’m forced to pretend to be something I’m not.
I have a literal barrier between me now and my true self. As soon as that’s gone, there will be such a weight lifted (literally). My therapist asked me to imagine myself post surgery. Here’s what I said. Smiley. Confident. Outgoing. Charismatic. Ready to Take on the World.
I can’t wait to be those words Bravely and Authentically.
I hope you enjoyed this little piece of my Gender Gourney. Until next time….