As part of #MolkeBreastFest we want to put boobs front and centre. We are going to be sharing the stories of different people and their reality of having boobs. This is Eilidh's story. Please note this blog has a content warning for brief mentions of abuse and self harm.
I was an excitable and curious child. Often shy, pre-occupied by daydreaming, my time was filled with books, Pokémon, writing, and doing cartwheels in inconvenient places. But the adult world soon loomed and distracted from my make-believe. The more my hips widened, my chest grew and certain body
areas gained fat, the less I could avoid reminders that these superficial changes held meaning and significance elsewhere. Gifts. Clothing. Insults. Changing rooms. Social dancing. Long before I could understand the implications, my body was observed, assessed, and then assigned a gender. I was “girl”.
In my teens and early twenties, I was confused. Anxious. Early and recurrent physical, sexual and emotional abuse taught me my body not only belonged to others, but would continue to be defined by them too. Add depression. Intoxication and mindlessness frequent, I immersed myself in what I thought was the normal teenage experience. My self-harm began via razorblades so freely provided for hair removal. I plucked hairs for hours and shaved til I burned and bled. “This is what everyone does,” I thought. I squeezed my boobs into bras I had always considered a nuisance and, into dresses, my widened hips, which would later be described as “womanly curves.” Those words felt meant for someone else. I was playing dress-up while others were simply getting dressed.
In my mid 20s, tired and finally attending therapy, I began to address the damage of my distorted thinking. Like many of my generation, enlightenment and acceptance appeared through the internet. In learning about and relating to non-binary and transgender people, I slowly expelled the cruel bigotry I had ingested throughout high school. I discovered my discontent and hatred were cultivated and perpetuated by an education and upbringing so severely lacking in representation and access to knowledge of gender diversity, that it allowed me to believe I was broken for years.
“What’s the point of a label?” is a phrase often sneered at the growing community of people discovering and defining themselves as non-binary. It can be infuriating, but I used to ask it myself. And in trying to answer, I acknowledged that the first and longest-lasting label I ever received was GIRL - a label that was not only incorrect, but caused harm and psychological pain.
What a difference was made by correcting this misidentification. Standing in front of the mirror naked as I had countless times before, I saw the need to pretend was over. Any gender can exist in any body, but I didn’t have a gender. I had this body. A body that I had desperately dragged down and manipulated through pursuit of what didn’t exist. A body that I suddenly felt a swell of love towards for all it had endured.
Realising I am agender allowed for a sort of realignment with myself. ‘Womanly curves’ were finally allowed to be hips again. Boobs, no longer inherently female - just more body parts. Pieces of my physical form no longer under individual scrutiny, I started to feel a sense of self. I got my nipples pierced, and this unexpectedly made me feel like an adult, on my own terms. And now, at 30 years old, I have been diagnosed as autistic, news that adds texture to the patterns of desperate masking and burnout making up my attempts to fit in not only with my incorrectly assigned gender, but also with a neurotypical world.
I purchased a chest binder this year. It simulates a flat chest, bringing joy and
relief far greater than I could ever imagine, especially on the days where I feel the disconnect creeping in. Each day is different - some days I am most comforted and even exhilarated by wearing it, and others, nipple piercings are all I need to reassure me of my newly defined form. Accompanying my comfort however, is the frustration that some t-shirtless bodies are able to move freely and safely outdoors, unchallenged, on a hot day, while those with breasts cannot. It is a marker in our progress, and I hope we can normalise breasts to the extent that no risk calculation is needed in the decision to be partially nude. (“Taps aff for one, taps aff for all!”)
In the well-intentioned messaging of “be yourself” and “love and accept who you are”, we must not forget that self-discovery can be a difficult and complex process. Without the room to grow at our own pace, and early awareness of others thriving out-with the gender binary who are like us, we might end up breaking ourselves down trying to love a version of the self that isn’t true.
So, I am thankful for my body waiting patiently all this time for me to accept it for what it is. Without a gender, with love.