He was She

Story: Hannah Clark, Staff Writer

“You might want to take your shirt off,” I said, pulling away the measuring tape to allow him to take it off.

Once it was off, I measured four different parts of his body, his shoulders from point to point, around his chest under the armpits, across the largest part of his chest and just under his breast tissue.

This might seem like an uncomfortable situation, but it’s something I’ve gone through three times now: Measuring a friend’s chest to help find the correct size binder to help them with transitioning from female to male. As an active cosplayer, I know how to measure the body well and use online sizing charts. This has made me a go to for helping others find a binder.

Since becoming active in the LGBT+ community, I’ve seen many of my friends go through changes and identities with their sexualities. But helping them figure out genders is on another level. I had little knowledge of many of the involved elements and it took me measuring my friend’s bare chest in a basement with a cold measuring tape to figure many of them out.

“I’m thinking about maybe asking to go on T,” he said to me.

I nodded. T is short for testosterone and is common in female to male transitions. It’s a big decision and leaves permanent changes to a person’s body. But it can help him feel more comfortable with himself. It’s a shot of concentrated testosterone that is given weekly in the early phases and will have to be regularly monitored.  

T causes a female body to go through puberty again, only as a male. Facial hair and acne will crop up, as well as a lower voice coming in and physical changes as the body responds to the testosterone. Mood swings are common and those with who have mental illnesses, the effects can be increased while on T.

“But I’d have to come out to my parents to do that and I don’t think I can just go ‘haha I’m your son now,’” he said.

Even though he was laughing, we both know that coming out is not anything to joke about. It’s a talk that’s looming in his future, and it can have hundreds of outcomes that affect the rest of his life. Not only will it be hard for him to find the right words and the confidence needed to tell his parents, but it will also be hard for his parents to understand. Their little girl, who they always pictured in a wedding dress, would rather wear a tux, and that will take adjustment. However, if a parent really loves their child, their gender shouldn’t change that.

I think his parents would be forgiving, and I’d be more than welcome to offer up my house if for some reason they weren’t. I don’t say much in reply because I don’t want to influence him one or the other. When he’s ready to come out and when he feels safe is what’s important. Just to be cautious, the binder he’s ordering will ship to my house so his parents won’t accidentally discover it.

“I just wish that I could avoid she/her pronouns though. Especially from people who know already,” he said.

He had already come out to a group of friends, but we had all spent the past years knowing him as a she. Pronouns are something we’re all constantly working on, but they easily get messed up. Usually a correction will follow with an apology, but some people will casually glide over the mistake without realizing it. This can cause him lots of dysphoria, or a disconnect and self hatred of his body, and anger.  

It adds another level when everyone who knows he is transitioning has to keep track of who else knows to avoid outing him. In front of parents, always use she/her pronouns. In front of teachers, try to use she/her pronouns. When it’s just the group, use he/him pronouns. Everyone tries their best to make him feel comfortable, but also respect his choices to not be fully out yet.

I finished the measurements and wrote the last numbers down, giving him the paper so he can order it on his own time. I smiled and I knew that I had always knew him like this, as my friend. It doesn’t matter if he’s in a binder or a bra, it just matters that he’s here with me.

Being a boy, a girl or somewhere in between can’t invalidate the history and connection between two friends unless you let it. I won’t let it break us apart. Friendship prevails over differences.