Boy Muff in the Public Pool: this budgie will not be smuggled

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I’m busy preparing my boy-muff for a swim in the local public pool after I was inspired by a letter I received from a trans woman in response to my recent article Boy Tits in the Locker Room. After reading the article, she’d decided to go swimming again for the first time in a very long time. It made me realise that I stopped going swimming too. I never really consciously thought “geez, my body is kind of weird to most people, so I’m not going to do laps at the pool anymore”. I just conveniently forgot and subconsciously decided that wasn’t an option for me. Inspired by my new penpal, I decided it’s time to get back in the pool.

Part of my life’s work is around challenging cisgendered (non-trans) ideas about my body, and working with my trans siblings to generate our own language and embodied concepts of gender. In this article, I’d like to question the concept of “transition”, talk about the many shifts in the labels I’ve used for my body parts and the spaces I occupy with my body.

So, my decision to take to the pool. It’s one thing to have my boy tits in the locker room, but what about in a public pool? Should I wear a wetsuit shirt? A full length binder? What about my tiny “boy muff” underneath my swimming shorts, more conspicuous by its small, rather than large, presence? For laps as compared to leisurely swimming, I prefer to wear speedos. In Australia we call them “budgie smugglers”-as in, if your junk were a budgie and the swimming trunks are tight, they’re smuggling the budgie. My budgie, however, is too small to smuggle. Mine’s not even a sparrow or a humming bird, but more like a peach pit. But “peach-pit smuggler” doesn’t really have the same ring, does it?

I’m already somewhat accustomed to working through my complicated feelings around the public display of my junk through my clothing. I’m about to do a new show, “Transgender Seeking…” in Toronto on June 19, ahead of touring it the USA and Europe later this year. The costume is no pants, just a pair of tighty-whiteys, aka, men’s white undies. In the show, I intentionally choose not to pack (ie, I don’t put a sock or a packer in my undies), because I want to use my time on stage to create more space for some of the many ways that trans bodies look. I’m not assuming this means I’m making space for trans women’s bodies – the type of transphobia women who are trans face is very different to men who are trans. In my personal life I may not be super comfortable going about in public with just undies, no packer, but when I’m on stage, it’s less important to be authentic to my own personal experience and more important to carefully consider the political & aesthetic choices I make. I already play a whole host of different characters, and likewise I make intentional choices about how to present my body. Sometimes I also choose not to bind so that there is a hint of boy tit beneath my costumes. It’s sort of uncomfortable but whatever, so is transphobia period (see Boy Tits in the Locker Room for my thoughts on discomfort as a white trans man).

I have a complicated relationship with both loving AND not liking my body. As much as I hate to discuss these complexities publicly with non-trans people (see my article “Dear trans people and genderqueers”), the truth is that sometimes I find it difficult to tell how I really feel about my body. I’m so used to simplifying things so that cisgendered (non-trans) people will understand. So that I can be validated by the gatekeepers (like doctors) as a “real trans person”. Sometimes I wish I had a different sort of junk, one like the wide array of cisgendered men’s junk. But other times I love the bits that I have. Either way, I’m grateful for how much pleasure I get from my bits, even though my sexual experiences are sometimes complicated because of other people’s reactions.

Certainly a big turning point for me in how I feel about my body has been reclaiming labels and terminology that feel good. About 5 or 6 years ago, I started calling my existing junk my penis or dick along with my “inny hole” or “boy hole”. My tits became simply “my chest”. It felt liberating to claim these words for my body. To unsubscribe from the anatomy books.  To mix and match the anatomical diagrams and their labels.

Now I’m at yet another shifting point. I’m going from needing very clear traditionally “male” gendered language around my body to a more playful approach with the words I use. In certain contexts, I’m starting to enjoy playing around with re-labeling my body parts traditionally “female” gendered names like tits and muff and redefining what that means in terms of also being a dude. At first, I just shamelessly tricked you into reading the article through using the words “boy muff” in title when that’s not really how I relate to my junk. But now that I wrote it, I’m like, yeah “boy muff”! I kind of like that! Who says boys can’t have muffs and tits? How boring to think only one gender owns any particular body anatomy. Yawn. It’s exciting to discover words that feel good in different contexts. At this stage, probably heavy breathing in my ear about my boy muff and boy tits is not really going to do it for me in a sexual way. But I find it entertaining to use these terms outside of the bedroom.

For me, this playfulness is only possible with getting more comfortable and confident with who I am as well as challenging cisgendered (non-trans) understandings of bodies and the singular acceptable “trans story” that doesn’t quite fit for so many of us. Working with my trans siblings to generate our own nuanced language and understandings of our bodies and the ways we live inside (and outside) of them is an ongoing source of healing, inspiration and strength for me. I’m grateful to my trans experience which leads me to constantly question assumptions around my own and other people’s genders. My years have been marked by so many amazing transitions and transformations.

This is one of the many reasons why I don’t use the word “transition” in relation to the process I underwent of taking hormones, changing my pronoun etc. To single out this one particular part of my gender journey (or indeed, my life journey) and call that the point when I was “transitioning” negates the lifelong growth process I’ve been through and will continue to go through. I’m totally supportive of other trans people using the word “transition” for themselves. I don’t use the word “transition” because it reeks of the medical system which considers that I was a “girl” and then transitioned to become a “boy”. It insinuates that my validity as a boy or man only began after I got the stamp of approval from the doctors. Facial hair? Check. Flattened hips? Check. Deep voice? Check. Thick set jaw? Check. Congratulations, now you’re a dude. Yawn.

Yes, taking hormones was a major deal and a big marker for me. But it marked no more of a “transition” than when I insisted on being in the boy gymnastics class when I was 8. Or tried to get into the boy scouts three years in a row, until they finally changed the rules in Australia and let “girls” into boy scouts. Or had my first trans lover. Or told my family that I was trans when I was 31.

What the medical system and their beloved concept of “transition” can’t quite grasp is that I was already a dude long before that needle jammed full of testosterone went anywhere near my butt cheeks. I already experienced my chest as a boy chest. Now it’s a saggy boy chest. My face was a man face. Now it’s a hairy man face. And my junk was already a dick. Now it’s a penis one day and a boy muff the next.

So, stay tuned to your local public pool, where my boy muff will be diving and proudly doing laps up and down the pool. That’s right, this is one little budgie that will not be smuggled.

Thanks to the amazing Chanelle for editing and feedback!

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

Boy Tits in the Locker-room

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website

 

Boy Tits in the Locker Room

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I’ve recently started taking my shirt and binder/sports bra off in the men’s locker room. It didn’t begin from a desire to flash my boy tits around, rather that I was fed up with the incredibly awkward configurations I used to twist my clothes in to hide these bouncy little babies. Moreover, I was incredibly bored by transphobia and cis-sexism*.

I’ve also been thinking about appropriation of struggles – the ways that I have over-identified with and co-opted the struggles of trans people who are more marginalised than myself. There’s been lots of trans women who have written and spoken about the appropriation of the struggles of trans women of colour. They remind us that the vast bulk of violence faced by trans people is in fact faced by trans women, particularly those who are racialised, sex workers, poor and/or Indigenous. When I listen to my trans Elders, the people whom I owe my life to (literally – I couldn’t exist as trans without their AMAZING work in carving out space for us to be trans), it’s easy to assume that my experience with be the same as theirs. The reality is, it’s not. Firstly, things are already different. Their hard work has already transformed some things about the communities I live in (THANKYOU! I LOVE YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!). Secondly, the very people who have been at the centre of the movements which I benefit from, also face trans-misogyny (the many ways transphobia and sexism are directed specifically toward trans women), racism, poverty, disable-ism etc.  As a white, mostly-able-bodied, trans man who passes** as cisgendered, I don’t face these things.

So I’ve started unpacking the difference between when I’m actually unsafe verses when I’m really just uncomfortable. The locker room I’ve been flashing my boy tits around has a trans inclusion policy. It says right there on the wall that the space welcomes trans people in either of the locker rooms. Not that policies always translate into action, but the fact that someone has put it there, makes me feel like there’s some warning that my trans body might be in there and also that someone onsite might have my back (or my tits, as the case may be).

This will be an ongoing juggle to differentiate actually unsafe situations from uncomfortable ones. Locker room late at night at a mainstream non-trans-policy gym where there’s only one other dude or a football team? Probably not going to risk it. I’ve already got a bunch of practice of the safety versus self expression dance – as an effeminate trans man, I’m used to the “speed up my walk” moment or put my sort-of-butch-jacket on over my frilly pink shirt with matching frilly pocket square or turn my sparkly earring and rhinestone studded handbag away when passing men on the street late at night.

The more I watch and test the waters, the more I realise that for a relatively privileged trans person such as myself, probably the worst thing that’s going to happen in response to my boy tits wobbling around the men’s locker room, at a place that’s intentionally developed a trans inclusion policy, is some shocked stares and dropped jaws. A few years ago (actually even a few months ago), this would have devastated me. I would have spiraled into internalised transphobia, that nauseous feeling that there’s something wrong with me. That I’m weird. Broken. Yucky.  Unloveable. Sick. I would have felt emotionally AND physically unsafe as well as uncomfortable. Like I was about to attacked. Like I had in fact, been attacked. It’s not that I’m suddenly immune to these bouts of fear and self loathing, particularly given that I am a survivor of sexual assault, but the more I practice, whilst finding it a little tedious, boring & uncomfortable, the more I see it as an opportunity to cultivate self love AND slowly transform the world, one boy tit at a time. So I want to see more space for a whole range of bodies? Well, sometimes my political essays and rants can be written in my body. All I need to do, is be there, boy tits and all, and I’m already changing shit.

I recognise that it is through my privileges that I can do this, and also that I’m creating space for a particular type of trans experience. I’m not saying that exposure to my white boy tits will necessarily carve out space for trans women’s bodies, or racilialised trans men’s bodies or genderqueer bodies. Nope, I’m not at the centre of transforming our world and neither should I be. I’m two buoyant tits, floating in an ocean of change. And for what it’s worth, these tits are gonna sail proudly above the waves whenever they can.

Cisgendered people (ie, people who are not trans) – please be mindful of your cis privilege before telling your trans friends “well my trans friend Sunny said you’re not actually unsafe, just uncomfortable” or “you should love your body” or any other well intentioned declarations about how trans people should or shouldn’t feel about our bodies or what steps we should and shouldn’t take to be safe. Let’s remember that the same situation can be experienced very differently by two different people, not to mention that two different people will be treated differently. Although I also get that it’s complex when we’re talking about intersecting struggles – like I think there’s a place for cisgendered women having their trans sisters’ backs by calling trans guys on appropriating the struggles of trans women.

I’d also ask cisgendered people to remember that it takes a lot of work to deal with transphobia and cis-sexism when they arise and battle through internalised transphobia. I have the capacity for that work right now. And I choose to take on that education work.  I choose for my boy tits to be my curriculum, my wordless political essay in the locker room. Other trans people may be focused on other things, like battling the health care system, finding a roof under which to sleep or food to eat, dealing with their families, growing food, making art, surviving, throwing parties…

I’m not going to hide my beautiful trans body anymore, except when really and truly it would be physically unsafe. If it’s just uncomfortable, hell, so is trying to get changed balancing my bags off the floor in toilet stalls. So is the complex ballet of getting my clothes on and off without revealing my tits. So is living in a world that thinks my body is weird (or fetishizes it in unconsensual ways). So, frankly, I’d rather be uncomfortable WHILE creating more space for beautiful trans bodies through exposing more people to a myriad of ways men’s chests look. Besides, my boy tits deserve all the fresh air they can get, because as soon as I have surgery, I’m gonna start wearing a myriad of hot men’s bikini tops, because well, in addition to being tremendously transsexual, I’m also a fabulous flamer.

Until then, you have been warned: these boy tits will not be contained.

Follow up article: Boy Muff in the Public Pool: this budgie will not be smuggled

*Cis-sexism is the assumption that all people are or ought to be cisgendered (not trans) or that trans people’s identified genders are inferior to, less authentic than, or less natural than those of cisgendered people.

**Passing as cisgendered: unless my clothes are off, people don’t know I’m trans

Huge thanks to the love of my life, Chanelle, for editing and taking the photo!

Some other popular blog articles:

Racism is to White People, as Wind is to the Sky

Femme Ally Conversation Starter

the Boy Tit Finale Summer Collection

2 articles on sobriety: Wet >< Dry and The Brandy is Just for the Zit in My Throat

Like Sunny Drake on facebook, follow on Twitter or instagram, connect on Linkedin

Check out video, photos, theatre shows and workshops on Sunny’s website