“My moobs and me”

Reflections from a man with gynacomastia

We’re so entrenched, we can’t accept bodies that don’t fall on either extreme of the gender continuum. Transgender men and women encounter these attitudes in direct and sometimes life-threatening ways. And, given the misogyny that pervades society, these pressures are even harder for women and girls, whether they’re cisgender or transgender. Their bodies are hated and desired in equal measure. When my bully grabbed my breasts and called me “Tits”, he was taking what he wanted. He was also reminding me that I was no better than a girl. I was beneath him.

…Perhaps because of my early struggles to accept my body, I’ve found a measure of freedom in appearing naked on stage as a performance artist. And now, 20 years after my surgeries, I find I miss my breasts. Looking through childhood photos, I was astonished to find a picture of myself at 12, dressed for Halloween in full drag as Dolly Parton. In the photo (left), I have a big smile and my boobs have been pushed up and exaggerated. The photo touches me, because it suggests that even while I was facing intense bullying and social stigma, I was already using my body to comment on gender with humour and strength.

2 thoughts on ““My moobs and me”

  1. I think there’s some tension in the first para. On the one hand, he presents the problem as an intolerance for difference in gender characteristics. But, as his last two sentences make clear, the problem for men with moobs is that they have women’s characteristics, and men are suppose to be superior to women. Thus the problem is not just chacteristics untypical for one’s gender; it’s having the characteristics of a suppsedly inferior gender..

    If that’s a right reading of the last sentences, his point is very close to one made in the clip here: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2012/06/12/is-discrimination-against-gay-men-an-example-of-a-second-sexism/

  2. This is a really great and very touching article.

    Anne,
    I think you are definitely right that part of the problem for men in this situation is that they are the target of prejudice that has, at its source, good old-fashioned sexism. The notions that having breasts makes him “more female” and, in virtue of that femaleness, inferior to his male peers, involves the severe impact of both sexism and cissexism. I think the connection to the sexist prejudice behind the femme-phobia that certain (usually queer) men face is a very apt one.

    I don’t think that pointing out that there are two problems (the sexist one just mentioned and then the “intolerance for difference in gender characteristics”) in play means that they are in tension. It would be wrong to think that either is the whole story. (I imagine, given your usage of “not just” in the last sentence of your comment’s first para, that you agree). In particular, the peculiar way that sexism is in play here might not apply to analogous cases of persons experiencing prejudice for their non-binary gender characteristics, though the cissexism certainly would. Consider, e.g., the case of the strong stigma against women (cis or trans) with visible facial hair (a group in which I proudly claim membership).

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