I think when we talk about transition we often talk about our bodies and not nearly enough about our mental health. I have dysphoria, dysmorphia, and PTSD. These three combine in some really troubling ways that can cripple my relationships and my life. Every year my symptoms reach their peak between May/June and September. My triggers turn into hair triggers. My flashbacks get more common. I have nightmares while I’m awake. I avoid sleep because I’m afraid to go back there. My body image issues have always gotten worse in the summer because of the humidity and my clothing choices.
This is my first full summer as an out trans woman in a body that looks femme, who focuses on her health and does work on herself — and transition has truly given me more tools to change how I work with the world than ever. In February 2019, I started to transition my body from a testosterone-run body to an estrogen-run one. That first summer I was still presenting masculine. I was experiencing a small amount of breast development but I was still overweight, dysphoric, dysmorphic, and struggling with my mental health in general even though I was clearly improving. I thought I felt better back then and I did, but only with hindsight can I see that better still wasn’t “good.”
In previous years, even last year, I hid my body under baggy clothing and blue jeans no matter the weather. Was it 15 degrees Fahrenheit? Blue jeans and a t-shirt. 110 degrees? T-shirt and blue jeans. If it were cooler maybe I’d wear a jacket. I carried a large leather messenger bag that just made it worse. I hated my body. I didn’t just hate it because it was wrong for me, I hated it for everything that had happened to it and everything it told people about how to treat me. It made me feel sick, the way it lied about me and changed into something monstrous while I was trapped inside it. So I hid it.
That’s not uncommon for trans women to do that. You can’t be dysphoric about what you can’t see, right? You get used to that sort of deep wound hidden under band-tee bandages. I read a thing recently about chronic pain, that you can’t tell how much pain a person is in when they live with it all the time because you learn to adapt. This was like that. I’d found ways to low-level cope most of the time and I only ever truly noticed when it got bad.
During the summers, it got bad. A lot of the worst of the abuse I endured, a lot of my PTSD triggers, are related to summer, heat, and humidity. During the summer it’d be so hot and humid and my clothes would stick to me, glued down by sweat that dripped in such a way as to remind me of every wrong contour, every hair where it shouldn’t be. The clothes I meant to hide me would fasten themselves to me and form a new silhouette to remind me of the body that lay underneath.
Every waking moment of my day was a reminder of some suffering. Humid air and sweat tracing all the places that hands had been on my body and clothing inking in the outline to give shape to the worst things that had ever happened to me and everything I hated about my shape.
I hated summer.
Summer is still hard for me. Humidity and heat still trigger me. I’m dancing between keeping my spaces cool enough that my mental health is fine and the fact that I’ve developed Raynaud’s Syndrome. It is so much better though. Gosh you have no idea.
I’ve walked Misha every day this week in 93+ degree weather but because I was able to wear a sports bra and shorts and feel comfortable in those a lot of the common triggers I experience about my clothes sticking to me with sweat have just evaporated.
Misha and I took a second lap around the park yesterday. I don’t want to cry when it’s 80+ degrees anymore. The sunlight on my bare skin feels freeing in ways it hasn’t since I was a child.
I’m not going to pretend summer is easy for me. What happened to me still happened, triggers are still triggers. But because I’m not trapped in clothing that I hate to hide a body that I hate more I’ve really been able to do a lot of work on myself and bring a lot of awareness to my health and to care for myself and that feels so freeing.
Like that anime trope where the main character sheds their weighted clothing to reveal that they are stronger than anyone ever thought, I shed the weight of clothing that wasn’t meant for me and underneath of all of that is a way, way stronger woman than I thought I could ever be.
I guess this is a really long winded way of saying that I really like sports bras right now.