It’s more common than you might think.
So I have nipples. I have never not had nipples. They look a little different now that I’ve breastfed twin boys for eleven months. But they are still there.
The field of mental health teaches me lessons regularly. I see people at their most vulnerable. I am trusted with secrets and truths that will go to my grave with me. I am constantly and profoundly touched by the human condition that presents and unfolds in front of me.
There are two main sources of clients who don’t have nipples. Women who have had mastectomies and transgender men who have had chest reductions and opted to not have their nipples replaced. I’ve had both types of clients in my office.
(I know this is a blog about being a lesbian, but this post is going to veer more toward a commentary on the strife transgender individuals face. My site is trans-affirmative, non-binary supportive, agender accepting, and any one who feels otherwise is entitled to start their own blog post and write about it there. Judgemental and bigoted comments will not be tolerated here.)
Cancer survivors are respected, revered even. My mom is one of them. So is my Aunt, my grandmother, and many close friends. I have lost friends and family members to cancer. I have a sincere respect for cancer and the battle that was fought against it by all the survivors.
Transgender males who receive top surgery have been through some shit. To come out as transgender alone risks losing one’s family and friends. To then proceed with one’s transition- in whatever fashion that may shape up to be- again leaves one open to constant derision. My clients who have decided to transition, who then decide to have top surgery then also face the choice of having or not having their nipples replaced.
This brings a myriad of issues that some one who has not had top surgery may not think about. If a person is college aged and they identify as male and they live on a floor with shared showers they now have to navigate the dreaded “locker room” or “shower room”. People on their floor may not know they are transgender. They likely just assume the person is male. The transgender male now must approach the group showers and either decide to just do it and go in with just a towel and no shirt and figure out how they are going to explain the “sans” nipple appearance, or they have to wear a bathrobe, slide into the shower with the bathrobe on, take it off once in the shower and try and hang it somewhere while they shower then turn shower off, put robe back on, without showing naked body to any other males in the shower room.
That whole process may take less then fifteen minutes. But it’s something they have to do every freaking day. Fifteen minutes of possible torture/panic/anxiety every day.
Showering is supposed to be relaxing and peaceful. But to a person with no nipples and a transgender identification it can be hell.
People sometimes have this image in their head that once transgender individuals go on hormones or have those surgeries (there is often some vague notion of something to do with boobs and genitals but no actual knowledge of what these surgeries might entail) that the transgender journey is complete. I wrote in one of my blogs that coming out isn’t a one time thing, it’s a lifelong dilemma. That’s how it is for people who identify as transgender. It’s not just “Got my top surgery, I’m good now.” Top surgery means no more binders, yay, but now there are brand new obstacles to overcome.
These clients of mine are often young. They are brave and I have the utmost regard for them. If you have the preconceived notion that transgender individuals choose this life for themselves I can tell you that you are wrong. No one would choose to live in a body that doesn’t fit. No one would choose to then go through emotional and physical pain to alter their body to fit their gender identity only to then have to face potentially 15 minutes of absolute horror on a daily basis when all they want to do is shower without fear of judgement. Without fear for their safety. Without fear.
I cannot pretend to understand what it is like to walk in the shoes of some one who is transgender. But I can raise my voice and say You are Beautiful. I can write my blog post about not having nipples, and raise awareness to perhaps just 15 minutes of a day in the life.
I will also say that whether or not an individual has nipples under their military uniform makes no difference in their ability to carry a gun and wear the uniform.
An important note before I close. Do not ever ask some one if they have nipples. It’s none of your freaking business. Do not ever ask some one what their genitalia includes or doesn’t. It’s rude. And again, it shouldn’t matter. Most people think this is common sense. But I have never met a transgender individual who has not been inappropriately asked about their chests and genitalia.
Today or tomorrow when you go to take a shower. Just think about the freedom you have in your own body and the comfort. And remember that not every one has that, and they need support in their fight to get it.