It Only Hurts When I Try
By Lee “Bridgett” Harrington
Originally appeared in TransOhio March 2007
So today I didn’t try.
Today I just put on a bra and tank top and tried not to care at all. I discouraged myself from looking in the mirror and made lots of jokes at the bazaar along the lines of “Why do they assume that if I own breast I want silver jewelry?” I bought myself a pair of brass knuckles and avoided going near toilets anywhere in public. Today I went body numb, but at least I didn’t go violent again.
It’s the 30thof December, 2006, and I find myself in Peru. Mi padre had convinced me to go with him out of the country for new years when my gig as the super high fetish fashion diva MCing a fetish ball fell through. I figured, why not, and packed my bags. It was going to be my first trip with my father since I’ve come out a second time as IDing as male (I did so when I was 14-17 before, but decided at that time I couldn’t do surgeries if they couldn’t give me the cock I wanted), but I felt good about how my binders fit, the cut of my clothes, how I was being seen as the me I wanted a fair amount. It was being hard to overcome 12 years of being “The” Bridgett Harrington, reclaiming myself again as Lee, but it’d been going ok, comparatively. Mi Padre was calling me Lee, it was all ok.
But then I landed into Lima. Within 24 hours I’d gone nearly suicidal, obsessive phone calls to my partner in Australia saying that I hate myself and what the hell was I thinking- no one would ever see me as a guy. It’s amazingly challenging to be in a country where everything in the language has a gender- el tigre (male, any tiger), la revista (female, any magazine). When your chair has a gender, your shirt, your shoes, even your book has a gender, trying to explain a body that does not match your identity ideally, or worse yet, being in any way a gender radical, feels nearly impossible.
After three days, in Lima and Cuzco, I was going crazy. I was binding, packing, hell, at one point I shaved my face and at another I put on a bit off fake stubble… none of it mattered. I looked in the mirror each morning and saw the dapper yuppy gent that I am, felt good about myself, and then I’d walk out into the outside world. Señora? Señorita? Would you like to buy Señora? What would you like for breakfast Señorita?
I started getting angry. Furious. Day in and day out the constant reminder that I am not what I want to be. The rational voice in my head kept arguing- with 27 years living as a woman in the world at large, why did this bother me? With 12 years of being active in group sexual identity dynamics, with 7 years of being an adult film actress, why did being seen as female hurt so badly all of a sudden?
Then it hit me.
It Hurt Because I Tried.
When I’m out in public in lipstick, corsets, heels, I am purposefully messing with self perception and gender identity and enjoy being a gender fucker. When I spent years not caring and going partially numb, I would let it fall off me like water off a duck’s back, I’d wear whatever and be happy hearing whatever. It told me how people perceived me, and often times that was as a woman, no matter how neutral I looked, because I have a 38D rack…
But I had TRIED. I had bound down until I had, from my eye, gotten rid of most of my breasts that confuse and confound me so often. I had my packy down the front of my men’s 501 jeans. I wore a button down shirt, heavy boots, masculine jewelry, a very short masculine haircut, shaved face, square edged glasses… and none of it mattered. It hurt so badly because I had spent SO MUCH time and energy creating an image that would not only be pleasing to my eye, but would get the world at large to see me as me.
And none of it mattered. I was in South America, and none of it mattered.
Binders are not comfortable after many days of wear- they mess up my hips as mine falls over them and compresses them forward, and my lower back complains after a while. Hot sweaty days in Peru with a silicone soft cock down my y-fronts meant sweat and more sweat, adding to the sweat I’d had already. Shaving is a pain, even if it’s just to get rid of my peach fuzz… and I was doing it all for nothing. No one saw, noticed, or cared. No one saw me as the me I wanted to be- I was just another Señora to get their tourist dollar out of. After 24 hours mi padre even forgot, as I’m standing there with a flat chest clad in tight spandex and a noticeable bulge, getting changed into a fresh overshirt, he just stopped noticing me as me after he too had heard all of the Señoras.
So today I didn’t try. Today I just put on a bra and tank top and tried not to care at all. I discouraged myself from looking in the mirror and made lots of jokes at the bazaar along the lines of “Why do they assume that if I own breast I want silver jewelry?” I bought myself a pair of brass knuckles and avoided going near toilets anywhere in public. Today I went body numb, but at least I didn’t go violent again. I didn’t try to walk in front of a car again, like I had my first night in Lima.
I don’t know what the new year will hold. I have my first consultations for my chest surgery, with two different doctors, all by April. I can’t afford the surgery just yet, but I need to talk with each and figure out who I actually want to use so I can have a goal to work towards. I’ve chosen not to go on hormones until post-surgery, to maybe reduce scarring, keep my skin elastic, and because aesthetically the idea of body hair and breasts turns me off. I want to make every last penny of these breasts that offend and confound me before I get rid of them.
I don’t know what the new year hold, but I long to be back in a world where my magazines, chairs, and tennis shoes don’t have genders, and where I can be seen as the gender I am.