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Ramon Te Wake, George Fowler and Lexie Matheson (Photo: On the Rag)
Ramon Te Wake, George Fowler and Lexie Matheson (Photo: On the Rag)

SocietyNovember 18, 2020

On the Rag: When your body feels like a hotel room

Ramon Te Wake, George Fowler and Lexie Matheson (Photo: On the Rag)
Ramon Te Wake, George Fowler and Lexie Matheson (Photo: On the Rag)

In the latest episode of On the Rag, we asked three people from the transgender community to share how their relationship with their chests has changed over their lives.

Lexie Matheson, academic

Lexie Matheson (Photo: On the Rag)

I would get out of the shower and I would look down at myself in the mirror and there was always a hint of “what’s that?” The further I got down my body, the more it was “what’s THAT?”. It’s a little bit like living in a hotel room when you have the wrong body – you’re in a hotel room and you don’t know what it’s like to live in your own home.

I remember the first time I took those two little blue pills and checked my chest. Anything? No. And then I forgot about it. But eventually my body was not angular anymore – the shape had changed, my hips had changed and there were breasts. Honestly I just cried and cried and cried. 

Suddenly, I was authentic. I was looking at my house as opposed to my hotel room. Today, I’m proud of the fact that they are mine, I grew them myself. They are nearly 20 years old so they’ve survived through their teenage years. When I get the letter saying that I have to go and get a mammogram, it’s like getting another birth certificate. 

It’s really powerful and a delight to be able to look in the mirror and go: “this is me”. This is me. The journey has been worth it. 

George Fowler, performer

George Fowler (Photo: On the Rag)

People relate to their bodies in all different sorts of ways, but for trans people it is so much harder because you’re transgressing the big weird line in the sand called gender. Growing up I had a complex relationship with my body, puberty was a really scary time for me. I had this spacey, far away feeling like I wasn’t connected with what was happening at all.

I remember the first time I put on male contour and taped my chest – I just had this “HOLY SHIT” moment. I now wear a binder daily which literally just flattens everything out. A binder is not comfortable to wear though and my back is fucked. You’re constricting the whole area so your back muscles get lazy, isn’t that nuts?  

Because I also tape my chest to perform, I buy the weirdest shit from Bunnings. I will go in and say ‘I’m just looking for something sweat-resistant’ because when I untape, sweat will just fall out. And the employee will always just be like, “what is this for?” I say it’s for an art project, but I’m fairly sure they think it’s just for sex. 

Ramon Te Wake, filmmaker

Ramon Te Wake (Photo: On the Rag)

I was completely disappointed and devastated when I didn’t develop bosoms. I would resort to stuffing bras, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to in general. I was a showgirl from age 16 and I used to perform in a trio called Pure Funk. They were obsessed with big kahunas so we used to have socks with condoms in them full of water to give us big bouncy boobs. 

It wasn’t until I started taking hormones that I developed boobs naturally. My flatmate is all about pretty matching lace bras, whereas I am like “ugh, that’s so much effort”. I’ve had a bra for three years, that will do fine to push the girls up. My friend owns a bar and will quite often ring me and say “we’ve got two of your bras here” and I’m like “Jesus Christ, how did that happen?” 

Interesting story – I never knew that trans women were susceptible to breast cancer. Now that might sound like a really dumb thing to think, but I just didn’t know. I wish we talked about our bodies more as trans people, or were given the space to talk about our bodies more. 

On the Rag is made with the support of NZ On Air.

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