Em-URGE-ing Voices

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How a Pool Party Could Spark a Revolution

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February 4, 2014

This weekend, I had one of those moments that fueled me to continue to break down barriers and stigmas around bodies.

This experience happened at the Trans* Pool Party at Creating Change: National Conference for LGBT Equality. Not exactly the place I planned to experience a transforming moment after hours of workshops, caucuses and networking.

When I walked into the party, I was amazed. The small pool was crowded full of all types of people. I will never forget the range of bodies – from fat to muscular, with everything exposed, from bruises to moles to scars to tattoos and stretch marks. People who had transitional surgery, women with unshaven legs and adorable queer couples were swimming free of harassment.

When I looked around, I realized that it was more than just cisgender men who had their chests exposed. Plenty of other people with breasts were swimming.

That’s when we did it. My friends and I dared each other to do it first. That’s when it happened. We unlatched our bras and let our breasts free. It felt like I had just had a long day of work and came home to relax.

The people who went with me, mostly cis women and one trans man, were shocked at what it was like to go bare on top in the space. We marveled at the idea that our breasts could be out and not be sexual.

With this group of people, I experienced a new sense of my body. My breasts were my own and no one else’s property. My breasts were not objectified, sexualized, commodified or criminal in that moment. They were simply a part of my body, like a belly button or a left pinkie toe. I could expose it at I wished, without being subject to anyone’s gaze.  It didn’t matter that I was surrounded by lesbians, because everyone was perfectly capable of controlling themselves and not staring when bare breasts are out. Radical, right?

The pool party happened on the 23rd floor of the hotel. There was a balcony outside, where people were looking over the Houston skyline. I took a moment, wrapped in a small towel, to think about how I was socialized to think my breasts. I thought back to the times in 7th grade where I wore 3 sports bras or a heavily padded cami to hide my breasts. I thought about when a friend pointed out how small they were when I was in high school, and how it never even occurred to me until that point that I should feel bad about that. I thought about all of the times that I had grown frustrated with finding a decent strapless bra so I could pretend that my breasts were naturally round and perfect and nippleless underneath my dress.

Obviously, my experience is a lot different than others at the pool party. I cannot speak for the experiences of trans* folks in the room. I understand that I have cisgender privilege. I am expected to have breasts. But I think that for my own personal journey, it served a great purpose.

Spaces like the Trans* Pool Party remind me why I do the work that I do. This small pocket of the world could be universal. Wouldn’t it be great to go swimming in the lake on a hot day without a bikini top, or breastfeed or show off your awesome nipple piercing without being subject to the literal policing of our bodies? Imagine a world where exposing your breasts and scars isn’t such a revolutionary concept. That’s the type of world I am fighting for.

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