One summer day during an annual family trip to Jacksonville Beach, Florida, I stood alone, my feet in the sand, the chilly air hitting my hairless, androgynous chest. I was 11 years old. I felt so exposed with just my swim trunks on, sensing that I needed to cover up — even though there was nothing there. I wondered why I didn’t feel comfortable like my brother and my dad being shirtless in the sun. Seagulls circled ominously above us, foreshadowing the struggle I would continue to have with my body throughout what I would later call my “first” puberty.
A decade later, in the summer of 2012, I took my first estrogen injection as a part of my gender transition. Within a few weeks, the sensitivity and soreness of the new buds forming under my skin gave me hope. Soon, though, I felt a new sort of shame — this time from an external source. My friends and partner at the time quickly urged me to get my first sports bra. Even though I was excited about my changing body, that excitement was charged with an undercurrent of annoyance. Why were my barely protruding nipples already becoming politicized, a piece of public property to be controlled and critiqued?