So I've been publicly shirtless before... at clothing-optional Pagan events it's normal for me, and I have been out in my yard and my household, but yesterday I had my first time shirtless in public. I didn't get any smiling photos feeling titillated at the beach with all my friends... instead, I was told to start swimming to get exercise, and got a Y membership.
It was anxiety-inducing... I reverted to some of my older behavior, holding my arms in strange ways over my chest and draping a towel over my shoulders in the locker room. Since this is such a highly populated establishment it wasn't like at Planet Fitness where I had very little issue changing in the group changing area even without surgery... if you know the Y, you know it's stereotypically populated by hundreds of naked old men all the time, and it turns out that stereotype is pretty accurate.
People stared at me, but I suspect it wasn't the scars, it was just that I am new there. My scars are actually somewhat hidden as long as I keep my arms down... they tuck into my chest rolls. I've found generally that because I have a large beard cis people tend not to read me as trans no matter how many clues I give them, so if they do notice the scars, they probably think it's something else.
Once I got out of the locker room? Then I was fine. Maybe a little awkward, but I was able to have a conversation with somebody telling me the lap swimming etiquette without feeling like I had eyes on me, and I was able to get my laps in.
Now that I broke that seal, it'll probably just get easier to go there, which is good because I really need that exercise... and I really like swimming.
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