Coming on the heels of John’s emotional post about his gynecomastia journey, our final guest post is from none other than Shay Hansen himself who posted previously about his terrifying experience with the TSA. One of the things Shay and I have discussed privately before is how many instances of everyday life men with gynecomastia experience differently, especially those who wear bras for support. No amount of personal acceptance or encouragement from family and friends changes how, at some point, these men will have to reveal they wear bras to a stranger. As much as I believe in the innate goodness of people, there will always be those who cannot or will not understand why a man would choose to wear what is typically defined as a woman’s garment. To make yourself vulnerable to the opinions of a stranger can be frightening and takes a tremendous amount of courage. As a result, today Shay wanted to share memorable situations from his past where he was confronted with others unexpectedly finding out about his condition or his need and desire to wear bras. On a personal note, I think stories like this remind us to be kinder to our fellow humans and to judge less. This world is hard enough for all of us without letting prejudice and ignorance influence how we interact with others. Just be kind.
The Wide Open World and its Encounters with my Bra
That One Time in the Parking Lot
The sun had set a couple of hours ago. The paramedics were carrying me down three flights of stairs on a stretcher. As they loaded me into a waiting ambulance, they took off my shirt. My bra, a hot-pink Under Armour Heat Gear pullover in magenta, was exposed in the apartment parking lot for all of my neighbors to see. I did not even realize what was happening until one male paramedic asked, “Why are you wearing a bra”? I passed out immediately. I woke up in the hospital the next day, my hot-pink bra sitting next to my bed and on top of all of my other clothes.
Foot Surgery (Round 4)
The fog of my general anesthesia had cleared to the point where I could attempt to stand with assistance from my nurse. The cast on my right leg was clumsy and large. She helped me step into my boxers, making sure my clumsy self remained in the upright position. Whenever I have surgery, I like to put my bra in my pocket when I get undressed, just in case I end up with a male nurse. I reached into my pants pocket and pulled out my bra.
“It’s mine,” I said.
She nodded without batting an eye as I slipped the straps over my shoulders. She asked if I wanted help, and I nodded. She leaned in and reached around behind me.
“First hooks?” she asked, her tone positive and fresh.
“Yes Please,” I responded.
The nurse clasped my bra on the first set of hooks like it was completely normal. I felt cared for and safe. I quietly thanked her, placed my breasts in the cups, and put my shirt on.
The Speeding Ambulance
Ambulance trips for me used to be somewhat of a regular occurrence – boy am I glad those days are past! In this particular instance, I was in the back and on the way to the hospital. I remember everything bouncing around as it typically does when an ambulance is speeding to the hospital. You would think they would make those things with better shocks! The male paramedic slid his hand down my shirt to place electrodes and found himself inside my bra! He jumped and quickly pulled his hand back. A nervous laugh ensued, and he put his hand back in my bra (it was a racerback pullover sports bra) and placed the electrodes – as quickly as he could!
It was a Monday evening. I decided to call ahead since the staff did not know me. They said they could help me out and that I could come to the store. I showed up embarrassed and shy.
“How are you, sir? What can I help you with today?” the manager asked.
“I’m here to uh… find some bras,” I stammered.
“Ok. What size is she?” the woman replied.
“Um… *gulp* they’re for me,” I said.
At this point, the bra I was wearing was getting soaked with sweat. I wondered if the women would think that I didn’t need a bra. I worried what they would think about me. The “voices” were quite loud in my head.
“Oh, you’re the guy that called! It’s good to meet you. Let me measure you real quick,” the manager said. She put the tape measure around my chest before I knew what was happening.
“Can we do this somewhere private,” I asked.
We went to a nook that was out of the way, and she measured me. She informed me that I was a 42B and that they didn’t have my size. The funny thing was that I got measured recently and am a 38B. I told her this, and she said I could pick out bras to try on. She introduced me to a bra fitter named Britney and said to find her once I was ready. I grabbed a mesh bag and began shopping.
I returned about 15 minutes later with a bunch of bras that I thought would work. The manager showed me Body by Victoria, and I grabbed a couple of those to try on. I found my way back to Britney, and she took me to a fitting room. It was very pink – in fact, it was in the Victoria’s Secret PINK section of the store.
I went in, and Britney told me she would find me some other bras that would be good to try. I kept the Body by Victoria bra, but most of the other ones were not flattering or were uncomfortable because of the lace. Britney returned with more bras.
“I found you some other bras. Let me know how you like these,” she said as she slung a bunch of bras over the door to the fitting room.
“Sounds good. Oh, hey this bra is a 38D. Can you please grab me a B cup?” I asked. I had to wonder if she didn’t care about my cup size and just grabbed any old bra.
“Oh, sorry! I’ll get you another,” she replied.
A short time later, she returned and checked the fit of the bras I had planned to purchase thus far. It was a bit awkward having a young lady doing that (she looked like she was barely 18). She handed me a couple of bralettes that her manager thought I might like and left the room.
This scene (minus incorrect sizing) repeated itself a few more times as I went through about 40 different bras, trying to find a few that would be comfortable during my long days. I finished trying on bras and brought my selections to the checkout counter.
“Were the girls polite and helpful?” the manager asked.
“Yes, quite helpful,” I replied.
I couldn’t wait to get out of there with my bras. It had probably been one of the more awkward experiences of my life. I learned that, perhaps, Victoria’s Secret wasn’t the store where I would be getting my bras. The store and its bras scream sex and having women that are barely 18 help you with your bras is just plain awkward.
Victoria’s Secret sells the most bras of anyone (as of now), but I was tired of their bras. The store looks more like an adult store than a bra store. The bras usually make your boobs look more prominent, which is not the look I want. The bras seemed to be more about fashion than fit and function, and many of my purchases from Victoria’s Secret ended up unworn and collecting dust in the closet. I decided to try my luck at my local Target – where I did not have those problems.
I meandered up and down the aisles, looking at the various bras. Most of them were not what I wanted, but there were a few sports bras and one T-Shirt bra that was worth trying on. I took my bras to the fitting room and walked in. After trying them on, I selected 2 and handed the other two back to the woman at the dressing room counter. I began to make my way to the checkout area.
“Sir! SIR! SIR!” the woman called in a shrill tone.
I turned back to her, quite startled but trying not to show it. The last thing I needed was to show any vulnerability. I’d heard enough whispering while I was in the fitting room.
“Here. You forgot these,” the woman said.
She handed me a 6-pack of men’s boxers that I also planned to purchase but had left behind. I took the underwear, made a b-line for the checkout and called it a day.
The Examination Room
I was in the throes of my battle with Anorexia Nervosa. I was physically sick and had been experiencing fluid shifts. I sat in the waiting room at my Primary Care Physician’s office.
“Shay Hansen?” the Medical Assistant called out.
I stood up and began to walk toward her. I felt unsteady on my feet, but I continued to make my way toward the woman. She was not a small woman, and that ended up being a good thing for me. Before I knew what was happening, she caught me and pinned me against the wall using her whole body. A nurse quickly showed up, and the two women carried me into a nearby examination room. They placed me on the table and immediately removed my shirt.
“Oh, my! It’s OK, Shay. That’s just fine,” the nurse reassured me. She placed her hand on my forearm.
“I don’t like it when my chest moves around, so I wear bras,” I explained.
“That’s just fine. It’s perfectly OK. I’m going to get the doctor,” the nurse replied.
I laid on the examination table with my shirt off and my bra on. I was too sick to care too much about it.The doctor came in, and she examined me as the nurses helped position me. Eventually, the took my bra off and put me into a gown.