Guest Post: Gynecomastia & the Fitting by John D

Hello Everyone! Today marks the first of three guest posts this week, all by men. I guess you could sing “It’s blogging men!” Yes, I am a sucker for bad jokes. Anyway, today’s post is from a client suffering from gynecomastia who wrote a lovely article about his experience growing up as well as what to expect if you shop with us. I always mention how we are an open, judgement free space, but sometimes it’s good to hear about it directly from a client. As a side note, now that I am back to work full-time and catching up on the myriad of projects on my “To Do” list, I want to announce I have plans to create a specific section for men in our Bra Naked Truth series! The articles will feature practical advice on bra fitting tailored to male clients and based on several years worth of experience and feedback. I’m very excited to start writing it and filming the accompanying videos because I think they will be more helpful for men than the female-centric articles we currently have available. Truthfully, I’ll be rewriting the original articles too as well as incorporating advice for trans and nonbinary people. This is just one of the many projects on the horizon for our shop and part of my plan to continue making the store a safe, inclusive space for everyone.

Erica


Gynecomastia and the Fitting

I was the typical boy growing up. And now, the typical man. Except for one thing. When I hit puberty, something happened. When I was about 14 I started budding. By 15, I was being “teased” about my chest from other kids. At 16, contact sports were horror shows, with me as the star, being picked for the skins team and then during contact play being groped and just inappropriately touched. By 17, I had stopped playing sports altogether and did everything I could to not have to participate in Physical Ed in school. And if I went into the water, I always wore a shirt to hide my chest. College wasn’t that much better. A recurring theme throughout those years were the nasty chorus of “What size bra do you wear?” or “You need to get a bra.” and other even more vile things I can’t repeat here. I was well into my early 20’s before I stopped developing. Dating was difficult but I did eventually find a loving lady who loves me and doesn’t care about my chest. Later I found out what caused my breasts. I had gynecomastia or female like breast development.

But even in adulthood the struggle continues.  Some males and even females too, think my chest is open season doing everything from commenting to inappropriate touching to downright groping. As you can imagine, the shame, embarrassment and declining body image over my chest has festered for years.

I don’t know why I was endowed with a chest. For some reason my body has had a lifelong hormonal war between estrogen and testosterone where at times, estrogen has won. Not enough estrogen to cause dramatic physical change mind you, but just enough to cause problems like develop a chest and keep my voice slightly higher where some people would mistake me for a woman if they could not see me. Other than these obvious symptoms, I am just like any other male. This has left me introverted and shy and always protecting my chest and trying to hide my D+ sized breasts with over-sized shirts and trying to stay under the radar.

But then a fungal rash developed on my chest. The doctor suggested wearing a bra to support my bust and help keep it from rubbing. Wow. Just wow. Had to let that one sink in for a while.

I eventually searched the Internet about men wearing chest support, and then coming across the website The Breast Life by Elisabeth Dale. In a post she was explaining why men wore bras and defending men who wore bras due to a developed chest. One of the people she quoted in the article was Erica of A Sophisticated Pair. Erica talked about how she helped gynecomastia customers find the right bra. Later, I came across a podcast with Erica talking bra fitting. Both times she was very open and outspoken about helping women, and men, find what works for them. Both opened my eyes to a world only I thought I existed in.

After all the research, I finally went to Walmart and just picked out some bras I thought that might work and got out as fast as I could. I never tried them on at the store or asked for help because I was just too afraid of what someone would say or do or worse; recognize me. Most of the bras I bought just didn’t work for me. Eventually I got tired of cheap bras that didn’t fit or didn’t last and I decided that I needed to just go get a real bra fitting and stop messing around. But the old feelings of shame and embarrassment were very strong. I really didn’t want to have to ask a woman could they help me find a bra. That just seemed too weird. And why would they? What would they be thinking my motives were? But then I had never heard of a male bra fitter. I was just going to have to suck up my pride and try and find a fitter that would agree to fit me.

Then I remembered Erica from the Elisabeth Dale post. But not being exactly local to Erica, I had not really considered going to see her. I went to the website, and I read her blog. Within the blog posts it was obvious Erica walked the walk. If you had breasts, woman or man, she felt she could help. I hadn’t seen anything like that anywhere locally. While A Sophisticated Pair is not close-by, it would be a reasonable drive. So, I began to consider going to see her for a fitting.

I finally called to see if Erica would be interested in setting an appointment. Erica herself answered the phone and immediately made me feel comfortable. I explained what I wanted and a date and time for an after-hours private fitting was set. At the fitting, Erica made sure I was comfortable with what she was doing and why she was doing it and she asked me questions that were relevant to me. She showed me bras I would have never thought of trying myself and explained why this particular style or this material or manufacturer would work or not work for me in a very honest and straight forward manner. I was just another customer. Nothing special. Nothing different. And to my amazement, the bras were comfortable, fit me and offered great support without making me look ridiculous. Or breaking the bank.

Did I have what I needed for support? Was it comfortable?  Did I look appropriate? Yes, she was concerned about how I looked in a bra. As I looked in the mirror I couldn’t believe how well I looked. Yes, I do have breasts. They do need supporting. I can’t get away from that. But I don’t have to look stupid or inappropriate doing it. She got it. She knew how to make it work. And I was a person. I was more than just a sale or worse, a punch line.

I admit I went to Erica’s shop a little ashamed, embarrassed and somewhat intimidated. But because of her kindness, understanding, compassion to help and a seemingly endless knowledge of bras, I left with a renewed self-confidence and body image. But the biggest thing is, Erica treated me with respect and she welcomed me. I wasn’t some kind of interloper intruding on the “inter-sanctum” of womanhood. There was no judgement about me. I was just a person with a need. And she helped. And that is all I was asking. Nothing more. A simple thank you doesn’t seem right though. But that I is all I got. Thank you, Erica.

Guest Post: Gynecomastia & the Fitting by John D
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Gynecomastia & the Fitting by John D

  • October 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm
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    Erica. you are amazing! This is one of the reasons I fully support your store as often as possible ( which isn’t nearly as much as I would like to). You treat people the way you would want to be treated with dignity and respect.

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    • October 3, 2018 at 12:46 pm
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      It’s nice to here a womans supportive comment. I’m a 38G so going braless is not a good look or option for me. I’ve come to accept having boobs and wearing a bra. I no longer feel emasculated buy it. Were all people. We all have breasts to some degree. Mine just happen to require a little support which I get from a good bra.

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      • October 3, 2018 at 4:58 pm
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        If I may say I’ve always been one who felt no one is a mistake. If you were created with breasts you are perfect. Way to embrace the wonderful person you are

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    • Erica
      October 4, 2018 at 2:52 pm
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      Thank you, Laura. <3 I think it's important to follow the golden rule. Life is hard enough for everyone without someone else making it worse!

      Reply
  • October 2, 2018 at 2:29 pm
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    John, Thanks for sharing your experience. Erica is a national treasure. I have been planning on driving down for fitting for more than a year,which really must make happen soon.

    Fran

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  • October 3, 2018 at 12:39 pm
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    John, thanks for sharing this and Erica, thanks for bringing this to the front lines.

    I have had to wear a bra since puberty and been wearing for almost 30years.. I wish (and I bet a lot of women wish too) that I didn’t need to dish out $70-100 for a decent bra. My last bras were 38Gs which moves me to the boutique setting. I am fortunate that like Erica, I have a couple of local boutiques that are also willing and able to help me look and feel my best.

    Thank you Erica for pioneering this road. Bras are definitely not just for women anymore.

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  • October 3, 2018 at 10:08 pm
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    i developed gynecomastia many years ago my doctor recommended against breast removal, he suggested good suupport for the pain i was having, it was hard to admit i needed a bra but when i tried on one it was instant relief,and i never looked back,today at 46G my breast are healthy and i wear a bra 24/7

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  • October 3, 2018 at 10:22 pm
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    Laura – thanks for commenting. It’s awesome to have women involved in this conversation.

    Wow, brother. Way to be vulnerable. I totally relate to this — though my sport was chess (ha)! It’s always the first bra-buying experiences and the “grab and go” shopping trips that are the worst. First time being fitted is the worst too. I totally relate to being worried about intruding on womanhood.

    I’m so glad you found Erica. She is amazing and as you said, totally knows what bras will work for you. Way to go in having balls to write this. It’s a gutsy move — seriously. We need more men writing so taking your shirt off with a new doc (or one that doesn’t know you wear bras) isn’t terrifying (or – insert shirtless experience).

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  • October 4, 2018 at 10:50 am
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    Thank you to all the wonderful comments about my story and thank you to Erica for providing the platform. And thank you to all the ladies here for your support as well. You will never know how much your heart felt support means to those of us who suffer with this condition in the shadows since the real issue is not physical but societal.

    You hear “Real men don’t wear bras”. Truth is, REAL men DO for many of the same reasons women do, support and comfort, even though 99% of the rest of the world has no idea. For many, erotica or fetish has nothing to with it. My chest does not make me less of a man even though some would like to think that and I have personal experiences to bare that out from males and females. The vast majority of us did not ask to be this way. I didn’t. I didn’t pray to the Boob Fairy for a chest. Quite the opposite. I would much prefer to have developed pecs than have developed a bust. Like many women say, “Boobs are a real pain.” I agree with you ladies. They are! As I heard someone once say, “I am a man, trapped in a man’s body with some extra parts.” And that’s me. And yes, with a developed chest, I deal with many of the same issues women do because … I have a developed chest; like women. Duh! Just because I am a man doesn’t change the laws of physics or human anatomy. And yes, I have looked into surgery to remove them. But unlike women and FTM transition, non FTM breast reduction surgery is not covered by insurance and is considered cosmetic surgery so I would have to pay 100% out of pocket. And it ain’t cheap. And in my case, invasive.

    This is such a sensitive subject on so many levels that even starting the conversation is almost impossible. But with people like Erica and Shay Hanson, starting this conversation is getting a little easier. And thank you Shay for being the first man that I know of who admitted in public to having Gynecomastia. You, sir, are my hero and was the driving reason I did this. I am not brave. I am not ballsy (a little busty maybe). Not at all. I am just as scared as everyone else. Probably more so now. A bust is not something I really cherish but I have accepted it and deal with it best way I know how. I am no radical. No rabble rouser. I am a middle of the road mainstream kind of guy. That makes this even tougher. I just want to live in peace and comfort and if that means wearing support for my breast tissue, then so be it., But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

    To paraphrase the movie The Elephant Man, “I am not an animal. I am a man.” And I am finding that many men with Gynecomastia have similar stories of shame and embarrassment and abuse. Mine is not as unique as it might seem and the number of men who suffer in silence is certainly in the millions worldwide. It is estimated that 15% of all men suffer moderate to severe Gynecomastia due to no fault of their own and who could benefit from chest support but doesn’t get the relief they deserve because it isn’t considered “manly” by society. And as high as 50% of men suffer some form of Gynecomastia or False Gynecomastia during their lifetime. And it seems that both statistics will increase due to side effects of modern medications influence on estrogen levels in men. For example, if a man develops testicular cancer, one of the medications blocks testosterone and uses high levels of estrogen to fight the cancer. Side effect, most times, severe Gynecomastia. If I was faced with dying of cancer or developing breasts, I would be buying lots of stock in bra companies. Just saying. So. Here we are.

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    • October 9, 2018 at 2:00 am
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      I’m glad you mentioned the hormone component. Most people don’t realize both women and men can get breast cancer. Cysts run in my family so far luckily benign. The reason I bring this up is that I as a woman and my male father have both had to have cysts removed from our chests. My dad was embarrassed at first to tell me and only did because of my own treatment. My dad does not have Gynecomastia but still has had to have surgery twice for breast cysts. Just thought everyone should remember anyone with a chest should check for lumps and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Breast cancer awareness for all. Stay healthy!

      Reply
      • Erica
        October 9, 2018 at 10:59 am
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        That’s a great point about self exams and breast cancer! Everyone should check themselves, regardless of their sex. Thanks for pointing that!

        Reply
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