I am a man, and I wear bras.
Surprised? Shocked? Weirded out? Me too. It has been a long journey to come to a place of acceptance around my bra-wearing. I started due to the development of mild gynecomastia (male breast development). I quickly discovered its additional benefits in helping me deal with my body image struggles surrounding my chest. I want to speak up for the men with breasts who wear bras, but aren't transgendered.
Male Body Shaming
Body shaming is something that women of all shapes and sizes are courageously fighting. It is also a topic that is having an increasingly profound effect on men. We, men, have been very silent on body shaming -- even though we do it to each other all the time. Men with enlarged breasts are often the butt of jokes. A man is shamed because of the shape of his body – not the content of his character.
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, male body dissatisfaction has increased from 15% to 43% over the last three decades. Ten percent of men end up with a full-blown eating disorder, such as Anorexia or Bulimia. Clinicians in the field of eating disorders are seeing increases in the number of male patients seeking treatment. Some clinicians believe that the percentage of men with eating disorders is as high as 25% of the total eating disorder population.
In 2012, I almost died from anorexia, and I am still recovering from it. As a teenager, my weight fluctuated substantially, and I was often underweight. As a result, I endured plenty of body shaming and bullying surrounding my body.
Role of the Media and Society
The media has been increasingly engaging in male body shaming. One example is the New York Post fat-shaming Leonardo DiCaprio for having a larger midsection than he used to. Glance at the cover of any men's magazine, and it is very obvious as to how the media thinks a man’s body should appear. Right next to these images are the products that are supposed to help a man become said specimen of six-pack masculinity.
The answer to all this is that we men need to start speaking up about our internal struggles and the effects of media and society on male body image (hence this blog post). The struggle is real. Our men and especially our boys are susceptible to the influences of media and society regarding how they should look and act, not unlike their female counterparts. It is important for men to speak about their body image experiences to younger generations, and especially to boys that are developing male breasts – even if only temporarily.
My Bra Experience
My experience with my chest has been a struggle since my early teen years. I experienced a temporary breast development in middle school, which I found quite traumatizing! My breasts have changed size and shape over the years since, fluctuating between an A and a B cup – often due to medication. I have never been comfortable with how they moved and jiggled on my body, and it caused significant distress. At the age of twenty, I began wearing bras. I found the physical breast support helpful. I also discovered that the bra held my breasts in place and prevented unwanted movement. It helped with my body image issue surrounding my chest. It has been an on-again-off-again experience until I turned thirty. At that point, I accepted what a bra did for me and resolved to stop judging myself. I have worn bras continuously since then.
The decision to come to a place of acceptance regarding my bra-wearing was not an easy place to arrive. I almost exclusively wore sports bras until recently, in an attempt to somehow prove that my manhood still existed. I recently bought a plunge bra that works well for me. It has some lace, but lace bras do not make the man. The purchase was a breakthrough for me allowing myself to wear any bra that served my purpose, regardless of its style.
When my wife and I started dating, I was upfront about my bra-wearing. Her experience was that it is awkward at first, but she soon adjusted to it. She continues to be very supportive of it in that she wants me to be comfortable and confident in my body above all else. If that means that I wear bras, she supports it.
I used to worry about our children seeing dad in a bra. It is something that will need to be addressed when they are older and have questions. However, my wife and I are confident that we can do so in a healthy way.
Another favorite bra Leading Lady Underwire Bra via HerRoom
Recently, my breasts jumped a cup size (again) from an A cup to a B cup due to a medication that I am prescribed. I find myself yet again engaged in an exercise of trying to prove my manhood. The ultimate conclusion I am coming to is that there are plenty of males that are not men. Manhood is about character, responsibility, and relationships. It is about doing what’s right, instead of what’s easy.
Manhood is not about the size of my breasts or the bra that is underneath my shirt.
Featured image credit: BrokenMan.net