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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Waiting for himself

Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ryan Manon, molecular and cellular biology senior, enjoys the beautiful weather in Geronimo Plaza.
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle / Arizona Daily Wildcat Ryan Manon, molecular and cellular biology senior, enjoys the beautiful weather in Geronimo Plaza.

Ryan Manon wasn’t always Ryan Manon. At birth he was named Ryan Alexis Manon, but he no longer uses his middle name.

The molecular and cellular biology senior was born in San Antonio, Texas, on March 14, 1983. Manon moved around a lot, so when people ask him where he is from, he says Los Angeles, where he lived the longest.

As a child, Manon played outside, climbed trees and jumped fences. He remembers his first crush in elementary school, and how all he wanted to do was protect her and enclose her hand in his.

But Manon wasn’t always male.

Biologically speaking, he was born female.

 

Dressing to comfort

On any given weekday morning, Manon lies in bed and debates whether to work out. He doesn’t sleep well most nights and exercise helps that. If he decides against working out, he gets up, feeds his snake and two cats, eats breakfast, brushes his teeth and washes his face.

When dressing himself, Manon considers a few factors on top of basic color coordination and the weather. If he is heading out to meet with friends, he doesn’t have to wear the chest binder. They recognize his identity despite his female body. But on the UA campus, the chest binder is a necessity.

The specific binder Manon owns is the “”Extreme Chest Concealer Chest Binder.”” He bought it from underworks.com, an online vendor that offers a variety of body support and compression products for men and women. It looks like a black spandex tank top. It is sleeveless, form-fitting and has a rounded neck. On the chest and upper back of the shirt are netted panels, made of 30 percent spandex and 70 percent nylon, which compress breast tissue, giving the appearance of a flat male chest. The binder is difficult to put on. It’s also hot, tight and uncomfortable. When new, it’s sometimes impossible to remove without help.

The compression of the chest binder is essential for Manon, who, since starting testosterone hormone therapy a year ago, has grown facial hair and developed a deeper voice.

“”I felt like I got to the point where I was becoming questionable as far as perceived gender, and although I didn’t really care, I wanted to protect my safety because I kind of had the whole ‘people are staring at me’ feeling,”” Manon says. “”I actually didn’t want one for a long time and didn’t wear one for a long time. I still don’t when I have the opportunity.””

While the binder is physically uncomfortable, it provides a level of social comfort that helps ease the loss of connection between Manon and the body he was born into. The feeling, though, isn’t new.

“”When I was 10 or 11 my mom and I were watching ‘Dateline’ or something like that, and they were talking about a child who had been born with both sets of reproductive organs. So this kid was being raised as a girl, but to me looked like a boy and behaved like a boy. And I remember turning to my mom and being like, ‘That’s probably what happened to me.’ My mom looked at me and said, ‘Why would you think that?'”” Manon says. 

When he was 12, Manon told his mom he was gay. Even then, the label seemed like temporary patchwork to a more complex issue. Manon’s female puberty and the puberty of the boys around him seemed more like a robbery of his identity, rather than the awkward progression into adulthood.

“”During middle school and high school, when all of the boys started catching up with the girls and going through puberty, I remember being really upset about the fact that I wasn’t changing in the same way,”” Manon recalls. “”I didn’t have a growth spurt, my voice wasn’t changing and I wasn’t getting facial hair or anything like that.””

Making the transition

The year before he started testosterone therapy, Manon spent sleepless nights watching online, homemade videos, documenting the biological transitions others have gone through as a result of hormone therapy, aptly called “”transition videos.””

Manon’s girlfriend at the time prompted him to seek more information on transitioning, so he sought out Dr. Anne B. Stericker, a Tucson psychiatrist, to obtain a recommendation for hormone therapy. During his initial meetings with Stericker, Manon felt he lacked the knowledge and direction to answer her questions. He took the time to write out his intentions and goals and brought them to his next appointment. Stericker approved Manon for testosterone therapy that same day, about one year ago.

Testosterone therapy causes deepening of the voice, facial hair growth and increased musculature. In a mainstream world, each of these physical changes raises eyebrows when coupled with female breasts.

The next major step Manon considered was “”top surgery,”” also known as a double mastectomy. It would mean the removal of the female breasts, which are compressed underneath his “”Extreme Chest Concealer Chest Binder”” each day. Manon considered the surgery, but for now it isn’t in his foreseeable future.

“”My body has been very good to me so I want to respect and have some love for it before I alter it to that degree,”” Manon says. “”I have grown to appreciate many aspects of my female body and although I don’t really identify with it in that regard, I would like to maintain it because it’s who I am.””

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