While the rock climbing community is often praised for being welcoming, generous, and generally chill, we can also be judgey and cliquish. Indoor versus outdoor, bouldering versus toproping, sport versus trad, shirts versus skins. At every climbing gym, you’re likely to see at least a few topless dudes with rippling pecs and minimal body fat. Are they more comfortable without shirts? Do they think it gives them an edge? Are they just showing off?
In this environment, what’s a feminist no-ho genderqueer post-top trans boi with love handles to do? Well, I thought about this a lot, especially since I am also employed by a rock gym and get free climbing where I work. Of course, I’m totally annoyed at the fact that guys can take their shirts off and women generally are not allowed to. Secondly, I’m annoyed that only super buff folks take their shirts off and it makes the rest of us “average” folks super jelly. Lastly, I’m annoyed that everyone still “she”s me at work and in general these days since I’m not trying too terribly hard to “butch it up.” Who are we kidding, I don’t try at all *swish swish*. Still, I’m a little bit shy about my surgery scars and I’m super self-conscious about my love handles, since I’m not on testosterone and have a more female-ish body shape.
Last week, I tested the waters a bit. I got to the gym early before we opened and got in a quick workout…without my shirt. Yes, there was no one there to judge me, but I wanted to focus on how it made me feel. It was awesome! I used to walk around my house half-naked all the time before surgery because I just loved being topless and being topless in public was a major perk of having top surgery. However, the double-standard we have for women versus men in that department always makes me hyper-aware of whether or not I’m overstepping my privilege in situations where I can go sans shirt. I also worry slightly about the legality of my going topless, since I still have an “F” on my ID, even though I could definitely argue that I don’t have “female breasts,” but then that brings us back to the equality issue. AAAhhhhhhhh!!!
My gym has 3 locations and yesterday, I was scheduled to work at the gym I barely (hehe) ever go to, so I figured it was time for an experiment. I had gone without a shirt at pools before, but that’s more expected that almost every guy will be without a shirt. At the rock gym, it’s more of an optional thing. So, I sucked it up (my gut, that is) and decided not to worry about my scars, my love handles, or my super pasty torso. Time to show everyone that you don’t have to be super ripped to climb comfortably topless!
So, what happened? Ummm…nothing? I felt pretty self-conscious, especially at first. But I usually feel a bit “on display” at this particular gym because everyone is facing the rock staring at you while you climb and they wait for their turn. But no one gave me super weird looks (that I noticed) or said anything (that I noticed). My partner suggested that even the super buff topless boys are probably more worried about some tiny part of their own physique than criticizing everyone else. So, I guess my topless climbing adventure was a success. Am I now “just another shirtless boulderer?” Yes and no =;-)