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February 2018

Caught in a Bind

Author Affiliations
  • 1Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, NYU Langone Health, New York, New York
  • 2Hansjörg Wyss Department of Plastic Surgery, NYU Langone Health, New York, New York
JAMA Dermatol. 2018;154(2):202. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.5061

But somehow I will show the world what's inside my heart and be loved for who I am.

Who is that girl I see staring straight back at me?

Why is my reflection someone I don't know?

Must I pretend that I'm someone else for all time?

When will my reflection show who I am inside?

Disney’s tale of Mulan (1999) describes a Chinese maiden who joins the all-male army disguised as her father. Quickly becoming a celebrated war hero, she proves she is not limited by the sex she was assigned at birth. When an injury exposes Mulan’s secret, her chest, wrapped in strips of white cloth, echoes a familiar burden in the lives of transmasculine individuals who also were assigned female at birth but bind their chests to compress breast tissue and achieve a more masculine appearance. Unlike Mulan, they identify on the more masculine end of the gender spectrum; the term encompasses individuals who may identify as transgender, female-to-male, gender nonconforming, or other gender identities.

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