I'll skip back to a little after I had started working, and binding, say about 3.5 years ago.
I had gone to the local surgical store looking for safer, more comfortable and more effective alternatives to binding by crepe bandage. I happened to know they stocked all sorts of Vissco® products (rehabilitation aids and medical & mobility supports) and had some hope. From my internet research about various kinds of binders, I knew that the easy, delicate way to get what I wanted was to ask for a 'male gynaecomastia vest'. The clerk had never heard of one before. Great. I went home.
This was the first big step I had taken after coming out. I had had only the nerve to ask that one question. Well, I told myself, so you took the first next step, but you can't just sit on that - you've got to try again. Okay, self, I'll try again.
A week later, I went back. This time the proprietor was in as well. Good, I thought, he speaks English and he knows his stuff; let me try asking him. I started, "Do you stock gynaecomastia vests?"
Damn. "Do you stock any form of chest compression garments?"
"Do you mean an elastic belt?"
"Something like that...but more like a vest...and a bit more discreet. Something that a man with gynaecomastia would require"
"I'm think I know what you're describing but we don't stock anything like that."
"But we my wife runs a physiotherapy clinic 6 shops away where we also take orders for various support garments. Try there."
Bingo! "Thank you!"
I went to the physiotherapy clinic but the lady in question was out for lunch. I took her number from the assistant and went home. As usual, I procrastinated calling for a few days. Eventually, I called and took an appointment. Appointment day. I walked in with a pounding heart. She sat me down and I explained my requirements. This time, since she needed to know exactly what the garment was being made for in order to make it correctly, I braved it and told her. She seemed more personally curious than professionally. I overlooked it. I had to take off my shirt but had a muscle tee on inside, over my binding. The measurements seemed never-ending. We discussed the exact properties of the materials to be used, etc. Apparently, the details were to be sent overseas and the garment would be shipped back. Also, I could only be provided with an estimate after she consulted the manufacturer. I left precise instructions on calling me - under no circumstances was I to be called on my home phone (I live with my parents and I had not yet told them that I was taking any steps) - and left.
When the call finally came, it came, predictably, on my home phone and my mother answered. She was pretty matter-of-fact when she gave me the message and I began instinctively to start slipping my mother tid-bits as to what I was doing. I called the clinic - it would cost me about Rs. 2500/- for one garment. And she couldn't guarantee the outcome. Sigh. Anything would be better that having to use crepe bandage indefinitely. I asked her to place an order for a single garment. Shortly thereafter, my father met the surgical store proprietor and was asked why 'his daughter was interested in living like a man' - he seemed to have a lot of the details I had shared with his wife. Apparently, patient confidentiality takes a back-sheet to pillow talk. I never went back. They never called me either.
At around this time I was also busy learning my new job. I used to have dreams about mainframe password-resets and when my alarm rang I'd snooze it like anybody else, the ever so slight difference being that in that groggy state between dreaming and waking I'd be under the impression I was doing something in mainframes, not snoozing my alarm. I was also attending college for practice at lab-work. It was crazy. Binding was still a new science and summer was 8 months away. I was already chafing everyday, the binding coming loose. I was utterly miserable and desperate to have my chest reconstruction before summer, and hell, began.
I had to do something about it. Hadn't I taken up a job because I wanted to transition? Wasn't I now earning a salary? What then was I waiting for?! According to all the WPATH (I knew it then as HBIGDA) references and documents I had read, I was to see two mental health professionals for a minimum of two years each before I could attempt any kind of medical transition. It worked perfectly for me - in that two-year period I would be able to set aside some funds as well. The thing to do now was to pick a therapist. I started close to home - the nearby general hospital's Psychiatry Outpatient Department - and fixed up an appointment with a psychiatrist I had heard a bit about.
My first appointment with my therapist - I walked in, determined not to have to fight my case to convince yet another healthcare provider of the authenticity of GID or my identity. The first words spoken in that office that day were mine, "Doctor, what is your take on GID?". Direct. No mincing words.
"What do you mean take on GID?"
"What are your thoughts on GID? Do you support transpersons?"
"I have no 'thoughts' on GID. GID exists and it is not something that can be 'treated' in the way that psychiatric illnesses are treated. We can only support the person and enable them if they want to transition."
I had no defences left. "Doctor, I gender identify as male and I want to transition." It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.