Carla Jenkins, writer

In 2015 I put myself under a scalpel in Ross Hall hospital in Glasgow and had my breasts reduced in size. Even today, I still contemplate the magnitude of my decision and the impact that it has had on not just my body but my life, my femininity, my mental health.

Returning to university life as normal, I sat alone in my room, felt the scars that indicated lacerated skin and I cried. It was so massively emotional, but I had no idea what the emotions meant. Was I sad? No. Was I happy? No. I simply felt like I had been through a sort of battle. I have never felt more like a woman than I did holding those numbed, stitched-up breasts. I was gloriously, disfiguredly, me.

“Why did you do it?” is the question that those who are brave enough ask. “I used to have massive boobs and I hated them,” is usually my reply.

But why did I do it? What made me resent my own body enough to perform a permanent assault?

On holiday, a boy I had never met grabbed my chest in the pool. I stared at him, he stared at me, I left the pool, he stayed in. On the hockey pitch, a female teacher advised me, “maybe you should invest in a more appropriate – less distracting – bra?”.

As I ran around the pitch, the boys would sit on the hill and there would be silence and craned necks as I passed. Once, my ‘friend’ parked his car at the side of a road, saying “you don’t know how long I’ve waited for this”. Me? You’ve waited for me? Or for this handful of skin and tissue?

What about the man who only broke his stare after a few growled words from my father? What about the older boy who stood in the doorframe of my maths class and whispers a name that I had been branded with quietly, viciously, when it was all “just a laugh”?

The torrent was unleashed, and it washed over me like a current. In 2015, the time had come to stop laughing it off.

I did not just achieve smaller breasts. I achieved long scars across my body. They signify the deep and complex answer of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. My long white, silver and lilac carnations that thread across my body remind me what this body is. This body will get paid 70p to a man’s £1. It will be scrutinised as it ages, it is taxed for the blood that spills out of it; it must crash through glass ceilings to work beside its male counterparts.

These long lines that I cherish remind me that this body is mine: not a future husband's, or ex-boyfriends’ or future-boyfriends’, or employers’. It is not a gift from a God I don’t believe in. It is mine: it belongs to a thinking being, a woman who when walking home in the darkness of night feels hunted. I felt harassed by my own body. What a sad story, if I hadn’t had the agency to do what I did. I love my scars, because they allow me to forget the reasons why it is my body that allows me to say me, too.