Gender and Weight

Gender and weight

I don’t know whether my gender identity has been quietly falling apart while I steadfastly ignored it, or if I’ve been steadfastly pretending to have one all along.

When I put on a dress, I feel uncomfortable.  For as long as I can remember, women’s clothes have made me like I am in drag.  I’ve tried a considerably large amount of women’s clothes of various colours, shapes and styles, in the hope that I was just wearing dresses incorrectly and the right dress would feel right.  This is tied up in the fact that I am fat, and I hate being fat.  I feel like a less worthwhile person because I am fat.  I don’t look at other fat people and judge them to not be worthwhile, I just think it about myself.  I have wanted to wear trousers for the longest time, but felt that they would draw attention to my tummy, which is my fattest part, so I have worn trousers under dresses and skirts which serve as armour, disguising my shape and giving me the more feminine silhouette I feel I should have in order to be considered an acceptable human being.

My hair as well.  I have thought about having short hair for years, and whenever I mentioned wanting to get it cut, I have encountered cries of horror, and frequently been told that fat women look awful with short hair.  My mum used to always tell me that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory.  She was obsessed with my hair for other reasons as well.  Reasons of grief and racism.  It was the same colour as my aunt’s hair, and my aunt committed suicide right before my mum learned that she was pregnant with me, so I was a sort of sister replacement for her in a few ways that were creepy.  My mum also used to compliment how “Aryan” my hair made me look.  In summary, I have a pretty weird relationship with my hair, and have dyed it since I was able.

Now that I have broken through the trouser vs fat idea and started wearing men’s trousers, I have learned that they do not necessarily display the shape of my tummy in all its horror.  How I imagined I looked in trousers is a very far cry from how I actually look in them.  I guess I was extrapolating from how I look in women’s trousers, which are designed to show off your figure, and also how I feel in women’s trousers, which is Ridiculously Uncomfortable.

A lot of this is tied up in My Worth As A Person.  I have internalised a lot of crud about how I, as a person assigned female at birth, have to look attractive in order to be worthy of the space I take up on this rock hurtling through the void.  I have received positive reactions to my appearance when I wore dresses and had long hair and did all the stuff I was supposed to do.  People complimented my appearance with phrases like “You may be fat but at least you have big boobs”.  When I bind, I end up just being fat, with what looks like small boobs.   And I am happier with how I look, but I can’t shake the idea that I’ve made myself less worthwhile in the eyes of the world, because I’m just a fat lump without even the evidence of the large boobs that made my fatness palatable.

Currently, I don’t know what exactly I want to be read as.  When someone refers to me in female or feminine ways, it’s like being stabbed in the feelings.  Politically, I’m a feminist.  I experience discrimination based on the fact that people see me as a woman, and I’m happy to lump myself into the category of woman when discussing feminism and the discrimination I face.  Partly because genderqueer is a small and often overlooked category and I’m still learning what it means politically.  I’m probably read as butch rather than trans at the moment.  A couple of strangers have fumbled their sentences around to avoid using pronouns about me, which was nice of them.   But I haven’t really experienced transphobia directed at me.  It would feel privileged to claim to be trans politically because I am still largely treated with cis privilege.  I don’t have the innate cis privileges such as being able to wear women’s clothes without crying, or being addressed with the titles, names and pronouns that don’t make me feel like fight or flight is kicking in.  But I haven’t applied for a job since I started addressing this, I haven’t told my family, I have only just finished telling all my friends.

I wish I hadn’t internalised the idea that my chest somehow excused my fatness.  I wish I hadn’t internalised any of that message, that I had something to excuse, that I had to look pleasing to be a worthwhile person.

For years I had the plan dancing around in the back of my mind, keeping just out of sight: “I will lose weight and then I can transition.” I felt like if I transitioned while fat, I would be seen and treated as one of “the bad trans people” who isn’t typically attractive according to the beauty standards applied to their gender identity.   Who doesn’t look like they were assigned their current gender identity at birth.  Definitely not someone who features on those ridiculous “10 ridiculously hot people you won’t believe are trans” click bait articles.

I felt like there was no point in even consciously addressing the issue of my gender until I was an acceptable human (thin) and therefore didn’t have lumps and bumps so large I could never pass.  I want muscle, and flatness, and masculinity.  I still do.  But I realised something very important: Fuck them.  The stupid gender binary riddled, shallow, cisnormative society we live in is at fault.  I am not at fault.  And I am, importantly, ageing, and getting closer to death every day, and even closer to death every day that I don’t live my life being fully, authentically me, so I should hop to it before I am too dead to be me.  Because no one is going to give me permission.  No one is going to tell me who I am.  I have to work that shit out myself, and then be it.

Somehow.

Gender Performance and Cis Privilege

Gender isn’t a binary, it’s a spectrum.  However, a great deal of people seem very attached to the concept of there being two ways to perform gender:

1) the demure, pink dress wearing, barbie doll loving, home making lady with long hair, perfect make-up and a uterus full of babies,

2) the bold, blue loving, sportball fanatic, breadwinning man with short hair and balls so full of sperm he could make you pregnant with a coy smile.

A world with only these two options would be horrifying.  We all know that in reality, very few people fully conform to these stereotypes.  So why do we teach it to children?  Why do some adults tell children off for being themselves?  Some children learn to wear certain clothes, enjoy certain activities, and affect certain behaviours because any deviation from that norm results in scorn, suspicion, fear.  This learned behaviour confirms to the adults that they were right about the gender binary.  The cycle continues.  The message that these children learn about themselves is that they are wrong.  That there is an invisible line drawn across the universe that they cannot cross, and that wanting to do so means there is something wrong with them.  People grow up with an internalised fear that they may step over the invisible line and reveal to others all along that they never cared about barbies or action men.  Adults have to learn that they are allowed to be themselves.  A lot of time and effort has to be spent learning that the great pink vs blue debate doesn’t matter.  But not everyone catches up to this idea.  A man wearing a pink shirt will still be mocked by some, his sexual identity called into question as if homosexuality is some great insult.

This obviously ties in with how doctors can withhold treatment from trans folks if they don’t seem to readily fit the binary construct.

“If you want to have gender reassignment surgery, you will usually first need to live in your preferred gender identity full time for at least a year. This is known as “social gender role transition” (previously known as “real life experience” or “RLE”) and it will help in confirming whether permanent surgery is the right option.”

What does it mean to live as a woman or to live as a man?  What qualifies you?  Even in the quest to be happy with yourself and your gender presentation, you have to jump through gender binary hoops.  You still have to perform gender, just a different one.  This is fine if you are happiest as one of the two gender options above, but what if you’re a trans woman who loves monster trucks or a trans man who loves to knit?  Monster trucks and knitting are both awesome.  Who decided that they have anything to do with gender?

Trans and gender queer people are told with alarming regularity that they are incorrect about themselves, going through a phase, and confused.  How is it anyone’s business where you fall on the gender spectrum?  Why does the existence of people who don’t want to conform to the gender binary threaten those who do?  And so what if it is a phase?  What’s so bad about phases?  Why can’t we play with gender identity?  If I want to be a boy tomorrow and a girl the day after, who am I actually hurting?  If I don’t want to be either, why is that a problem for anyone?