I was an overweight child. I was short and didn’t fit in clothes for my height. Everything had to be shortened. I popped buttons, busted seams, and split zippers. I could not be contained by my clothes. My mother took me shopping in the chubby department (now called girls plus). I didn’t mind being a butterball, but I wanted to shop in the boy’s husky section.
I was rough on clothes. Especially girl’s clothes. In first grade I had a dress that was navy blue “dotted swiss” with red smocking across the chest. I detested it. I accidentally dropped hot dogs on it and spilled grape juice on it. I pulled at the smocking to snap it or stretch it out of shape. I told my mother I was clumsy. I could not outgrow that dress fast enough.
I was teased at school for being fat. And for being a cry-baby. In my school pictures I don’t look obese, just pudgy. I stopped crying, but I could not stop eating. The girls kept teasing.
I liked to eat. I had an insatiable desire to eat. I supplied myself with food by using my allowance and stealing small amounts of money from my parents. On my way to school, after breakfast, I’d go to Craig’s Bakery and buy a corn muffin. On my way home, I’d stop at Ess-A-Bagel, or at Ralph’s Pizzeria. On bad days I’d buy two bagels, and eat them before dinner.
Some kids starve themselves to keep their breasts from growing and prevent menstruation. I was a kid who ate to suppress my feelings and to hide my body. I didn’t want to be a girl and I didn’t know what to do about it, except eat and wear boy’s clothing. I also had an active fantasy life.
I confused anxiety with hunger; I ate to quiet my anxiety. It is only recently that I learned to tell the difference. I numbed myself with food and then I numbed myself with alcohol. When I first let myself feel the pain of not being able to be a boy it was almost unbearable. Now I can live with it. I’m no longer numb.
I am also no longer fat. My BMI is now within the “normal” range for my height (5’4). I am learning (via Weight Watchers) how to feed myself. What combination of food, chocolate, wine, and working out allows me to maintain a weight that I will be comfortable at. It is embarrassing to admit that I had no idea what physical hunger felt like or how to satisfy it. I am gradually untangling eating and drinking from being butch and transgender.
Losing weight will not transform me into a boy anymore than gaining weight did. It will not alleviate my dysphoria. It will not make my breasts disappear (I notice them more). Nothing I do can fix the past. Nothing can erase the pain. There is also no point in lugging the weight around with me, just to prove I suffered. The weight has outlived its purpose. I carried it for a long time. I don’t need to hide.
The title of this post comes from the Beatles song “Golden Slumbers” – you can hear it here. In fantasy my name was Paul, after the Paul McCartney of The Beatles, circa 1964. My brother is named Jon, so I thought it would be a good match. It wasn’t until after I legally changed my name to Jamie that I realized I had chosen exactly the same initials as my brother – Jon Robert and Jamie Ray.
I share (and have shared) many of these same feelings around food. I’m forcefully removing weight for the second time in my life. I’m not losing anything. I’m gaining a lot. Thank you for giving me something to connect with during a trying time.
I’ve had two previous “big” weight losses, but I did not deal with the psychological need for the weight or why I was eating or what was an appropriate amount to eat to satisfy physical hunger. I am hoping that separating my gender stuff (emotional hunger) from the physical need to eat I will find a weight that is comfortable for me (regardless of what the scale says). Good luck on your process.
I’ve also connected weight with gender stuff a lot. I actually started losing the weight when I was on testosterone because I wanted to work out as much as possible before my top surgery and the T gave me tons of energy and let me build muscle mass easier. It’s continued to go down after stopping T and radically changing the way I eat (mainly only meat, veggies, fruit, & nuts – no legumes, dairy, or anything processed). Ironically, I think I have more of a “girl shape” now that I’ve lost most of the weight, but still have some fat around my love handles (which was also formerly held in by my compression shirt when I was binding). It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if I had facial hair or some other obviously male secondary sex characteristic, but it’s frustrating sometimes that both fatter folks and super skinny folks can “pass” better than the “average” estrogen-based individual in many cases.
The socially acceptable weight/size range for men is way wider than for women – for women it is just slim, thin, and non-existent thin. I am far from slim right now, but my shape is definitely less androgynous than it was 25 pounds heavier (and there is nothing to camouflage my chest), and it looks/feels more sexualized too. I don’t think men’s sexuality is so tied to their weight (excluding morbid obesity). On the other hand, men’s clothing fits me better now that my hips/butt are smaller, which is good.
I try to worry more about how my gender expression looks to me – what I see in the mirror (when I can look at it) than how I am read. I fully accept that I would have to take T in order to do more than a semi-frequent “over the counter” form of passing. It is a disappointment but not enough to make me want to do it.
Jamie I’m much heavier now than I’ve ever been and I have recently wondered if I’m trying to compensate for my gender issues as well. I found this very interesting.
Thanks for commenting and stopping by. There is a lot of literature out there on women using food to suppress their feelings, but it is all heteronormative and cisgender oriented. I have found Susie Orbach’s books and Geneen Roth’s books personally useful in terms of understanding how out of touch my eating got with physical hunger – but there is no mention of lesbian issues in these books, much less transmasculine experience.
Reading this blog is often like reading someone else express my own thoughts. Thank you thank you thank you. I too have dabbled in weight watchers by proxy (close family members follow so I do too). I’m fascinated by that group and love reading your insights since you are not their target audience (not am I).
I have joked with Donna that I write for a very small niche audience (about a dozen people like me) so welcome to the club. I have a larger general queer/trans readership, but not too many people who fall kind of in the middle.
WW had been very helpful to me, but I do feel like the bull in a china shop at meetings. The literature and presentations are super-straight.