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.