No, I lost my breasts. Except that I can’t really say that. I can’t easily explain, to someone who barely knows me, that I did lose weight, but they are probably noticing that I had top surgery (in December 2014) and then I went out and bought clothes that fit me. I lost some weight, but mostly I lost my shame. Not all of it, but a healthy chunk.
My dentist was the most recent person to ask me “You look great, did you lose weight?” He is a middle-aged straight white guy. He looks like he is in good shape. I imagine he has an easy life, but all I know about him is that he lives in the suburbs and took over the dental practice when his father retired. We mostly discuss my teeth. He is big on flossing.
He told me to “keep on doing whatever it is you are doing” and I was tempted to explain just what it is that I’m doing. He was picking up on something, but it eluded him. My transition is only visible if you know what you are looking for.
The gracious thing to say is “Thank you, I feel great.” and move on, but I hate when people bring up my weight. His statement implied that I used to look overweight, uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfashionable (true on all counts). He might have meant to pay me a compliment, but instead he fat shamed me. I don’t want it to be all about the weight.
For fifty years I put up with all kinds of fat shaming. Most of it from my mother. All of it unsolicited. From the “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight” to “I’m only concerned about your health” to “You’ll never lose weight if you eat so much bread.” Shame is not a good motivator. I didn’t do anything about my weight for years. I didn’t want to diet and I didn’t want to be pretty. I just wanted the problem to go away and for everyone else to shut up about it already.
If I look “great”, it is because I lost the weight of all that shame. It took me a long time to realize that weight wasn’t my problem, it was my solution to not wanting to be a girl. It was there for a reason. For me, shame and overeating go together.
I’ve come across many “tips for trans men” – mostly young guys giving advice to other young guys. The top three tips are to lose weight and lower your body fat percentage (eliminate curves), work out (to build up your back, chest, and shoulder muscles), and wear mens/boys clothes that fit (don’t wear baggy clothes). These tips did not work for me until I accepted the limitations of my body, got top surgery, and exorcised my shame.
Slowly, my envy of other trans bodies has faded. I’m solid instead of lanky. I’m not willing to put in the effort to get lean and buff. I have the body of a short middle-aged transgender butch who goes to the gym intermittently and is not (yet?) on testosterone. I could do better, but I no longer feel compelled to compare my body to everyone else’s. Trans or cis.
The pictures that I chose for this post illustrate dangerous (tobacco) and harmless (belly trimming) weight loss regimens from the 1930’s. I am curious whether fifty years from now everything I am doing will look as ridiculous.
Notes: This is a good article on fat shaming and fatphobia, from xojane. Although it is not specific to the LGBT community, it is relevant to anyone who has dysphoria. This article, “19 Men Go Shirtless And Share Their Body Image Struggles” should be titled “19 Cisgender Men…” but is otherwise very interesting. Lastly, I found a sweet site on Tumblr called chubbytubbytrans, which needs no further description.