[ brief mention of intentional weight loss]
When other people tell me they’re trans and/or non-binary¹, it doesn’t occur to me to question them.
I am so honored you came out to me! Let me know what I can do to help you. Would you like moral support and/or bargain tips for your new aesthetic? Should I correct other people’s misgendering yet? I am so happy for you, friend!
My own path towards accepting that I am not cis has been far less…. accepting.
When I searched myself and found that I was definitely not a girl, my knee-jerk response was to tell myself that it couldn’t be that I was not a girl. I had never felt strongly about being a girl, but it wasn’t like I felt strongly that I was a man, either. So what could I be? I defaulted to girl and woman because that’s all I knew was available as an option.
I thought maybe the rigid sexism that told me that I was not woman enough was the problem. Deconstructing gender roles and becoming that most reviled of internet creatures, the feminist, didn’t relieve me of the not-a-girl feeling.
Through that feminism, I found out that being neither a man nor a woman was an option. At the same time, that option seemed very much out of my reach as a fat brown person, since the popular conception of androgyny means being angular, tall, thin, and more often than not white. Dieting wouldn’t save me, since every time I dieted hardcore and lost weight, I ended up looking more traditionally feminine, all va-va-voom curvaceous, rather than stick-like. It didn’t occur to me to disrupt the white supremacy and fat-hate built into this gender-disruptive concept I encountered. I dismissed living outside the binary as yet another thing that wasn’t for people like me and moved on, finding other things to blame for my gender feelings.
Intersectional theory and the writings of many excellent black women had me consider the racism behind the idea that someone like me couldn’t be a girl. So what if my dark fat hairy ass wasn’t the dainty hairless pretty that I was told girls should be? I could still be a girl! I stopped shaving and started talking about how I used to pluck my toe hairs (this is even more painful than it sounds) as a Feminist Pain Sharing Story. Being hairy felt good. Affirming, even, especially when I wore red lipstick and earrings and dresses with it. But I still didn’t feel like a woman, femininity and all.
Embracing femininity yet not finding a woman in me also disproved the idea that my gender feelings were internalized misogyny telling me to revile the feminine. Going femme (and hard, since I do little half-heartedly), while fun as all hell, didn’t help me to feel more like a woman. Indeed, it alienated me further from womanhood in ways I’ve not fully unpacked yet. I finally accepted that I must be non-binary, but insisted that I didn’t need to change anything about myself. I was a non-binary femme and not quiet about it… except at work and with family. Even among friends who knew who I was, my femme appearance led to a lot of feminine gendering.
I stopped being femme after gaining weight, though not because I thought a femme couldn’t be fatter than I was before.
Being an SJW doesn’t magically cure you of plain old internalized fatphobic body hate. While I was fat positive in theory, I was still dieting and loathing myself. That led me to the next way to dismiss my gender feelings. I told myself that I didn’t feel comfortable or at home in my body because I was told my entire life that my body was wrong and needed to be changed. I was only partially right. Months of helpful (and expensive) intuitive eating coaching later, and I was mostly over my fatphobia and diet cultural brainwashing… yet I still felt like not a woman and like I maybe wanted to change my body in certain ways.
I started by changing my appearance. I needed new clothes anyway and knew how to shop frugally. Within a few months, I had a wardrobe obtained mostly from the men’s department. It felt good.
I knew all along that I had some unresolved mental health issues. I thought seeing a psychiatrist plus a therapist and getting helpful meds might fix the gender feelings. It didn’t. Seriously confronting the mountains of unresolved trauma from my childhood did not disappear my discomfort with the way I was perceived by and moving through the world gender-wise.
It finally occurred to me that I had spent my entire adult life dealing with real issues that cis people also have in order to accept that I am not cis. While all my non-gender issues were real and worth tackling, they didn’t make me any less trans. I would not stop being trans even if I reached some perfect level of serenity, health, and wellness.
Not being perfectly ordered, and in fact still being somewhat disordered, is okay. We don’t stop cis people from doing all kinds of drastic and permanent things, medical and/or gender-related or not, because they aren’t perfect. In 2019, after years of actively trying to deal with my gender feelings in every way but the obvious one, I finally let my imperfect self go in for gender transition-related care. The surrounding gender euphoria is so, so real.
I’m perfectly okay with the fact that I wasn’t born this way. I struggled through an intensive process of elimination to be this way, and I look forward to discovering more about myself along the way. I don’t think I’m more or less valid for getting here the way I did. I just wish I had known that so, so many of the things that give me joy now were in fact an option for me all along.
1) There are some who say that anyone who is not cis is trans. There are others who reject the cis/trans binary in addition to the male/female gender binary. It’s not my place to tell people what and who they are so I have accounted for both perspectives in my wording.