the body and getting a hand

It’s been a while since I’ve done a life update, so I think I’ll give it a go.

Right now I’ve just started with a new counselor who specializes in body issues and also knows a lot about gender. I think I really need it because my body image is so much in flux and I just can’t put my finger on what I need to do next.

I am often extremely upset about my weight and feel stuck in a holding pattern, wanting to lose weight but also knowing diets don’t work, wanting to treat my body with respect but paralyzed by an inability to know what that means.

Why is thinking about my body so emotional? How can this have such a huge hold on my life? I feel so sad to think of all the time I spend being jerked around by my brain while my body suffers mostly silently. It’s the perfect time for a counselor because I know that I simply cannot answer these questions myself. I have tried many, many times and never progressed. It’s a frustrating cycle that I just can’t maintain.

I’m tired of feeling held back by my beliefs about my body. I miss doing things I like because I’m afraid to find out I’m not as good at them as I once was. These body image issues are sucking the joy out of my life.

So this is where I’m at. Hopefully I’ll keep blogging through this journey and have some success in accepting myself.

the body and the shopping trip

Recently my wife and I went on a shopping trip to get clothes. We went to the mall (cue ominous music and thunder). I have very low tolerance for shopping for anything, and shopping for clothes is has an especially unique way of getting under my skin.

I know I may not have the average desires when it comes to style, but I know for a fact that I am not the only AFAB fat person who wants to present as masc to androgynous and doesn’t have the time nor sewing skills to tailor every article of clothing I own. This trip was especially difficult because I was shopping for spring clothing. Wearing layers often helps create more of the illusion I’m looking for in terms of making my hips and bust less prominent. When it gets hot, layers aren’t really practical and I often end up settling for extremely casual pieces (aka men’s t-shirts) or slightly more masculine-cut women’s clothes (aka cotton button-ups).

I did a lot of mental preparing for this trip, telling myself that I would find some pieces that were okay and that would be fine. That’s essentially what happened. I’m not thrilled with what I got, but it’s close enough for what I can afford right now. One day, I hope I’ll be able to add tailoring to my budget and feel more comfortable in my clothes.

I did also order a bunch of “husky” sized boys clothes from Old Navy online. As I’ve mentioned before, if I could dress like a 10-year-old boy always, I’d be very happy. I got size Husky 18 (XXL). Boys clothes often fit me quite well in terms of length because I’m super short (5’2″), but I run into the usual problem you’d expect from clothes made for male shapes–no room for hips or bust. My arms are also big, so fit around the arms and shoulders can really make or break an article of clothing for me.

Fortunately, the Old Navy boys section did me well. I got a few shirts that fit really nicely, that are on the casual side but OK if I layer them up with a vest or cardigan for work. I also got one really cute button up that does work with my body. Another of the button ups I tried fit pretty well but didn’t sit right once it got to my hips, so that’s one for the return pile. Still four out of five is a pretty good sign and now I have some staples to tide me over for the summer.

 

 

the body and the parking lot confrontation

[CW: anti-queer slurs, harassment]

I feel I have to write about an incident that recently happened to me and my wife. I’m writing about this in part because it was a very upsetting moment that I need to process and in part because it cements for me the fact that no matter where you are, even in incredibly welcoming and accepting Seattle, there’s bigotry and assholery.

My wife and I were in the grocery store. There was a guy behind us who was pissed because he only had a few things and we had a full cart of groceries. Instead of asking if he could go in front of us, he just got huffy and increasingly annoyed. Then, out of nowhere, he called me a stupid bitch. I was not going to just let that slide, so I asked him why he said that, and told him if he was going to be an asshole he could get into a different line.

Fortunately, the cashier intervened and told the guy to chill out or get out. We finished checking out without incident and left the grocery store, but this guy was right behind us. Once my wife and I got to the parking lot he just started shouting slurs at me in particular. I said nothing, because this interaction was clearly not worth my time nor was it worth escalating, so he shouted “Listen to me, you dyke witch!” We chose to leave him there without engaging. We got in the car and drove away.

This experience was incredibly scary. I was afraid this person was going to physically attack me and my wife. I was shaken and upset. I felt self-conscious and kept running over and over again in my mind how I could have avoided the situation.

But I’m glad I said something to him when he first called me a name. I’m glad I had my wife with me to support me and to hold my hand. I’m glad I didn’t engage him more than once because clearly there was no reasoning with this person. In the end, it was a totally absurd situation.

Really what is the most frustrating about this is that misogyny and homophobia are still the low-hanging fruit of insults. People pluck them with ease and toss them at you like they are obvious and horribly wounding. The most wounding thing is not the words (honestly, in a different context “dyke witch” sounds pretty awesome), but the fact that they were hurled with such painful intent. Even in welcoming and accepting Seattle, people know that they can hurt you by pointing out that you’re not straight and that you’re not a cis man. It’s painful to recognize.

Here’s to standing up for ourselves, being public about who we are when we are safe to do so, and recognizing when a fight is not worth the time.

the body and the wedding

Right now, I’m planning a wedding, and it’s super exciting but also rife with weird moments. Like, did you know it’s basically impossible to get a tailored, masculine-looking suit as a fat woman? Did you know that essentially every wedding planning site and book suggests a weight loss or training plan, especially for the bride? Did you know that traditions are so full of heteronormativity and fatphobia that it’s impossible to avoid, even when you think you’ve found someone understanding? I didn’t know before, but now I sure do.

I’m so excited to have a wedding with my wife. Yes, we are already married. When the US election went the way it did last year, we immediately decided to just go ahead and get legally married. We’d been engaged for 8 months by then anyway, so it wasn’t a sudden thing. Still, the election, plus me really needing better health insurance thanks to my injury, plus us really needing legal rights to each other for family reasons were factors in making us just go for the courthouse wedding. And it was lovely. My parents were there and my brother Skyped in. We wore matching bright orange converse and, as true lesbians, our dog was part of the ceremony. Here we are exchanging rings:

laura puts wedding ring on ilana while casey watches

So cute, so in love!

Still we really wanted to have a bigger wedding. Having friends and family affirm our marriage is really important to me because we need and want the support of our community as we grow our relationship. So we’re planning a wedding for next year.

Now, I love planning events. It such a satisfying thing to me to coordinate a bunch of things and have them all come together. But I’ve never planned anything as elaborate, as steeped in expectation, and as high-pressure as a wedding. This is the ultimate challenge.

Having a queer wedding is freeing in many ways because there’s not a lot of a tradition to uphold. Still, it’s frustrating when doing research to only see straight, white (mostly thin) couples in the stock photos. Queer websites often cater to gay men or femme lesbians who they assume are taking on the traditional role of planning a wedding. In our case, we’re both pretty androgynous to masc, and neither of us is interested in a fancy, large wedding. We just want people there to lend their support and love to what we think is a beautiful and lasting companionship.

We’re making it work in our own way, putting our priorities ahead of others’ expectations, and knowing at the end of the day what matters is our love.

 

the body and my queerness

This is a big topic and I’m sure I’ll write about it many times over the tenure of this blog. Right now I want to start with the basics. I identify as a lesbian and I identify as GNC (gender non-conforming). Sexual orientation and gender identity are not the same thing, but I think I should talk about both in this post because both have influenced how I feel about my body.

My sexual orientation has a more subtle influence on how I perceive my body. These days, I am constantly wondering if I look “lesbian” enough. When I was growing up, I wanted to look straight because I was afraid of being gay. I wasn’t sure of my sexuality. I thought I was straight, but I also wished that I “could be” gay because I had a crush on my best (female) friend and I wanted to tell her, but I knew I was straight so the crush didn’t mean anything. It was complicated. Looking back, it’s fairly obvious that I was a terrified, closeted queer kid, but in the moment it was just scary to not know what I wanted and how to show that with my body.

At the same time I was wishing I was gay, I was trying my best to lean into what I thought of as straight femininity. I hated shaving my legs and sucked at putting on make-up and felt so uncomfortable in dresses, but I really tried. I thought I was just terrible at being a girl. And in a way I was, because I was pretending to be a certain type of girl that I wasn’t.

My ideal gender presentation is basically the style of a ten-year-old boy. It’s funny, but it’s also really true. If I could wear little button ups and straight leg khakis and hoodies and t-shirts with dinosaurs on them every day I would. I want to dress and be perceived as somewhere in between feminine and masculine, but definitely more towards the masc side.

There’s the rub, though. I have a very curvy, feminine body. I have big hips that no amount of low-slung straight-leg pant can hide. I have a curvy tummy and hold my fat like a woman holds her fat. I have a round, soft face. No matter what button ups and binders I try, people are going to instantly see “woman.” Which in itself wouldn’t bother me that much, but add on to that the extra layer of difficulty of finding gender-neutral or masc leaning clothes that fit a fat woman-shaped person, and it leads to many tears (at least in my case). I have a vision for how I want to dress my body, and it seems like so few people in the world are providing it.

Still, now that I know what I want, I don’t have to feel as awkward in my body when I walk down the street. Clothes I want are hard to find, but not impossible. I no longer just hide in hoodies and big jeans. I no longer hide behind my long hair. I’m starting to claim my identity and settle into my most comfortable style.

the body and the beginning

Welcome to my first blog entry! I’m not sure exactly how I want to start this, so I’m just going to jump in.

I’m starting this blog because I have a lot of thoughts all pushing around in my head for attention, and I’ve found writing them down has been helpful in the past. I’m starting it because I want to learn about myself and the ways how I think and feel about my body affect my life. I’m starting it because I’m tired of feeling turned around and confused in my own head. I’m starting it because I hope I can build a community that supports me as I explore my experience.

My plan is to have this be a multi-faceted blog. Topics I want to include are:

  • fat acceptance, body positivity, Health At Every Size (HAES), and my body
  • my health, exercise, foods, meds, and my body
  • queerness, gender, my gender expression, and my body
  • photos of me, the way I am, in my body right now
  • anything and everything about what I’m thinking about my body

You can see why I called this blog “The Body.” Recently, I’ve begun to think about my body constantly. In October 2016, I was hit by a car while riding my bike. I got incredibly lucky in that my injuries were limited, mainly to my left knee. It still wasn’t great: I tore my MCL fully, tore my PCL partially, tore my meniscus partially, and had fractures in my fibula and femur. Basically, it was out of commission. I was fortunate enough to be able to avoid surgery, but otherwise I am on the long journey to regaining a fully functioning body part.

Before the accident, I biked to work every day, ran about once a week, and worked out another two or three days. I’ve completed four Tough Mudders, run two 5ks, and lifted weights heavier than my body. But my reality now is much different. Part of what I’m exploring here is how to come to terms with having to redefine the movement that is possible in my life, right now. I’m tired of saying to myself: “When my knee is better, I’ll be able to do that.” What about right now?

Another thing I’m really interested in exploring is how I take care of my body. Since my injury, I haven’t wanted to think about my body, or think about caring for it, or think about the long term. Part of that is movement, another part of that is what I eat and why. Another part is how I care for my mental health. I want to figure out how I can better commit myself to taking care of myself, rather than waiting until “I’m better.” What about right now?

I’m a huge proponent of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), because it literally saved my life. One of the first things you learn in DBT is to reduce your vulnerability to out-of-control emotions by using your “PLEASE skills.” PLEASE stands for

  • treat Physical iLlness
  • balance Eating
  • avoid mood Altering drugs
  • balance Sleep
  • get Exercise

Okay, so it’s a bit of a stretch in terms of an acronym, but you get the point. These are incredibly important for life. I think this is where my main focus should be for now, since I could improve on so many.

Anyway, you see where I’m starting now. From a place of a lot of thoughts but not yet a ton of action. From a place of wanting to think about my body and behaviors in a new way. I hope you’ll join me on this journey.