[content: abusive relationship] reclaiming my body through my trans* identity
Note from Stacey: yeah so this was meant to go in the bodies issue of the zine but I’m hella unorganised so I screwed that up. But Zula’s submission is something you should read so here it is anyway.
The first “serious” relationship I ever had happened when I was a sophomore in high school. I was sixteen years old. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would also be my first encounter with an abusive relationship.
My ex-boyfriend had a huge influence on my body image. I’m a tiny person. My arms and legs are really skinny, and my friends love to tease me when I can’t open a bottle or jar. I don’t really care about this, though. It’s not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. What little weight I gain all goes to my stomach. When I sit down, it hangs over my pants a little. I spend a lot of time thinking about this. My ex-boyfriend told me he wanted me to start working out and get rid of my little belly. “We could do it together!” he told me. So I went out and bought a pair of $70 running shoes. He said I would need them. I didn’t. Those shoes still sit in my closet. Instead of going out for a morning jog like we had originally planned, he convinced me there were other ways I could lose weight. “Funner” ways. Ways that involved me not needing to leave bed. Catch my drift? He would somehow make everything a way to have sex. But all this talk of working out and losing weight was all for me, he assured me. People would find me more attractive if I did this! HE would think I was hotter! It was all for me, all for me, all for me….
The shaving was all for me, too. Almost every day, I would take a razor and shave my legs, armpits, and vulva. My ex didn’t like feeling stubble during sex. He would stop and tell me he could feel it. I apologized every time. It didn’t matter that this caused me to get razor burn and ingrown hairs. That shaving my armpits made them ache for some reason (I still don’t know why that happened maybe I should look into it). I had to be perfect for him. So I shaved. And I wore push-up bras. And I would wear certain items of clothing if he told me he wanted me to. I couldn’t “overdo” my makeup because he hated that. He even told me how much affection I should show him in public. He told me I shouldn’t get a tattoo on my back because “Think of how that would look in a wedding dress.” The perfect picture of femininity. All for me, all for me, all for me….
I spent five months with my ex-boyfriend. It sounds like a short amount of time, but it was enough to wreck my self-esteem. I thought I wasn’t good enough. That my efforts to be what he wanted me to be fell too short and that it was my fault he dumped me. That because of my imperfect body he left me to find someone who had what I lacked. I cried and I moped. Then, a small light of hope! He wanted to see me again! Naïvely, I thought that maybe if I just tried hard enough he would take me back and everything would be fine. But no. I was just good for sex. I cried again and told myself that would be the last time.
In my junior year of high school, I dropped out and went on an independent study program. By this time, I had fallen into a deep depression, and I had to go on alternative education because of excessive absences and bad grades. Now equipped with a lot of free time and an internet connection, I found myself spending hours online. During this time, I started using Tumblr. On Tumblr I found a large trans* and queer community. I spent so much time reading and learning. Finding more blogs on and off the site. Reading article upon article. And then there it was. One little word that changed my life. Bigender. This was the word that described me perfectly, but I was hesitant to use it at first. I experimented with binding and packing and using makeup to make my eyebrows look thicker. I hid my hair under hats and tried to lower my voice. I still wasn’t happy with myself.
Then I found another word. Femme. And I was ecstatic. I didn’t have to hide my hair and I didn’t have to not wear makeup and I didn’t have to (badly) try to hide my curves with loose clothes and layers. Femme means something different for everybody, but for me it gave me comfort with my trans* identity. And through my trans* identity I found comfort with my body. I don’t have to shave. I don’t have to wear uncomfortable bras that push up breasts I don’t even want. Finding femme and finding bigender gave me back my control. Gave me a way to present myself the way I wanted, instead of the way I expected people to want me to. I felt like I had autonomy again. There’s a sense of security I get when I tell someone about this part of myself. Like I don’t need someone telling me how I should look and behave and hold myself because I don’t need validation through another person’s perception of me.
After finding and accepting my trans* self, I don’t feel like I’m performing a certain kind femininity anymore. I’m comfortable with any amount of makeup, as a boy or a girl. I don’t hate the stretch marks on my hips that I once thought made me unattractive and invalidated my boyness (I like to tell myself they’re guidelines for someone’s fingers because being touched there is awesome). My little belly doesn’t hurt anyone. I cut my hair short because I like the way it looks. I plan on getting top surgery. I want to start working out my arms because okay, maybe not being able to open stuff gets to me a little. How am I going to open jars when I am living alone and I want to make a sandwich? I’m going to get a back tattoo because fuck tattoos being “unladylike”. If I do anything to my body, it won’t be for a current partner or to please a future one. It’s all for me.
Oh look, our talented and brave co-mod wrote this!