Category Archives: Body

Back fat remix

(Because there was more to say about my sixteen year old body, apparently. Whatever, I ain’t questioning the muse.)

When I was sixteenish, I lost a significant amount of weight. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I didn’t notice until a classmate made a big to-do about telling me to turn to the side and then proclaiming “Ah! Where’s Arwyn? It’s like she disappeared!” (I did not thank him.) I weighed somewhere in the vicinity of 100lb less than I do now (I don’t know my current weight, and only vaguely knew it then). I’m supposed to pine for that weight, that body, because I was sixteen and svelte and sexy, or something.

Except I was also getting migraines multiple times per week.

Except I was still “too fat”, still mocked and attacked in the halls, still told by my entire culture I was ugly and lazy and unfit merely by existing.

Except I was so anemic I couldn’t walk a mile, much less run it, not because I was “out of shape” but because my muscles were suffocating, demanding oxygen I couldn’t give to them because my red blood cells were too small or nonexistent.

Except I lost that weight by accidentally not eating, by having nothing but three giant Mountain Dews at school (thanks defunding of public schools, for making overpriced undernourishing vending machines the only way for our district to buy textbooks), near passing out in Drama after classes, eating whatever I could find as soon as I got home, barely eating at dinner an hour later because I was still stuffed (my stomach too-small from nearly 24 hours with nothing but liquids), and doing it all again the next day.

And this is the body I’m supposed to be nostalgic for, am supposed to think was “better” than the fatter, flappier, floppier, fitter one I have now? This is the body people call “healthier” just because it had less mass?

I have more pains now, and less energy, it’s true. But that’s aging (and an old roller coaster injury and endless parenting) doing its work on me, and is to some extent inevitable. I also have more skills, and fewer mood swings. Less anemia, and a broader palate. Two children, and an amazing lifemate. Fewer hang-ups, and more orgasms. More strength, and less fear of asking for help. Less self-hatred, and more compassion for that small, hurting, hurtful voice inside that calls me ugly. I have hands that soothe and heal, legs that take me wherever I ask them to, arms that carry my children no matter how big they get, a brain that’s clever and mostly kind, and scars from skin that’s stretched to protect me when I felt I would burst from the crazy, when my meds fucked me up, when I made two babies, when I fed two children, when I learned to run, when I relearned to walk, when I lived and lived and lived.

My body was never “perfect”, never acceptable by my society’s standards. My breasts grew in pointing down, my skin scarred silver stripes just from becoming a teen, and I have always, always been called fat in one form or another. I learned so early I had a choice of how to feel, give in to labels of “freak” and attack myself, or say “fuck you” to the entire flawed and too often fatal system. The idea we have to love our bodies, no matter the pain or difficulties they come with, is as oppressive as the one that says we can’t because we are “imperfect” for whatever of ten thousand supposed reasons, but we can, we CAN, if we choose, if we want — and for me, for fat and finally healing me, it feels revolutionary.

And even better, it feels fabulous.

Flappy arms and back folds and I don’t mind

Why would I buy the lie I could look like I did at 16 when I’m 30? Like I do at 30 when I’m 50?

Bodies change. I have carried two babies, breastfed two children, gone crazy and come back, gone to hell and physical therapy, burned, birthed, loved, lived, changed how I ate and moved and carried myself through it all. I will never look the way I did at 16 (hot) again; I will no longer look the way I do now at 30 (hot) in ten years, twenty (probably still hot, but maybe I won’t care anymore).

There was nothing I did then that I could replicate now to have the body I did at 16; I was, simply, 16. I could do what I did then, stay up all night and sleep in and not eat until dinner and have sex five times in a day and flirt and flirt and fight and flirt and I still won’t look like me then, not even if, for a short time, I weigh like me then. Like a teenager. Like someone who doesn’t know better, hasn’t learned better, doesn’t care for herself better.

And that’s fine. It’s fine. It’s all fine, and it will be fine, and I have no obligation (though every permission) to love or even tolerate any part of me, but I find little point in believing the delusion I can be as I was, either.

Maybe you see that as fatalist, defeatist. I see it as radical acceptance, of who I am, how I am, when I am. I could waste my energy trying to be who I am not anymore, I could. Or — what a miraculous word — I could be who I am now, fully and freely, spend my energy figuring that out, fleshing out the possibilities of me-now.

I choose me.

Postpartum periods

I’m on vacation with my family, both the one I was born into and the one I birthed, and I am bleeding. Vulva Baby is ten months; with the Boychick I had fourteen, a difference that might not seem hugely significant until faced directly with that half-year difference. I have with me one menstrual sponge — “just in case”, proving either precognition or paranoia — and not so much as a preemie cloth diaper else. I am surviving on simple tasks and stolen Tylenol.

So regale me please, in these my days of need, with tales of YOUR first postpartum periods. How quickly did your menstrual cycle return? Were you expecting it or were you surprised — pleasantly or otherwise? Were you across the continent from your pads and place and pieces of comfort? Did it return and bring with it body dysphoria? Do you long for the perfection of uterine transplants so you can discover their joy (or not) for yourself?

Tell me your stories, that I can curl around them like a too-hot rice pack, soothing and slightly too much at once, and so be comforted.

Dear RMB

Dear Raising My Boychick,

I’ve been cheating on you.

It’s not you, though, it’s me, really. I’m too tired, too time poor, too unable to write long pieces in short bursts in the five minutes at a time I have most days.

(OK, it’s a little bit you, too: you’re just too good. I’ve built you up over the years into something beautiful — if I may say so — something hard to live up to, and some days hard to live with.)

So I started playing around. Just a bit, at first, just for fun, very nearly on a dare, almost just to see what would happen. And, well, I didn’t mean it to, but things got a little serious.

Not a lot, though. One of the things I love about this, let’s say “side project”, is I don’t have to be too serious. There are a lot of quickies.

And, not that I don’t still love you, but this “side project” really gets me, and doesn’t mind that my interests are a bit different, what with the baby around. I keep wanting to talk about food, and you, well, you’ve never given me the feeling that’s something you’re into. Sure, I can bring it up every once in a while, and you’ll let me natter on, but, I get the feeling that you’re sitting there thinking “I hope she doesn’t expect me to be like one of those blogs.”

I don’t want to leave you, though! You’re still my first love, my one true blog, but I hardly have time to sit down with you these days, and, don’t hate me, but your phone interface is… a little clunky. I’d rather just sit and think by myself than bother, sorry to say.

I really think that if you’ll spend some time with the “side project”, you’ll see how much you have in common, really, and how you two can fit together in my life. We all care about gender and social justice, about bodies and parenting, about finding our way out of kyriarchy. You and I, we’re just about all that through the lens of raising the kids, of surviving as a queer fat crazy woman with children. So let’s keep doing that.

But I’ll also be spending time thinking and talking and caring about food and surviving in a rather more daily-need sort of way with Feeding My Boychick. She’s made me so happy in our brief time together.

I hope you’ll forgive me, and that we can grow stronger together through this. I’m sure when we get a chance to sit down and think it through, we can figure out how all three of us can live together in joy.

Your blogger,
Arwyn

Connective Tissue

I am honored to present Connective Tissue, about Samson’s experience with unexplained lactation. Samson is a genderqueer, transgender androgyne living in the southeastern US. They are an educator, a communication junkie and a lover of many languages, programming and music included. They blog at the Felt Fedora and tweet at @feltfedora.

Connective Tissue

(This post references my hormones and my history with medical professionals’ reactions to them. If you need more context, this previous post will help.)

I had nightmares last night. They were confusing, fluid, and at times nonsensical, the way my nightmares tend to be, and in an odd narrative spiral, so that each event is continually revisited, never completely allowed to rest.

In the lulls between, though, my nightmares gave me an odd gift. I dreamed I was nursing a child.

It was lactation that finally pushed me to find a trans*-friendly doctor. I went off of birth control last year, back to the hormones my body produces on its own. (I have noncongenital adrenal hyperplasia, so I have higher-than-”normal” levels of androgens, although this was still undiagnosed at the time.) I expected the boat to rock plenty as my body readjusted; I was expecting facial hair growth and irregular and painful cycles, the same as I had before birth control, and I got that. As a bonus, my voice also dropped. I was not, however, expecting to lactate.

I thought my hormones would be swinging toward androgen-heavy, so I couldn’t figure out how that would make me lactate. Was the cause, instead, the fact that I was regularly binding on weekdays? Was it a temporary effect of withdrawal from birth control? Was I sick–did I have cancer?

I recognized that I needed to see a doctor about this, and about my hormones in general, something I was dreading after the experience that left me on birth control in the first place. I knew I needed a trans*-friendly doctor. It was mostly a matter of practicality: I thought it could be binding that was making me lactate, and I needed a doctor who wouldn’t have a knee-jerk reaction of, “Stop binding. Problem solved (and even if it isn’t, you shouldn’t be doing that anyway).”

So I set out to find a trans*-friendly doctor. I found one. And when I brought up binding, he flinched a moment, but continued calmly as if it were nothing out of the ordinary.

“That kind of compression wouldn’t be causing it,” he said, and simply went on.

Over the next several months, I went through a battery of blood tests. Samples and smears. Manual exams. And this all just for the lactation–none of the other hormonal issues being diagnosed. The whole thing was highly pathologized–not that I can blame anyone. I was (and am) a trans person, never pregnant in my life, possibly infertile, no partner to stimulate lactation. What could it be but disease?

As it turns out, there appears to be no reason at all.

My prolactin and progesterone levels were both nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing suggested cancer. There was nothing I was physically doing to my chest that should be causing me to lactate. My doctor and I settled on not worrying about it; he had ruled out anything frightening, and the only cause for concern was any discomfort it was causing me (I assured him there was none). He instructed me to “leave it alone,” and that in time it might wane.

I’ve discovered that I will be very sad if it does wane.

There’s something about it that sits right with me, despite all odds. I am very much not a woman, and used to experience quite some dysphoria about my chest. It surprises me that something characterized as so essential(istical)y female and “woman” is something that I find now familiar, comfortable… organic?

Today I was linked to a collection of stories on breastfeeding and weaning. Leafing through the parents’ stories of breastfeeding, weaning, and the close relationships they had with their children surrounding those things, I felt both a kinship with and a confused distance from the relational experiences described.

Lactation has changed my relationship with my own body. In an endeavour to explore and mend my relationship with my body, lactation somehow made my chest safer to me. (I remarked one day, to a friend, “If I have to have breasts, at least they’re functional.”) I’ve developed a comfortable sort of relationship with it; counter to my doctor’s orders, I don’t “leave it alone.” I manually express. I look at the milk–never more than a few drops–and marvel at how swirled and pearly it is. I’ve tasted it. (Reading stories of weaning and unweaning reminded me of a memory: me at four, not long after my sibling was born, asking to nurse again just to remember what it was like, and my mother, palpably uncomfortable, shortly refusing. I was disappointed, but didn’t think anything odd of my request.) Somehow my chest feels more organically interwoven with the rest of my body; it doesn’t feel like the strange interloper that it used to, the one that showed up uninvited at age nine and started messing things up at skin level. It feels rooted, somehow. Part of my experience. Part of me.

I’m left with a sense of how much it is not a part of anyone else, though. I don’t have a child or a partner that shares this with me. Reality is really much like a reduced-capacity version of my dream: nursing was a connective experience, but it was one that connected me with myself–not with my dream-child, who was not characterized as much more than an animated doll that I carried with me. It’s an open loop, somehow: everything about lactation, nursing, breastfeeding seems to imply a relationship, a purpose, a person or persons for whom the milk is being created. As much as it connects me with myself, I’m missing that other piece, that other who is connected to me through the experience.

I have wondered about how to broach the topic with partners (which has, so far, been avoided by relationships fading before they become that intimate). How do you explain to a partner that if they touch you in the ways you’re asking them to, you will–I mean, you’re going to lactate on them and you don’t mind and actually find it kind of sexy. As a trans person. As someone who is not a woman. Who has never been pregnant. Who has no reason to be lactating.

I’m left puzzled by the whole thing, this unexpected gift. I do consider it a gift–one that many people (I’m thinking of trans women in particular) sometimes go to great lengths to have, that others inexplicably don’t have, and here I inexplicably do. It’s just puzzling to be sitting alone with a gift that seems, by default, to be meant for more than one person.