“too fat to pass”…can you not?

I read this at the Women Your Mother Warned You About event in New York City on June 5, 2018. I promised I’d put it online…which I was totally going to do in the airport…which always turns into “I swear there’s a Red Mango in this terminal somewhere” and “Hm, maybe the bathroom will be less crowded now.”  It’s Newark. The bathroom will NEVER be less crowded.

Without further ado…

“I’m too fat to pass”, you say.

Want to know how you convince a fat trans woman to be terrified of you? You say things like that.

White trans orthodoxy places an almost monomaniacal focus on being thin, and if you’re not, you get informed of how much weight you “have” to lose to pass, or that you can’t be your “authentic self” if you’re fat. And those are the nice ones. When you talk about being fat and trans online, the abuse from the faceless masses tends to come flying. In one week not that long ago,, I was termed “unhealthy and unattractive” and referred to not only as a man, the favored chestnut of the horrible wyt trans woman, but also by the delightful sobriquet of “bacon grease.” A few years back, when I’d been beaming with joy I took a selfie I liked, the response was, and I quote, “you’re a fat, ugly cow.”

My hometown newspaper, or what passes for one, wrote a human interest story about a county commissioner out on the coast who, in the story, informed us all that she “had to lose 250 pounds” to transition.  Now, admittedly, my hometown newspaper is politely described as hot garbage, but that sentiment isn’t just commonplace; it is to weight what putting on lipstick in a mirror is to these stories.

I grew up quite literally tortured over food, and denied it for reasons too toe-curling to discuss here. I have a scad of eating disorders that forms a list longer than a damn CVS receipt, and at the same time as a fat woman I remind folks that fat people can have more eating disorders than “just” Binge Eating Disorder.  The thing about eating disorders is that they’re almost impossible to have an honest conversation about them, and when you do it’s meant to be hushed and secretive. At the same time, people yell at really thin women to eat a cheeseburger and call them anorexic behind their back. It’s terrible behavior, half because often those skinny women are thin because that’s how genetics work…I know a few, and they’re all wonderful people who aren’t fatphobes, and half because diagnosing people remotely without a medical degree has literally never worked.

But, of course, the same people telling me that I’m “unhealthy and unattractive” are somehow magically capable of doing just that. They have by some miracle figured out the ins and outs of my medical status and able to know what my doctor recommends. They are informing me in grotesque detail of how “surgeons” won’t work with anyone with a BMI over 28. They know my blood pressure is high, except that it’s so low I can’t take beta blockers for anxiety. They know my fasting blood sugar and A1C by some magic ability, except that I’m not diabetic and not anywhere near pre-diabetes. They know I must be disabled because I’m fat, which is truly amazing given that my disabilities are largely congenital. And, of course, there’s a wide range of reasons they seem to believe that this is brought on solely by eating 6000 calories a day.

Now, I’m not going to tell you those days never happen. Or that I never eat at McDonald’s or have a shitty week where I may well plow a pint of Halo Top and drink red wine out of the bottle. Thing is, that’s not policed for most people, hell it’s fodder for the single-camera sitcom.  When you’re fat, every Big Mac is allegedly political, and every calorie that isn’t approved gets you a little more disapproval. Do you know what it’s like to go to the grocery store without wondering if maybe you buy a box of Triscuits you’re going to get someone’s opinion foisted on you? How about having to ask your skinny friends to buy ice cream for you if there’s no self-check lane? What about when you haven’t eaten for ten hours and you’re driving in rural Washington, where your options after 8pm are often McDonald’s or McDonald’s? Can I have a Big Mac then?

Fat is a unique American bugaboo, and given the perfect storm of the wyt/wyt-adjacent trans community’s obsession with sameness and the gendered nature of body policing under patriarchy (if you were timing how long it’d take for me to say patriarchy…), fat trans women occupy a special kind of hell. It’s still acceptable in trans circles to claim being triggered by disabled people or fat people because in the sameness-obsessed place that is your trans community, these are easy acceptable ways to hate people. Claim it’s a trigger, something you can’t argue with because what kind of monster would trigger someone, and then demand the exclusion of that person, because after all if your presence, and I must be clear not your words or your actions, is triggering, you’re kicked out. You’re given the choice of stay and be called a monster who would consciously trigger someone or alternately leave and give up.

That obsession with sameness really stems from the unspoken truth of trans community: our leaders really are obsessed with what wyt men think of us. When wyt trans women promote gatekeeping, it’s because the approval the wyt trans community seeks is that of wyt men. When wyt trans women defend weight limits for things like hormones, much less genital or facial surgery, they’re trying to constrain supply in the bloody capitalist system we live in. When wyt trans women tell those of us who are mixed-race or people of color that we have to make our features less “ethnic” to pass, they use both the weaponized Caucasian trans concept of what passing means to tell us that we’re not one of them.

They believe there can only be so many, like Highlanders or some shit like that. When there’s a trans lobby day, they talk in terms that seem to say we don’t want you here, because they’re afraid it might be disability lobby day or lesbians with frizzy hair lobby day or some similar nonsense. As part of the workings of this kind of oppressive thought, the reality becomes obvious: trans community loves sameness because to a group that is almost exclusively wyt and suburban-raised, the idea of “what will the neighbors think” literally rules the discourse.

And to that suburban Puritan mentality the Aryans from Darien love so much, being fat or being disabled is seen as a moral failing.  Trans community is pretty much like any other wyt intentional community in that there’s layers and layers of  moral purity that must be proven. Are your politics correct? Are you out enough? Do you cone from money? Do you work in the right job? Did the other people watch you transition so they’re sure you’re the right kind of trans, or actually trans, or or or.

But what the Puritan really despises is the capital-O Other. I feel it, from the whole idea that the mere presence of a fat person in a space is triggering.  I didn’t transition in public view or with any trans community to speak of, because when I transitioned, we weren’t supposed to talk to each other outside of a therapeutic setting.  And yes, I’m fat and disabled, but this might be a news flash to wyt trans women: there are such things as fat women and disabled women. There are in fact women who are *both*.

But to wyt trans community, there’s this constant thrum of “dues”. Have you so-called paid them? Did you pay them correctly? Do wyt trans women have enough dirt on you so that if you get out of line they can push you back into the trough? And why doyou need to know my dead name, anyways? Why is it any of your business if I’m out at work? I have worked in a slew of pink-collar jobs all my life, where I really don’t want to be the one who finds out if she’ll keep her job or not when she gets outed, because that’s how I end up homeless again. I say this not to make you feel bad for me; I don’t want your sympathy. I really would prefer you see me as a human being with a number of desires and wants, not an item to be treated like a non-player character in a role-playing game.

And that’s the heart of it: if you keep trans community pure, and perfect through the lens of suburban wyt identity, you’re not only doing a disservice to the people you expect to do all the labor for you, you’re putting an edge out to the world where the first criticism the people who hate us, from MRAs to wyt Christian fundamentalists to edgy douchebag professors to TERFs…they all seize upon that trans community, and in particular trans women, look the same, talk the same, act the same, and…well, with all due respect, most of you are the same, and you enforce it. You can’t be one of us, you’re not in tech. You can’t be one of us, this space is for “cuties” only. You can’t be one of us, you’re not abled enough. You’re not smart enough to know what your gender is.  You don’t have a diagnosis. You don’t, you can’t, you don’t. And, well, in the past couple of years, every excuse under the sun to make trans community more inaccessible has been used under the guise of the far-right. Hate to break it to you, but fat people can be leftists, too. It’s just that there’s too much wrapped up in the perception of the wyt gaze that says if you’re fat you’re probably a Republican.  Can someone explain for me how that works?

So we fight from two fronts as Others, whether as the people of color wyt trans community expects to stay out and die so that they can read  our names one day a year and forget about equity and inclusion for trans women of color for the other 364, or as people deemed “too fat” or “too disabled” or the like.  But we also fight the greater fight against cis oppressors, and we are often told how because all trans women are the same, it’s somehow logical to the wyt trans mindset that we’re still the defective ones holding you back. If we can just get rid of those pesky defective ones, everything will be alright.

You’re hurting yourselves when you hurt us. I know it feels like making sure there’s a strict 200 pound weight limit on womanhood sounds logical to most of you, but…it’s not, and it only harms you to keep us away. You may think you’re being so clever by labeling things “cuties only” and using the white suburban eye to grade who is “femme enough” but you’re just repeating the harm, and because the responses are the queer equivalent of BBQ Becky, except with vague meaningless terms like “problematic”, you’re expecting to be backed up by the very thick layer of wyt trans community that won’t say anything because they’re so concerned about what the neighbors think. When you call me “unhealthy and unattractive”, or stare that deathly glare on the train, or call me “he” and “eric” when I’m trying to get my coffee? You’re hurting two people.

You’re hurting me by misgendering, or staring…why do you people stare? You’re hurting me by telling me there is no space in trans community for me where everyone has to be a “cutie” to the wyt gaze, the standard of beauty enforced mercilessly and cruelly by privileged wyt trans women, or we’re worthless.

But in the end, you’re hurting yourself. You play into this idea that if you throw enough people overboard, maybe the ship won’t sink. Perhaps instead we should be talking about how to smash patriarchy and get free instead of invasive questions about genitalia and making sure everyone has the same approved “look.”  Perhaps instead of telling trans women who are Other that all we deserve for community is the support group, it’s time to let us be full citizens of your community.

I keep being told things will get better, things will change, and maybe you can really be one of us someday. I have been being told this for literally decades at this point. I’m getting old and I can’t come back in five years when maybe trans community will think about having a place for me if you’ll just lose 50 pounds. I have spent my whole adult life waiting for my peers to see me as human.

It hasn’t happened yet.


2 Responses to ““too fat to pass”…can you not?”

  1. I can’t speak for race (not a good sign: I should have second hand stuff), but while it’s more subtle the weight stuff definitely kicks in when you weigh out of the “oh, we do [two] plus sizes too!” stores. The remaining places, suddenly butch-femme is all polarised and you can probably guess how that goes.

    And yeah, it hurts everyone.


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