Archive for the ‘Trans Childhood’ Category


Village Square Mall, circa – well, always.

In the mid eighties I was a size zero.  I know this because I went to Glik’s in the Village Square Mall in Effingham, IL to shop with my sister and my friend when I was about 13.  I shopped then like I do now:

Friend – “Oh, you would look awesome in this.”

Me – “Nah, I don’t really like to try on clothes” (while looking longingly at Rural King’s selection of coveralls).

Friend – “Ok, well what do you think of this outfit?”

Me, approximating proper mid-western teenage girl social skills – “Um, yeah.  Looks fine.  Zippers on the ankles of your pleated jeans are a classic look.”

On this particular shopping trip, I found a pair of pants that were a size zero.  I don’t remember what the pants looked like or why that day of all days I tried on girl clothes, but that crumb of knowledge – that my size officially didn’t exist – scratched an itch that is very fundamental to the cohesion of my sibling hierarchy.

Yes, my sisters could pinch and bruise their stomachs grasping for the Special K inch and pretend to be frustrated with the miniscule fold of skin in their grasp while looking at the rest of the population of Effingham High School with mild pity.  But could they, in the darkest of night tucked into the bunk-beds and trundle beds, could they say that they had succeeded in actually erasing themselves?

I could.

I’ve never found another pair of size zero pants, but I’ve held that with me for 27 years. The secret weapon. Concealed carefully. Carried deeply.

My size – which from that moment forward was zero, invisible, no matter how much I weighed – was the baseline.  The blank slate.

Every hair, change, scar and pound after that were evidence that either needed to be displayed as proof of my worth or hidden to disguise my lack thereof.  I never weighed myself obsessively, and didn’t jump on  the binge/purge merry-go-round.

I just kept score.

Scars on my hand and wrist from flipping my best friend’s grandma’s car into a cornfield in eighth grade – Fortitude and survival.

Slight dent in my forehead at my hairline – Chickenpox scar. My get out of jail free pass in the presence of all toddlers with viruses.

My adolescent angst was written on my body. I grew hips and breasts and got pregnant and gave birth to my son before my twenty-first birthday.  That same year, three of my sisters had sons.

Stretch marks on my belly and chest – Badge of parenthood/Scarlet I for Inadequate motherhood.

I gained 45 pounds after I started taking testosterone when I turned 30.  Those pounds attached themselves to me gradually, like many profound changes do.  The first ten was happy weight – good food, the right woman in my life, the right life.  Then slowly the weight started to count differently.

The baseline had changed.  My units of measuring were different.  Men are bigger, and my size zero had been adjusted for inflation.

The next fifteen were attached to the bookstore where I work.

Thickening midsection – Evidence that I’m substantial enough to run a business.

Plus a pound or two for stress. A few ounces here and there for loneliness.  More weight to insulate miscellaneous guilt.  The final bulk is overcompensation.

My sisters stayed virtually the same size with some fluctuation while I grew larger and hairier, but I stayed, as always, peripheral.  Exempt.  Invisible.

Recently, I consulted with a few doctors to consider bottom surgery, and know with relative certainty that funding this kind of thing is next to impossible.

And yet.

6 inch vertical scar through my abdominal muscle and around my belly button – Emergency abdominal surgery.  Proof that after unspeakable pain, the clouds part.  The impossible is possible.

Regardless of the donor site for a phalloplasty, being a healthy weight is important to the surgery, and after all, what could it hurt to get fit? To avoid my usual anxiety and stave off the impending doom, I decided that even though I haven’t found a way to complete this final part of my transition, I would focus on something I could control –  losing my extra pounds.

After “running” 5 miles on the elliptical machine every day and eating smoothies and weeds for several weeks, I had stalled.  No weight loss.  My clothes didn’t fit differently.  Doom did start to settle in, but buried within it was something small and concealed.  An itch.  A grim shadow self inside me was strangely, horribly, satisfied.  In a buried recess of my brain I am hoarding my bulk.

As a few pounds finally faded away I started to feel myself panicking as the trophies and evidence of my existence disappeared.  My life in a female body depended on remaining invisible.  My life as a man became, in part, about physically existing, pushing beyond size zero.  I find myself clinging to the credentials packed into my thick chin, lumpy midsection and hips as if I’m going to lose myself.  As if I’m going to be unveiled as a fraud once my disguise as a “big” guy slips.

I’m not obese, just fifteen or twenty pounds this side of normal BMI according to the internet.  My challenge isn’t so much to lose the weight but to travel back through the collecting of it.  To unpack all of the evidence and have a good hard look at it once and for all.


After last week’s severance of my confidence from my person by my plumbing,  I couldn’t bring myself to look at another kitchen related project.  Instead I cleansed my palate of Hell Corner and did this instead:

Bench Before

Before taking out my aggression via sandpaper.

Bench After

After reattaching some boards, painting, and stenciling.

I feel much better now.  So much better, in fact, that I decided to dip my toes back into The Project.

I’ve been sneaking out to the garage to play with my tools all week.  I do love them all, but I reserve a special place in my geeky, diy heart for my table saw.  She is strong.  She is capable.  She can do anything.  I’m sure of it.

This unfettered admiration is almost matched by my infatuation with the band saw that was one of the tools that Terrie the other Tool Fairy provided the other week for the promise of a couple hundred dollars and my lawn mower.

What?  Have you seen my yard?  It measures approximately 6 1/2 x 4 inches.  I have been mowing it with a weed whacker for a year and a half.

Anyway, I’ve been bonding with my first love (the table saw) by figuring out how to build out our pantry.  And who figured out how to make cabinet joinery for the slide-out drawer cabinet thing without so much as ONE shop class in high-school?

That’s right -ME.  But before I get too self congratulatory, let’s just review the training I’ve had in all things home improvement.

…..

…..

Exactly.  While other boys (who, incidentally, were born into actual [ahem] boy bodies) were busy building soap box derby cars and plaques in shop class I was planning my wedding in a high school class called “Marriage and Family” [a mandatory class exercise I managed to squeak a C out of after planning a K-Mart Wedding with Kentucky Fried Chicken catering – which, incidentally, isn’t too different from what my actual wedding was like later on, except we went to McDonald’s after hitting the Justice of the Peace].  Also on my class schedule was Home Economics, and Foods.

I’m convinced that the Unit 40 school district contributed to the melt down I had years later while shopping at the Boy Scout store for my step-son, Ben.

I would have been a kick-ass boy scout.  Instead, I was in the friggin’ Brownies making up cheers and dances in South Side Elementary School’s lunch room.

Anyway, imagine my GLEE when I actually succeeded in putting up a level built-in cabinet wall, complete with hidden screws I drilled with my pocket hole jig, then actually installed drawer slides for the slide out drawer cabinet thing (at midnight last night)!

Behold the Beauty!

Ok, so it’s not beautiful YET, but once I patch and paint the walls and install the drawers it’s going to be great.

But THIS –  this is the thing that swept away the anxiety of Hell Corner in a thunderstorm of AWESOME.

With my trusty table saw, I mastered (sort of) the technique of building the drawers this morning before realizing that Bruno ate a light bulb.  That put an end to my fun.  That and the fact that I have to actually work today.

See the perfect grooves?  The beautiful cuts?!  The straight lines?!!!

Recognize that wood, Terrie? That’s the stuff you were going to BURN! Blasphemy!

Anyway, I think we can all agree that I.  AM. AWESOME.

Today anyway.  There is that phone call I have to return to my therapist, but that can wait until tomorrow.

Today I rock.