Compare/Contrast: Transsexuality and Fat

Does being fat feel at all like being transsexual?

Traditionally, untreated transsexuality has been described as feeling as if your body is wrong; that your true self doesn’t match your body. (I say “traditionally” because it’s unclear how often that’s been a genuine description of some transsexuals’ experience, and how often that’s been what doctors have pressured transsexuals to say). That’s what being fat feels like, to me. I’m supposed to be thin, aren’t I? Not thin-thin, you know, just – normal-thin. But I don’t feel normal. I feel constantly abnormal.

I feel like someone who, somehow, wound up in the wrong body.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between what I feel and what pre-transition transsexuals feel. Transsexuals feel “wrong” in their bodies despite enourmous social pressure to accept the sex and gender they were born and assigned. I, on the other hand, feel wrong in my fat body because there’s been enourmous, nonstop social pressure teaching me to hate myself and my body for most of my life.

Transsexuals are pressured – brainwashed, even – to want the sex they were born into. (All of us face that pressure, actually – it’s just that most of us give in with so little resistance that we don’t even notice). The fact that in the face of so much pressure some transsexuals still want to transition is an indication, in my opinion, to me, that their need to transition is genuine. In contrast, I’ve been pressured – brainwashed, even – to want to change. And despite all I know, all I’ve learned, and my genuine passion for fat acceptance, I still sometimes see my reflection in a store window and think – geez, I’m so fat! Can that really be me?

But that’s the brainwash talking. Research has shown that most transsexuals who transition experience relief and feel the quality of their life has improved. That’s because their need for change was genuine, not brainwashing. If I were thin, I would face less social prejudice, and some things – like sitting in an airplane – would become more convenient. Many people I don’t care about would treat me better. But I wouldn’t be happier.

(Of course you’d be happier! My brainwashing replies. Thin is happiness, you fool!)

There’s another comparison between transsexuals and fat people – both groups are told that there’s a surgical cure. Increasingly, transsexuals are rejecting this message; more and more transsexuals are transitioning without surgery, or with plastic surgery but without genital reconstruction. I think that’s a good trend; there’s nothing wrong with transsexuals getting reconstructive surgery, but there’s also no reason that should be the one-size-fits-all solution for gender identity disorder.

But as transsexual surgery is on the decline, weight loss surgery is on the ascent. And although people think of it as a less major operation, in many ways having one’s stomach banded is a more radical – and more dangerious – surgery, with a higher deathrate.

I’m not trying to say that being fat is worse than being transsexual; on the contrary, it seems to me that anti-transsexual and transgender bigotry is far worse than anti-fat bigotry. Nor do I have a conclusion at this time, which is a shame, since conclusions at the end of blog posts lend a nice feeling of closure.

This entry posted in Fat, fat and more fat, Transsexual and Transgender related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

37 Responses to Compare/Contrast: Transsexuality and Fat

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  4. 4
    tekanji says:

    Interesting post, Amp. I think that all minority groups have common threads, but I’ve never seen two so ostensibly different groups put up against each other like this.

    I’d just like to add an agreement with your rational voice that says being “thin” won’t make you happy. Because, really, the problem is not with your weight but how society treats fat. Being thin will lessen the pressure, sure, but it won’t eradicate it.

    You still hear comments about your weight. It may not be the “you should lose weight” or “fat’s so unhealthy!” type ones, but it’s the constant nattering like, “have you gained/lost weight?” or “have you been working out?” or “oh, you’re so thin!” And it serves as a constant reminder that your self-worth is contingent on staying thin.

    It’s hard to feel good in a society that’s so obsessed with your waistline.

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  6. 5
    lynne says:

    I find that I often have to really resist the urge to starve myself in the name of losing a few pounds. I get the urge even though I know that doing that wont make me thin and actually would most likely ultimately make me even more fat. I find myself cursing my body often.

    tekanjii brings up a good point that actually losing weight probalby wouldnt make me happier. I suspect that if I did lose the 150 lbs I would need to lose to not stand out anymore, I would still feel the pressure about thin. There was a time in my mid twenties when I lost a lot of weight because of a severe depression and I got really angry at all the positive attention I suddenly started getting. I guess I felt like a fat person who was “passing” as a thin person. A fat person in the closet so to speak.

  7. 6
    NancyP says:

    Transgendered persons are seen as completely “other”, ie, there is no way that the non-T person would have to worry about turning into a T person. The existence of T folk does raise the issue of one’s own sexuality, though, when a self-professed straight guy notices an attractive Twoman and is freaked out by his conclusion that the attraction is a gay thing. Hence T battering.

    Fat people are seen as “us, but fat”, ie, the non-fat person often worries a great deal about turning into a fat person. The reaction is somewhat more personalized, and fat battering by adults is quite rare. Kids of course pick on and often beat (not seriously) other kids with physical differences, and fat is one of these, but so are race, gender, eyeglasses, disability, birthmark, etc.

  8. 7
    carlaviii says:

    I can’t say that I’ve ever felt that I have the “wrong” body, weight-wise or gender-wise. I’ve always been fat: telling me I could be skinny sounds about as likely, to my ear, as telling me I could grow wings. I’ve always been female, but nobody has ever accused me of being feminine. I’d much rather read a book than go shoe shopping.

    A more accurate illustration of how I feel about my body can be seen in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (if anybody’s seen it). I am the King of the Moon. My mind and my body have always been at cross purposes, and sometimes I wish I could just be a mind. But my mind and body are stuck with each other.

    tekanji is absolutely right that even when you lose weight, “they” will keep after you. If people want to run in that rat race, they’re welcome to, but I won’t and they can’t make me. I will eat right and exercise to the best of my ability and if I lose weight, that’s great, but after many years of carrying around tons of depression, I’ve hit my anger point and “they” can all take a flying leap.

  9. 8
    nexyjo says:

    i have a lot to say about what it is to be transsexual, or to “suffer” from gid. i’ve written a lot about it over the years, but constantly face what seems to be overwhelming challenges. two issues in particular appear to prevent me from clearly articulating my thoughts, both of which have to do with our very language, or perhaps language in general.

    frankly, i have trouble finding words and phrases that accurately reflect what i’m trying to convey. the commonly found “woman trapped in the body of a man” just doesn’t do it for me, and in fact, i find the phrase quite misleading, even to the point of being offensive to me. and while what i experienced before i transitioned could be described as “discomfort” or “dysphoria”, those words really don’t do it for me either.

    the second problem regards analogy, which is exemplified by this blog entry. we often convey our thoughts and feelings using analogy – it’s a very common language tool, pivotal in fact for most language. yet, in my experience, there is nothing that even comes close to my experience with gid or being trans.

    i’ve never been fat. i’ve weighed less than 150 lbs my whole life, and typically hover between 130 and 140, and i’m 5’11″. of course that doesn’t stop me from obsessing about my weight when i go over 135. though according to my old therapist and even common wisdom, i have to believe that has more to do with my ocd and anorexic tendencies, and probably the messages i’ve received my whole life about what a woman is supposed to look like.

    that said, i can’t really comment on how being trans and being fat compare, at least from any personal experience. i will say that analogies should be used carefully, as they often only work to a certain point. and again, in my experience, some people tend to extend analogies beyond the point of usefulness.

    one difference in my mind between the two states, is that someone who is fat can often loose enough weight through the means available, and become thin, or average. the state of being “fat” is easily measured, using well accepted units, as is the state of being “thin” or “average”. and the tools to measure those units are readily available – ones eyes, a ruler and a scale.

    trans people have no such units. even after 50 years of “study”, i still have no working definition of the terms “male”, “female”, “man”, or “woman”, and feel even further away from defining them now than i did 30 years ago. and while i’d imagine most people would agree on what makes a person “fat”, “thin”, or “average”, and how to measure that, i’d venture to say that there are as many definitions of sex and gender as there are people.

    as such, i’d suggest that many thin people can become fat, in every sense of the words, and many fat people can become thin, and “enjoy” all the benefits of those two states. virtually everyone will recognize that a person is fat or thin, and treat them accordingly. further, it’s a well accepted fact that people can move between being fat and thin, even repeatedly.

    on the other hand, i know quite a few people, some of whom actively post on this blog, who would not recognize me as female, or a woman, and even see me still as a man, albeit surgically and hormonally modified or mutilated.

    and frankly, i don’t know that i could effectively disagree with them anymore than i could effectively agree with those who do see as a woman.

    so to answer the question posed at the beginning: “Does being fat feel at all like being transsexual?”, i’d suggest that there may be a few areas that compare, but many areas that don’t. i do know several trans women who would also be seen as fat, and they tell me that the two states are quite different, other than the desire to be neither. though i don’t want to speak for them.

  10. 9
    Zan says:

    I’ve never felt particularly “wrong” in my body and it’s a rather large one. I’ve always been a big girl (although, looking at photographs tells me I wasn’t nearly as big as people made me feel when I was a teenager), I can’t really imagine being any other way. I also come from a family of fairly large people, so I have the benefit of seeing big as ‘normal’ in a way.

    Of course, my mother did her best to make me want to be thin. I remember, quite vividly, my mother trying to get my brother and me to exercise with her, to go for walks with her, to diet with her. And it always seemed so dumb to me. She thought she was huge and she was miserable and she was always, always thinking about food. Why in the world would I want to do that?

    My mother still thinks she’s huge. Granted, she’s not skinny, but she’s nowhere near as large as she thinks she is. She’s always dieting, always trying to loss another ten or fifteen pounds. Now she’s at an age where there are health benefits for her to do that, but I can’t help but wonder if she’d not spent all those years yo-yo dieting if her health would be more stable now.

    And the other posters are right. Losing weight will never make you happy, never make your life better. I could loss 100 pounds, but it wouldn’t make my Lupus go away. It wouldn’t make me suddenly the life of the party. I wouldn’t suddenly have a higher paying job, a devoted partner and a house in the mountains. I’d just be wearing a smaller pants size.

  11. 10
    piny says:

    Increasingly, transsexuals are rejecting this message; more and more transsexuals are transitioning without surgery, or with plastic surgery but without genital reconstruction.

    Hm.

    It’s true that more people are opting out of surgery, and that many of those people are opting out of surgery because they are either happy with what they have or happier with it than with the surgical alternatives.

    However…

    Bear in mind that as the standard of care opens up, more people transition without the kind of strict oversight that used to be status quo. That means that it’s possible to get hormones even if your doctor knows full well that you will never have several grand to spend on a surgical procedure. That doesn’t mean you want it less.

    There’s also the question of whether not undergoing surgery now means that you have no plans to undergo it ever . Transpeople, like all queer people, are coming out and transitioning earlier. If a demographic shifts from late-thirties to mid-twenties, you’re going to see a lot more people who have neither the capital nor the credit to undergo surgery within a few years of starting hormones. The ratio of GRS-to-transition may shift over the next decade, as my cohort ages.

    There’s also the question of whether all this would radically change if surgical techniques improved. A lot of transpeople make their decision based on available outcomes. There have been surgical advances over the past several decades. They may improve more in coming years, now that more and more transpeople make it clear that they expect their needs to be met and that they take a very dim view of, oh, being rendered anorgasmic. The transsexual-as-consumer is a recent development over transsexual-as-patient, and the full effect on surgical standards of care remain to be seen.

    I also don’t understand why a bilateral mastectomy with masculine contouring and breast augmentation are “plastic surgery” but genital reconstruction is not. They’re undertaken for the same reasons; the expense is similar; the effect on the body is similar. Indeed, in many cases top surgery makes more of a difference in social transition than the latter. Most people can’t see what’s in my pants; the contour of my chest, on the other hand, is very visible.

    Also, I’m not sure that the transpeople who didn’t want GRS were historically forced into it rather than denied treatment altogether because they weren’t “real” transsexuals. Not that that’s better.

    Also also, remember that there are still a great many transsexuals who decide to undergo GRS even though it’s not mandatory and even though personal comfort is the standard of care’s watchword.

    Finally, and to finally address the larger points you’re making:

    There’s not much physical cost in undergoing SRS. There’s no equivalent to the crash diet. There are potential side effects–reaction to anesthetic, severe loss of sensation–but there aren’t a whole lot of really irresponsible, dangerous ways to undergo surgery in the care of a licensed medical professional. It won’t sabotage your cardiovascular system, drag your metabolism out of whack, or make it impossible for you to absorb your food. I wonder whether it’s generally responsible on a health basis for a doctor to encourage extreme weight loss all by itself because the patient wants to be thinner, rather than healthy living that lets the needle on the scale fall where it may.

  12. 11
    NancyP says:

    I’d encourage pumping iron, to be a STRONG fat person. The rest-of-world may not know it, because you don’t look “cut” until the percent of body fat is very low, but YOU know you can pick up that dresser, back end of Cooper Mini, whatever. And that attitude gets through, even if the six-pack is invisible.

  13. 12
    reddecca says:

    I really liked this compare and contrast exercise, although I’m often a little wary of this sort of thing. Mostly because what it brings out is the differences.

    But to me, it really brought out something I’ve been trying to articulate about the gendered nature of fat.

    I don’t think I feel a particular way about my body because I’m of my size, I feel that way because I’m a woman. I think my experience of my body has more in common with a woman who was significantly smaller than I was, than it would with a man who was treated as the same degree of overweight that I am. Every woman that I’ve managed to talk with honestly about their body has talked about loathing it, and punishing it – whether their BMI is under 20 or over 35.

    I’m going to have to think about this a little bit more and write a longer post about it on my blog.

  14. 13
    Interrobang says:

    Nancy — Yes, exactly so. I’m 167 cm tall and about 65kg, which doesn’t make me “fat,” precisely, but I’m a long way from “thin.” I also have been lifting weights, albeit irregularly, for a couple of years now, and though I don’t look like I have a “gym body,” the benefits are immeasurable. First of all, weightlifting is great for bone density. Secondly, the confidence it gives me, knowing that I’m strong, maybe even “stronger than I look” is a real boost. Thirdly, it’s kind of cool, in a buttered-popcorn-flavoured-jellybean kind of way to watch the number on the scale going up as your pants size goes down. *grin*

    Maybe I’m weird, but I have actually found that losing weight has improved my mental state. I genuinely like not having to have my pants altered so they’ll fit my weird frame, and the venal part of me enjoys the positive attention. I also have more energy and feel healthier. Then again, I didn’t lose weight in the way that our screwed-up culture encourages females to; I didn’t diet or deny myself various foods or anything — I just started to exercise more, drink more water, eat a little less prepared food and suchlike, and generally tried to be more active. I didn’t classify things as “good” foods and “bad” foods; if I wanted a piece of pie, I had one, and I didn’t punish myself for it. Taking the neurosis out of weight loss (and *not* doing it out of a sense of competition) is probably the smartest possible plan.

    Per another commenter’s post above, I’m not sure there isn’t “handicapped-bashing,” speaking as someone who has cerebral palsy. I don’t think it usually takes the form of people jumping and beating people for being handicapped, but there are plenty of people willing to be sadistic at handicapped people, especially if they perceive that you can’t fight back (whether that’s true or not).

  15. 14
    Mindalyn says:

    I just want to touch on one particular difference between being the two that Amp mentions: the brainwashing.

    In the case of someone who feels fat, they are subject to external pressure to change and become more thin, regardless of their own personal feelings towards their weight. However, in the case of someone who is trans, there is pressure not to change and social resistance to them transitioning.

    My point is that I think it can be clear to trans folk that what they’re doing is due to a personal choice because there is generally nobody else pushing them to do it. I’m not convinced, just because social pressures yell the same message, that if somebody who feels fat wants to be more thin, that it makes them brainwashed.

    At heart, they are both choices to make about bodies, but the source of the motivation to lose weight can certainly be much murkier than that of transitioning because of the external pressures in the same direction.

  16. 15
    Tapetum says:

    Second to interrobang. There’s a ton of handicapped bashing, it just tends to be covert in most instances. Not being disabled myself, but knowing a number of people who are, and having one very close friend with cerebral palsy, bashing is a fact of life. If you’re in a wheelchair, people will talk over and around you, even if you’re talking to them. They will suddenly yank their children out of a classroom when they discover the teacher has a disability. They’ll leave a woman in a wheelchair alone, after dark, waiting for a wheelchair van in a situation they would never leave a “normal” woman in. The more overt stuff happens too, just not as prominently. The worst instance I know of personally was a friend who had his guide dog attacked while he was standing on a street corner.

    The problem of not feeling at home in your body because of weight is one that has started happening to me only recently. I’m not a small person, and never have been, but I always felt at home in my body. But when I gained substantial weight with my last pregnancy (and have yet to take it off), I seemed to lose any sense of where the boundaries of my body were. I will walk into door frames and corners because my mental image of my body is several inches in from where my actual body lies. I don’t think my feeling out of place in this body stems from societal pressure nearly as much as it does from this particular weight being a distinct distortion of how my body is supposed to be. After all, the weight I was before, while smaller, was still well off the societal ideals, and I felt perfectly at home in it.

  17. 16
    Barbara says:

    Women, in particular, who lose a lot of weight still “feel” fat, and frequently exhibit anger at those who suddenlty notice them, as discussed above — because they know that they are the same person they always have been and, often for the first time, are able to express their longstanding resentment in a way that actually has an impact.

    I don’t normally comment on transgender issues because I know nothing about them firsthand, but Amp and Piny both make really good points regarding surgical “solutions,” what the goal is and what the risks are. I often laugh when I hear how doctors and therapists tell patients not to expect their life to magically become better as a result of plastic or weight reduction surgery — then why in heaven’s name do it at all? What sentiment is being validated by such surgery if it doesn’t dramatically benefit one’s life?

    But regarding weight loss surgery and psychology — many people who do it did not really enjoy eating; they are not Paul Prudhomme, who got to 500 pounds by an honest if overearnest love of food. They feel controlled by food and after surgery are just as happy not to be able to eat much. This is not an endorsement of such surgery in general, just that the fat, like the disabled and every other typecast into which we jettison members of the human race, are a varied bunch and deserve respect for their choices, even if we wouldn’t make the same ones.

    I was teeny tiny when I got married but after two kids and a full-time job I was bigger, not really overweight just bigger than I ever had been. I don’t diet, period. I just like eating and cooking too much. So I began lifting weights, I even took up (for a while) the sport of fencing, where “thunder thighs” are a definite asset. I definitely second or third this approach to cultivating one’s body image. I may or may not be thin, but I will always be strong.

  18. 17
    carlaviii says:

    From the posts so far, I’m getting the impression that the sense of body-alienation that’s felt by transgenders is felt by some fat folks, but mostly not…? That the main similarity is the existence of risky surgeries to “fix” the problem?

    Surgeries which, I might note, involve modifying or removing perfectly functional pieces of anatomy. Surgeries that are not removing disease or repairing damage, and isn’t that what surgery ought to be? What do you all think about non-medicinal surgeries?

    I’ve watched a few episodes of “Extreme Makeover” and I’ll admit I’m torn about cosmetic surgery in cases of people who got dealt a genuinely bad hand in terms of appearance. Correlation between that and fat?

  19. 18
    piny says:

    That the main similarity is the existence of risky surgeries to “fix” the problem?

    Surgeries which, I might note, involve modifying or removing perfectly functional pieces of anatomy. Surgeries that are not removing disease or repairing damage, and isn’t that what surgery ought to be? What do you all think about non-medicinal surgeries?

    Okay, this is why I was a little leery of this comparison.

    See my above post about the respective risks. And see Amp’s points about social pressure.

    Also: Hi! I’m a transsexual. Prior to starting hormones, I suffered from severe dysphoria–so much so that things like intimacy, human relationships, even leaving the house were very, very difficult. I was desperately unhappy. Unhappy doesn’t even describe it–it just didn’t work. Now that I’ve started hormones, I am a much happier, calmer, better-adjusted person. I relate to my body as most people seem to. Most of the transpeople I’ve spoken with feel similarly. In most cases, physical transition up to and including SRS makes us functional people.

    Incidentally, now I struggle with socially-imposed body dysphoria: I’m a freak. I have to inhabit a body which me perfectly happy, but which disgusts other people. This experience is new to me as of transition, as it happens.

  20. 19
    Nick Kiddle says:

    Surgeries which, I might note, involve modifying or removing perfectly functional pieces of anatomy.

    Piny can correct me if I’m wrong (my knowledge of trans surgery is likely to remain theoretical for the rest of my natural life), but I was under the impression that surgery such as hysto for trans guys is recommended after a certain period on hormones because the female parts have ceased to function due to the hormones and are at risk of developing various unpleasant complications.

  21. 20
    nexyjo says:

    yeah, what piny said.

    i’d also agree with mindalyn’s point in #12. i faced quite a bit of opposition regarding my transition from family, friends, co-workers, and even strangers on the street. and even many who at first appeared to be supportive, remained at a distance during and after my transition.

    on the other hand, many of my former co-workers often supported each other during their attempts at losing weight, engaging in contests, sharing “slimfast” supplies, and parties when goals were met.

    when my goal was achieved, i was laid off. and i have to believe that relates to piny’s point about the whole “freak” issue. of course my new co-workers, who never knew me before and only know me as nexy, seem to like me just fine. though i also believe i would “disgust” them if they knew my medical history.

  22. 21
    piny says:

    Piny can correct me if I’m wrong (my knowledge of trans surgery is likely to remain theoretical for the rest of my natural life), but I was under the impression that surgery such as hysto for trans guys is recommended after a certain period on hormones because the female parts have ceased to function due to the hormones and are at risk of developing various unpleasant complications.

    Yes, but that’s only in the context of transitioning in the first place; if we equate the way transpeople feel prior to transition (including GRS) with the way fat people feel prior to bariatric surgery, transition is not of the good.

    Some doctors recommend it and some don’t. The calculus is based on age, family history of reproductive cancer, personal discomfort (both dysphoria and problems like cramping and PCOS), and some other factors. It’s like the cost-benefit applied to women, with a couple of obvious differences. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits all prescription. Some doctors don’t seem to feel that hysterectomy is necessary in general. This is another thing that’s changing as the cohort starts transition younger; a hysterectomy around menopause age is a very different thing than one undergone in the mid-twenties. Another important change is in the number of transguys who want to preserve their option of bearing children. Another another important change is that transguys are starting to demand and receive responsible care for their bodies; one of the reasons hysto is recommended is that transguys tend not to want to see gynecologists and may not even want to disclose to their physicians. That’s just as risky for us as it is for non-trans people.

  23. 22
    BStu says:

    I’m not sure I’d regard WLS and GMS as equals, either. Especially on the basis of seeing them both as equally harmful. While I think some manner of GMS might well qualify as a barbaric procedure, I’ve not seen reason to think it so as rule. WLS, by its nature, disables the body and is a permenant impairment. Not only is it the removable of a perfectly functioning bodily system, it disables that body system. Restoring function, as I understand, is a distinct purpose with GMS and while some functions may be perminently disabled, that is viewed as a problem to solve. Not the primary purpose of the procedure.

    I would also point out that in a culture where fat is so consistantly assaulted and where options for living in a fat body so consistantly dismissed, I don’t think internalized fat hatred can really be seen as a choice. That is what is imposed upon us. We can choose to reject it, but I think fat hatred is absolutely a learned behavior which we are all subjected to. The choice is taken out of our hands from the start, and given the grave situation offered fat people, for most a choice never remotely exists. It is a “choice” as inconceivable as choosing not to breathe. In this, I do really see a parallel to some transsexual issues in so far as gender identity has an element of learned behavior to it. I’m not convinced we are nearly as hard-wired to our gender as we are led to believe and I have to wonder if a greater acceptance of a more diverse gender identity might be a means to addressing some transexuality concerns. The problem there, obviously, is that while changing the world is the most effective treatment, it may also be unrealistic at worst.

    Which brings us back to the situation facing fat people. The most effective treatment is remaking society’s attitudes towards fat people, in my opinion. But the chances of success on this measure is, at the least, a long way off. Nevertheless, there is no reasonable alternative treatment. The promise of becoming thin is not a realistic one, either. However, our culture tells us it is. I would suggest that not only are fat people not often lovers of food eating prodigious quantities for personal enjoyment, they are also not often fat due to emotional issues as is also often suggested. I do think most fat people have profound issues with food, but I don’t think that’s the cause of their fatness. Indeed, in our culture, I’d say its a symptom. Because fatness is presumed to be caused by overeating, in notable absense of proof, all “treatments” of fatness involve restrained eating. This is a recipe for creating major psychological issues relating to food. WLS does little to stop these issues by surgically imposing anorexia on its patients. Anorexia is obviously a great way of losing weight, but that doesn’t mean the person isn’t still consumed with food issues. We recognized disoredered eating as a major problem, and yet this is what fat people are encouraged to participate in.

  24. 23
    BStu says:

    nexyjo, our society’s support for weight loss efforts is really the reverse of what you went through. Thinness is the socially approved state, so our culture promotes change to achieve it. Conversely, our society also disapproves of less strict understandings of gender identity, so those efforts to change are frowned upon. It is all about what changes are considered appropriate. With fat people, they possess what would be considered a natural state, but they are pushed to change. For transexuals, they inhabit a body which is unnatural to them, yet they are coersed into remaining as they are. The unified force is cultural expectations.

  25. 24
    piny says:

    I’m not convinced we are nearly as hard-wired to our gender as we are led to believe and I have to wonder if a greater acceptance of a more diverse gender identity might be a means to addressing some transexuality concerns. The problem there, obviously, is that while changing the world is the most effective treatment, it may also be unrealistic at worst.

    This doesn’t seem to be borne out by the conformity-quotient of transpeople in general. If this is so, why are there transpeople who take steps to become visibly incongruent? Why would any

  26. 25
    Empiricist says:

    Sounds good, Amp, but I’m a bit concerned about your remark that most of us “give in” to pressure to want the sex we were born into. That portrays it as an aspect of self-conception that’s best regarded as externally imposed and implicitly seems to presuppose that a lot of people would want to *reject* their born-into sex if given a true opportunity to choose. This seems like a fairly strong claim, and I’m not aware of evidence for it. I’d be interested in hearing it, if you have any.

    Of course all aspects of self-conception are influenced by social forces, but that doesn’t mean every aspect of everyone’s self-conception is best regarded solely or principally as the result of social pressure to accept that role.

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  30. 26
    Jami says:

    I’ll start by saying that I am a transperson and that I am not overweight, just so everyone knows the platform I’m speaking from.

    Gender identity is not something that is societally imposed; how one expresses their gender identity is. Gender identity is not imposed by genitalia; for most people, however, they are synonomous. Gender identity is not a conscious choice; having surgery to alter one’s body to conform to societal standards is.

    Yes, being overweight and being a transsexual are both about degrees of discomfort with the body one inhabits. In the case of being overweight, the deviation from the externally applied societal norm – the “fit, not fat” ideal – generally dictates the overweight person’s discomfort. However, for us trannies, the discomfort is entirely internally generated; our bodies don’t match our own mental identity. No person deliberately and consciously chooses their gender or their sex, and for the overwhelming majority that’s not a problem because the two are in congruence. But for some of us that’s not the case.

    And just FYI, I’ve never felt like I was “trapped in the wrong body”, only that somehow I didn’t look right. (Maybe I’m not a classic transsexual, but then again, why should I fit that mold if I don’t fit any others?) The closest analogy I can offer is to imagine that every now and then when you look in the mirror that the reflection you see is off somehow – like maybe the room behind you is wrong or the light is different. Of course, I’ve done what I can to make my reflection correct.

  31. 27
    Kate_P says:

    In some ways I think the two conditions are almost polar opposites:

    – Society assumes fat is totally *malleable.*
    – It therefore insists fat people *can* change and *must* try.
    – It’s therefore subversive for fat people to *accept* their physical state.

    – Society assumes gender is totally “fixed”.
    – It therefore insists transexuals really *can’t* change and *must not* try.
    – It’s therefore subversive for transexuals to *reject* their physical state.

    What’s underlying our respective oppresions is society’s cartoonish assumptions about what is “fixed,” and what is not. But society seems to get it wrong in the opposite ways here. Therefore fat acceptance advocates and transsexuals have to fight messages the other side might find liberating. “Take control of your body” for fat advocates vs. “biology is destiny” for transexuals.

    Yes, both fat people and transexuals experience alienation from the body, but it’s like we’re passing each other while moving in opposite directions. The fat acceptance movement is trying to get fat people to reject the internal ideal body image (the “thin person” inside every fat woman just waiting to get out according to diet ads) and move towards acceptance of outward appearance. Meanwhile transexuals are trying to affirm that alienation from the outward appearance in a quest to affirm the internal body image.

  32. 28
    Jay Sennett says:

    Amp,

    Nice post. I do want to add my cents.

    I resisted surgeries for a number of years on hormonrs. Eight to be exact.

    Then I wanted to get married. My birth state would change my birth certificate, but not without surgery. My birth state determined that top surgery was sufficient to change my birth certificate.

    I chose to have a complete hysto, and both my primary care and ob/gyn, concurred that after nine years on hormones, such surgery was healthy and warranted.

    Finally, I do not believe I was born in the wrong body. I did not like the constellation of experiences that arose from the intersection of my body, society, labels, etc. Changing my body has been one way to redirect and transform that attention.

    Best,
    Jay

  33. 29
    Emily says:

    Nor do I have a conclusion at this time, which is a shame, since conclusions at the end of blog posts lend a nice feeling of closure.

    Nah, that’s your socially-conditioned brainwashed brain talking :)

    Do you have a guess about what percentage of fat people experience the sense that they’re actually supposed to be in a thin body? I don’t think it would be nearly as universal as it is for transsexuals.

    I wonder if short men experience a socially-conditioned sense that they’re actually supposed to be in a taller body? Even though shortness is obviously genetic, I think that some short men would report that they feel that their shortness is treated as if it was a moral deficiency.

  34. 30
    BStu says:

    I would suggest a rather overwhelming percentage of fat people think they are supposed to be in another body and live their lives viewing their bodies with disdain and resentment, always as an “other” and not a part of themselves. The difference, though, is that there is very good reason to think that is, itself, social conditioning. I would surmise that with transexuals, that feeling is sometimes the response to social conditioning of what their expectations of their bodies should be.

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  36. 31
    Kate says:

    I’m unaware of any change in the frequency of trans people who get surgery vs. those who don’t – and I say this as someone who transitioned 27 years ago & hasn’t had surgery myself. I do find the whole attitude that “it’s a good thing” less people get genital surgery, even thoug it’s not per se a “bad thing” – troubling.

    The implication being that those who desire such know their needs and lives less well than others do, are somehow more susceptible to pressure from societal norms (when in actuality – only say 3 to 5% of transgender people actually get GRS – so the pressure to not get such – has been much more prevalent) – and really – if it’s better that fewer are doing so – it’s hard to say there is no value judgement being placed upon those who do.

    For those who aren’t transgender reading this – too often transgender poeple from either group project subtle (at least in public – much less subtle in private) shade upon the authenticity of other groups experinece.

  37. 32
    Femme says:

    It would be too easy to just say no, and leave it as that but I think doing so leaves open the question as to why I have such an opinion.

    Just as transex people can and do come in all sizes and colours/cultures, fat people are also in that same category. In other words there are many fat transex people out there, none of whom feel as strung out about their weight, then they do about the sex they have been designated as.

    Being fat, while it does have some negative implications, many people are willing to allow people to be over weight more then they are willing to allow that person who has just told others of their intention to bring their body closer inline with their mind, or gender.

    We know that childhood suicide is to high and that many times it is caused by peer pressure. We also know that too many queer youth leave school sitting the inability to go through one day without some sort of taunting and or violence.

    We also know, from the Amnesty International study, which came out last spring, that police in many U.S. cities treat LBTG people harsher then non LBTG people. Putting it mildly.
    http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories06/march/0331062.htm

    I suspect you would be hard pressed to find the same study dealing with people who might be “fat”.

    The term fat, in my mind, is subjective. What might be fat to one person might not be to another and there are all sorts of levels of “fat”.

    Someone mentioned that it all is similar because it deals with body issues. I can see their point but I also have to say that is over simplification.

    Myself, a transex person, I can say that since too early of an age I can remember having a feeling that my body was not right. That for some reason I looked, genital wise, more like my brothers then my sister. I didn’t have words or terms for it way back then. Just that I knew it wasn’t how it was supposed to be.

    I think the term, woman in man’s body or vise versa is or was an attempt to help others try to understand the pain many felt, but like anything it really does not work right either.
    I tend to just say I am a woman, I had a medical problem and it’s now corrected. Many people have medical issues at birth; it’s no huge deal right?

    Wrong. Society continues to tell us we are mentally ill, that we should have therapy. People loose their jobs and families. Hell I lost my job of almost 10 years two days after; I had to fight like hell to remain an integral part of my child’s life.

    The person who gained a lot of weight does not face that same pressure, they do not have to be concerned about the taunting of their children if others find out.
    People who are over weight also do not have to face a shrink before they can get medical support.

    Don’t get me wrong I know it’s not all sliced bread for those people who are over weight. One good friend and I were talking this morning, after taking our kids to school. She was telling me it’s been a while since her last physical exam. She hates going because she knows she is over weight and hates the look or “tich tiching” sound of her doctor as she stands on the scale. So she avoids going unless absolutely necessary.

    Many transex people also avoid going to doctors, similar reason, unless they have a good doctor who knows and understands. I’m lucky I have such a doctor now, but a number of years back I didn’t. The experience I had with her has left me in such distress that I will not go to any doctor but my own.
    So no matter the pain or issue, it’s me waiting for my monthly appointment. That also caused my death two years back when I continued to wait it out while suffering pain. Eventually I was taken by ambulance to the hospital were they learned of a ruptured appendix. My doctor told me it was very close with all the poison that had infected my body.

    So again, as I stay off path are they the same. No.

    How can any two things be the same? There are other transex people on this site that I have read their postings and each has differing views. That shows that we are all not the same so to say the feelings or pressures are the same between transex and “fat” people just cannot be the same, anymore then the issue of black civil rights and gay rights are the same. They can’t be the same when for years one was a slave and the other was not. They can not be the same when one brings ridicule of most, the other of some.

    I would also like to take this point to say that I disagree on the comment about les people having surgery now, then before. I could not count the number of different surgeons in the world who do SRS. A smaller but ever growing amount of surgeons are out there also now doing body surgery for transex people.

    The change I do see is that now instead of being satisfied in just having SRS, least wise for the transex women, SRS tends to be the last surgery only followed after face surgery and the experimental voice surgery. Because we are a visual society many feel that it’s now about presentation, what people see outwardly.

    It’s kind of scary since the old Gender Clinics used to push such an attitude. The women were to have an ultra feminine name, nothing that could be either or. They needed to wear dresses at all times and makeup, because they wanted people to see the dress and think female. And the women were not permitted into the program if they love women, as they were “not in the business of creating lesbians”.

    So I watch many focus on creating this ultra beauty look through surgery and to them that is being female, having bottom surgery can wait.
    But in no way is there less surgery today then before, I jus think the numbers of transex people have increased and the number of younger people transitioning, who have so much less money, has increased ten fold.