I had a sudden moment of realization a few months back. I’d been reading lots of different blogs and bits online, among them The Pervocracy, Miss Maggie Mayhem, Violet Blue, and Kitty Striker — and much of what I read resounded deeply, made me think and question, and felt very right. Very true. It fit, it was other voices expressing views I held but either hadn’t articulated or hadn’t realized.
Then, as I said, the sudden moment of realization: the words came out in exclamation, “Holy shit! I’m a feminist!” In much the same way that I have been the last to know lots of things about myself, it wasn’t really a shock to anyone else. Nor, I suppose, was it a shock to me, after sitting down to think about it, as was the case when I found other identifying concepts for myself like “transgender” and “Asperger’s syndrome.” In both of those cases, I had people who knew me laugh, shrug, and say essentially, “Yeah, we could have told you that.”
So with that word, I had a single key that I could use to search for further information, to take as a starting point for refining my understanding and particular preferences in “flavor” of feminism. I could plug that word into a Wikipedia search box and learn about the “waves” of feminism. I could walk into my local public library and check out any of dozens of textbooks, non-fiction works, collections of essays, and novels presenting concepts both directly and indirectly related.
Then, as I spent more time following blogs, expanding my online reading lists, cutting out the sources that least often fit my particular views (but occasionally glancing to re-evaluate where I stand) and further refining my feminist identity, I saw that I also care deeply about other groups, their oppression, and fighting as a voice for change and equality. I picked up new vocabulary and concepts — “intersectionality” and “kyriarchy” and “masculism” and others, words new enough in their use and function that the dictionary in my web browser insists they’re misspelled. I picked up pretty quickly that as a transwoman, I am both woman and transgender, that both those identities which I proudly claim come with their oen oppressive baggage. I began to see that my light skin and ancestry traced back on either side to the British Isles, mean that I have “White Privilege” — that whether I want it or not, whether I like it or not, I have societal advantages in many ways over anyone not perceived as Caucasian. I think that sucks, actually, and when I stop to think about the ways that manifests in my day-to-day life (or, more often, when someone points it out) I remember how strongly I feel about changing things, about making the world a less shitty place.
But — there’s this little bit that’s bothering me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and maybe someone out there has a touch of insight for me. I have a particularly intense passion, a very strong motivation for activism towards body positivity, fat acceptance, being beautiful in the body shape you have, especially if that body doesn’t fit the multi-billion-dollar-salary marketing moguls’ image of “beautiful.” Which feels… hypocritical, somehow. I mean, I know it’s not. I know it fits right in with seeing women as individual humans, capable of deciding what we do with our own bodies. It fits right in with my anger and outrage when I look at news headlines about a young transgender girl approaching puberty and her supportive parents approving hormone-blocking pills — headlines using the wrong pronouns, “reporters” suggesting that this girl and her parents are insane. It fits right in with recognizing that “insane,” used as an insult, is an ableist slur, and choosing to work that kind of offensive language out of my personal vocabulary.
But I still often feel like I shouldn’t be vocal in my support of body acceptance. I stop and question my own motivation regularly, and though every time I come to the same general conclusion, I look in the mirror and see something pretty damned close to that idealized marketing image — I’m tall, thin, white, proportioned in all the “right” ways. Total strangers ask me “Are you a model? Well, you ought to be!” I’ve never really dealt with being anything other than privileged in that regard. When I was growing up as a boy, I was tall, skinny, plain. During the decade or so I spent on psychiatric medications, I weighed between 250 and 300 pounds, but I was also rarely in any social situations, and as a computer geek and video gamer, being that size wasn’t unusual or looked at poorly. So why would I have any say in things? Why should my voice count? And knowing that I’m romantically and sexually attracted to bigger women often makes me hesitant to speak out — because, “well, she’s just doing it so she can get laid or something.” I know my motivations, but I’m scared of having them questioned or challenged, especially when I often have difficulty expressing myself about things that stir a lot of emotion in me.
I can tell you, though, that it pisses me off when the first thing I hear, with very few exceptions, when I mention that I weighed 250 pounds about three years ago, is “Wow! How did you lose the weight?” Especially angering to see the expectant look that joins the question, awaiting my answer as eagerly as if I were about to impart the Ultimate Secret Of The Universe. It makes me really sad when a wonderfully beautiful young woman is ashamed of the number on the scale, asks me to promise to keep it secret, and has to make sure to balance our scheduled time together against her regular, mandatory stop at her Leading-Brand Weight-Loss Program Center’s scale. It hurts to have a good friend point out to me just how much work I’d put into avoiding the word “fat” in a conversation with her about another woman who was — and beautifully so — and stings even more to understand that the reason I’d danced around those three letters is because on a deeply internalized level, I “knew” that it was a dirty word. I could keep going; there are many more examples that immediately come to mind, but I hope I’ve made my point.
I care, for whatever reason I do. This particular passion doesn’t have nearly the volume of literature behind it that feminism does, though. There’s nowhere near the amount of “suggested reading” as for transgender issues, not even the kinds of information — much of it inaccurate or poorly written, in my experience so far — about Asperger’s. I don’t know where to look, don’t have anyone to sit down and talk with in order to — first and foremost — educate myself about anything outside of “thin, white, long-haired, big-but-not-too-big tits and hips and ass, you’re gorgeous!” Yes, there are a few places online, and I’ve looked through what I can find, but… there’s just not much out there. And while I have no shame about writing on my own blog about things I know for myself, things I know well, I’m fragile in many ways, and I’ve seen how one or two well-intentioned but poorly-chosen words left in a comment can be the spark lighting a blazing inferno of flaming, the hurt hurled and taken and the taking sides and fighting and often a humiliating defeat and retreat. I don’t want to open myself to that on the scale that the internet can heap; it’s something I might handle in a face-to-face discussion with a few friends, where I could ask questions and begin to learn… but asking the “rookie questions” in an enormous forum of faceless “veteran players ” leaves me far too vulnerable.
The old folk wisdom is that “the only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Well, if that’s true, then I have lots of incredibly stupid questions — and until I have someone to ask, someone with answers or someone willing to search for answers with me, they’ll stay the “stupid” variety.